Chris Weller, the Maryland women's basketball coach, and her Penn State counterpart, Renie Portland, were still seething yesterday after Weller pulled her team off the court with 10 minutes left to play Saturday night.
"It was a matter of principle," said Weller of her decision to take her club off the court at Penn State with almost 10 minutes still remaining and the 11th-ranking Terps trailing, 71-58.
"I had to choose between possibly losing a game and making a statement, or allowing such a violation of the rules to occur while I sat there watching and doing nothing."
Contending the Penn State pep band was playing when it shouldn't have, Weller had her team leave the floor after the referees did not honor her request to enforce a new rule in the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS) rule book. The rule stipulates that "playing musical instruments or using noise-makers at any time other than a dead ball is a technical foul." Instead, she was called for a technical foul.
Weller said she will send letters explaining her side of the incident to the Eastern Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (EAIAW), the parent Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) and NAGWS.
"I have video tapes, both sound and pictures, if anyone questions what happened," she said. "I will make copies of it at my own expense because I sincerely believe something has to be done about this situation."
It was unclear, however, whether the AIAW has procedures to handle such a protest during the regular season.
The outcome of the game is important because both Maryland (15-7) and the Nittany Lions (19-6) belong to the AIAW 1B region. How clubs fare in intraregional games is a key criterion in selecting teams and designating seeds for the eight-club regional tournament next month. The outcome is now viewed as a "discontinued game," with the final score 71-58.
"The (pep) band would play each time we broke under the 10-point barrier," Weller said. "We were in severe foul trouble and under those conditions, it's no way to have to compete. In fact, you don't have to, if the rules are enforced like they should be. It wasn't a judgement call; there should have been a technical called."
A technical foul was called against Weller, who took to the court in a final appeal to the officials.
"I made an appeal prior to the game for the officials to honor the rule book, I put in a protest and played the rest of the way under protest," said Weller. "I was justified and polite, and I think I was right."
Not so, said Portland.
"Chris made a mockery of the game," she said yesterday. "Our school is in shock. The men here can't believe it. To them it's a joke. She could set women's basketball back 10 years with this stunt."
Portland, in her first year at Penn State after coaching at Colorado last year, did no dispute the rule, but said its enforcement was not appropriate for the situation.
"Sure, there's a rule, but who has the right to enforce it?" she asked. "Not me, not Chris, but the officials, and they didn't seem to deem it as necessary. The one official said he didn't even hear the band after we had scored a basket. He was backing up the court and walked right into Chris when she went onto the court."
Portland said the officials, Ron Rickens and Keith Hess, told the band to restrict its playing during the game.
Hess, the chairman of the Southern Pennsylvania Board of Officials, confirmed that the band was instructed not to perform while the ball was in play.
"There was a large crowd and a lot of enthusiasm, but we felt that as soon as the game started, things settled down," he said. "There was even less noise than you might expect in that situation as far as I was concerned, but if I had heard the band, I would have applied the rule."
Portland and Hess said it is difficult to control a student band accustomed to playing in support of its team. Of the incident that drove Weller to her final protest, Portland said, "Anyway, it was just six kids with trumpets, and they played only a few notes before the band leader jumped up and made them stop.
"If you worry about the band, how can you do you job of coaching? If she could pick up those few notes, maybe she sould go on 'Name That Tune.' To be honest, I don't know how much they might have been playing before that, I wasn't listening for them and I'm used to hearing it anyway."
Portland said Weller "seemed to come in with a chip on her shoulder, and I'd like to know what it was all about. She wanted a technical called on us for delay of the game before it even started. We gave flowers to our senior who is graduating and she wanted us called for a delay." Weller denied Portland's allegation.
Weller did get support from Carol Eckman, former coach of West Chester State who attended the game as a spectator.
"It was an impossible situation for her team to play under," Eckman said.
"In regard to the tenor of the game with respect to the pep band and the officials. I was very supportive of what Chris did with her team. My reaction was even more so to the officials handling of the situation."
However, Hess said, "We (the officials) are satisified that everything was handled as it should have been. I was shocked when it happened. As far as technical fouls are concerned, let me refer you to the rule book, Rule 12, Section 39, which stipulates that we should try to avoid imposing them if possible. I think we acted appropriately in all respects."
"The question is whether we're trying to promote the sport for women, or whether we're trying to make it different from the men," Portland said. "We've worked hard at Penn State to get support, to have the band and the Lion (school mascot) at our games. There were 2,000 people here last night, and now they are all laughing at us. It's stupid, I can't believe it."