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Cory Alexander goes off-script: What was the ACC Network color commentator thinking?

Chris Graham
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Photo: Twitter/X

Cory Alexander might be due a vacation from his ESPN college-basketball gig, which would give him time to work on what could be a profitable new side hustle: on-site replay-review consultant.

Alexander, a UVA alum, injected himself into the Virginia-Florida game in Charlotte on Friday night, convincing the officials to take a second look at a replay review in the final minute of a two-point game, leading them to overturn both their original call and the call that they had just confirmed.

And if you’re reading this not already knowing how it went, and you assume, well, the UVA guy did that because it helped his alma mater, oh, no.

Alexander made a scene to get the refs to look at the call to get them to give the ball to Florida, and the weird thing here is: they’d gotten it right the first time, and then the second time.

Before we set the surreal scene from courtside Friday night, it might be worth mentioning the scuttlebutt behind the scenes, about how Alexander has apparently been trying to angle his way into a job on the basketball staff at his alma mater for years, which, if that’s true, and you know how these things go – I’ve got a couple of people swearing to me tonight that it is – hey, he ain’t on the basketball staff at UVA, now, is he?

OK, so, now, to Friday night: inside of a minute to go in the game, with Virginia up two, 71-69, UVA forward Blake Buchanan was pressuring Florida point guard Walter Clayton near midcourt, and also in front of the ACC Network broadcast crew – Alexander, the color commentator, and play-by-play man Doug Sherman.

Buchanan, sliding over to the baseline, slapped the ball out of Clayton’s hands, the ball went out of bounds, and referee Lee Cassell awarded the ball to Virginia.

Alexander, from his perch at midcourt, within earshot of the officials, most notably, Cassell, immediately began to insist that Cassell had gotten the call wrong, then turned to praising Cassell, who couldn’t have missed the loud protestations, when the official signaled for a replay review.

That review, at the scorer’s table, on the opposite side of the court, would go on for what seemed in TV watching time forever and a day, but in actuality was maybe a minute, a minute and a half, with ACCN showing the replay over and over and over like it was the Zapruder film, and Alexander continuing to insist that Cassell had gotten the call wrong.

At the end of the review, the call was upheld: Virginia ball.

Which was the right call: Alexander let himself get caught up in watching for whether the ball had gone off the hands of Buchanan or Clayton, but the ball had redirected from Buchanan’s hand down to Clayton’s knee, and went off Clayton’s knee moving forward past Buchanan out of bounds, behind the Virginia player.

Basic physics here: if Buchanan, pushing his hand forward, was the last to touch the ball, it wouldn’t have ended up behind him.

As Cassell was preparing to hand the ball to Virginia guard Andrew Rohde for the inbounds, a second official, Pat Adams, walked over to him, and then the two looked over to the broadcasters, as Alexander continued to raise issue with the call.

“I got a great …” Alexander started to say, after getting their attention, gesturing them over.

“We’re going to have our officials look at this again,” he continued, as he got out of his seat and flipped his monitor around, to give the officials a look.

“Yeah, we’ve got a much better view on this one,” he said, nodding as he talked, for emphasis.

After another lengthy review, the officials overturned the call, giving Florida the possession.

“Great job by this officiating crew, getting it, getting it together,” Alexander said, taking his victory lap, as the director went to a different camera to show a livid Bennett practically crawling out of his skin as he berated Alexander from across the floor.

“So, now TB’s upset with me on this one, because I’m telling them …” Alexander said, then cut himself off, perhaps realizing, Maybe I overstepped my bounds here.

Of course that’s not what he was thinking.

He cut himself off because he was reveling in the moment.

“So, now Tony Bennett is yelling at me from across the court for allowing the officials to know, but the basketball goes out, it’s the right play on the floor,” Alexander said, barely able to conceal his glee.

Bennett, he of the one career technical foul, dating back 13 years now, had to be restrained by players and his staff from going at Alexander.

Florida would take advantage of the extra possession, which Clayton drawing a foul on a drive to the basket, though he would only make one of the two free throws, leaving Virginia with a one-point lead.

The Cavaliers would go on to close it out from there for the 73-70 win, but the online discussion after the game wasn’t about Buchanan’s 18 points and seven boards, Reece Beekman putting in 13 points, five assists, four steals – two of the steals coming in the final 12 seconds to preserve the victory.

It was about Cory Alexander and the officiating crew – Cassell, Adams and AJ Desai – and what had to be a violation of protocol for both the broadcaster and the game officials, who inexplicably let themselves be talked into revisiting a replay decision by a loud guy sitting at courtside.

The officials need a few days off from their basketball gig so they can refresh themselves on how they’re supposed to do their job, Rule #1 there being, don’t take cues on making calls from anybody sitting outside the lines.

Maybe they could spend some of their time off with the guys from the Virginia-Louisville football game.

Might be interesting for those guys to compare notes.

None of that will happen. We all know that.

For all the money that college sports brings in, the officiating is almost as much an afterthought as the surprisingly modestly-paid people who talk about the games on the TV broadcasts.

Not only will Cory Alexander not be getting an unscheduled vacation for what he did Friday night, he’s going to be back on Grounds later this month for the UVA-Texas A&M game in JPJ.

Media members: make sure to get there early; you won’t want to miss Bennett’s SID, Erich Bacher, staring holes through Cory in the media workroom during dinner.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].