It is commonly said in sports that you can tell if the officials did a good job if you don’t really notice them over the course of a game.
That has never been college basketball referee Ted Valentine.
Nicknamed “TV Teddy” for his on the court antics that have often put Valentine at the center of attention during games, the 39 year official is loathed by the Indiana fan base.
If you ask any IU fan over the age of 40 about Valentine, they will immediately mention the 1992 Final Four.
Dreams were shattered. Hearts were broken. The integrity of the game jeopardized.
And Valentine? Doesn’t care.
With Indiana leading Duke by 12 points in the first half, Valentine was at the center of a wave of whistles against IU that led to four Hoosier starters fouling out of the game and head coach Bob Knight receiving a technical. Indiana’s lead suddenly turned into a 31-6 Duke run, and the Hoosiers were unable to recover.
That set the stage for a memorable moment at IU’s Assembly Hall six years later.
On a podcast released today with former Purdue star Robbie Hummel and college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman, Valentine recalled a Feb. 24, 1998 IU game against Illinois.
On that evening Valentine called three technical fouls on Knight and ejected him from the game.
On the podcast with Goodman and Hummel, Valentine admitted that the fireworks in 1998 had their origins in the 1992 Final Four.
And Valentine also seemed to admit that he was out to make a point that night in Minneapolis.
“Most of that situation (in 1998) went back to the 1992 Final Four when they played Duke and I was involved in the situation,” Valentine told Goodman and Hummel. “I was in a game where a ref was afraid of him (Knight), and I whacked him bad (with a technical). Whacked him. Boom!”
Valentine said during the interview that he thought “TV Teddy” was merely a reference to his initials.
But the enthusiastic and shameless way in which Valentine recalled his role in the 1992 Final Four highlights his shortcomings as an official.
For Valentine, the stage always seemed to be as much about him as it was the players and coaches.
Valentine referred to himself as a “renegade” during the interview, and it was that betrayal of the norms of his profession that ultimately saw the Big Ten not renew Valentine’s contract in 2018 while the NCAA banned him from the Tournament that same year.
Whatever you might think of Valentine’s style, one thing was clear. The combination of him and Knight on the floor was a potentially combustible situation.
“It was always something where I every time I would see him (Knight), there was always something from him,” Valentine said. “There was always this venom and anger. I don’t think he ever let that 1992 Final Four go.”
Valentine seemed to take pleasure in noting that the 1992 Final Four was Knight’s last.
For a moment, the 1998 game against Illinois appeared as though it could be the last game of Knight’s career.
“He came at me with everything he had,” Valentine recalled. “He threw every left, every right and every jab.”
But as Valentine expanded on his recollection of the 1998 incident, he perhaps unwittingly stumbled upon who lit the fuse for those late February IU senior night fireworks.
TV Teddy emerged.
“I basically understood him,” Valentine said. “I got angry at him, (it was) my mistake the first technical foul. I went in the huddle and whacked him the first one. Went right in his huddle. It was like a street fight. I said the ‘the hell with you, here it is.’
“Most refs were afraid. I’d see them over there talking (with Knight), and he’s yelling at them and then I’d see the next three whistles (go for Indiana).”
And that’s when Valentine broke all the rules of decorum for officials.
Stay out of the spotlight?
Control your emotions?
Nope, not TV Teddy.
“The more he came at me the more I was like ‘bring it on.’ That’s the way I am,” Valentine recalled.
After the game Knight referred to Valentine’s behavior as the “greatest travesty that I’ve ever seen” in the game of basketball.
Truth be told, it was the combination of Knight and Valentine’s temperaments that made the 1998 situation explode.
But while Knight’s behavior could be extreme and boorish, it was Valentine who was supposed to take the high road, and just quietly and humbly do his job.
Valentine clearly didn’t understand that, as TV Teddy often appeared and inserted himself into the outcome of Final Fours and senior nights.
And it wasn’t just a Bob Knight thing.
Valentine was suspended from Big Ten nonconference games in 1998-99, banned from Big East games in 2003, lost his full time gig on ACC games in 2008, initiated a nose-to-nose incident with Mick Cronin in 2014, and a 2018 incident where he turned his back on a North Carolina player ultimately cost him his Big Ten job and the NCAA Tournament.
But somehow Valentine continues to get work, and will be back in the game for the 2020-21 season.
Clearly still the same guy as he was in 1992 and 1998, Valentine will no doubt continue to find ways to insert himself in the outcome of games.
Yes, somewhere a coach will get whacked by TV Teddy this year.
Whacked real good. Boom!
And the game will be worse off because of him.
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