UK Men's Basketball

Basketball ref Higgins talks about fear he and his family faced after Kentucky fans’ threats

Kentucky Coach John Calipari argued a call with referee John Higgins as UK played North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament South Regional at Memphis on March 26.
Kentucky Coach John Calipari argued a call with referee John Higgins as UK played North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament South Regional at Memphis on March 26. AP

College basketball referee John Higgins said he lost a little faith in people as a result of death threats he received from University of Kentucky fans in the wake of the Wildcats’ loss to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.

Higgins, speaking to the media for the first time since that game, told his hometown newspaper, the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, on Tuesday that he was scared when he officiated Saturday’s Gonzaga-South Carolina game in the NCAA Final Four in Arizona.

“I knew the eyes and cameras would be on me because of the national exposure and situation,’’ Higgins said. “I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to quit because of this, it’s too much pressure, it’s too hard.’ We got through it and I thought we did a good job. I’ve got seven months to think about next year.’’

Unhappy UK fans inundated Higgins with phone calls and postings to his business’s Facebook page after the Wildcats’ loss to eventual national champion UNC.

He told the World-Herald he’s not sure why he was the referee targeted. He said he left the game thinking he and his crew had done called a good game.

“I try to blend in when I referee a game,” he told the paper.

Higgins went on to say that some friends and family suggested he give up officiating. He said the episode has changed him and made him more guarded.

Click here to read the Omaha World-Herald story in its entirety.

Coach Calipari took no credit away from UNC, but said his team deserves a lot of praise for hanging with the Tar Heels despite being in a lot of foul trouble. Kentucky's season ended with a 75-73 loss in the Elite 8 round on Sunday.

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