NCAA removes game official at halftime because of background conflict

Official Tommi Paris, left, watches as North Carolina State's Saniya Rivers (22) handles the ball during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, March 23, 2024. Paris was replaced at halftime by referee Angelica Suffren, who worked the earlier Green Bay-Tennessee game. NCAA representatives on-site didn’t provide a reason for the change. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

Official Tommi Paris, left, watches as North Carolina State’s Saniya Rivers (22) handles the ball during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, March 23, 2024. Paris was replaced at halftime by referee Angelica Suffren, who worked the earlier Green Bay-Tennessee game. NCAA representatives on-site didn’t provide a reason for the change. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The NCAA changed one of the officials at the half of the Chattanooga-N.C. State game Saturday because of a background conflict.

Tommi Paris was removed from the NCAA Tournament first round game and replaced by Angelica Suffren, who had worked the first contest at the site.

“There was a switch of game officials at halftime of the Chattanooga-N.C. State first-round game because it was learned after the game had started that Umpire 2 Tommi Paris had a background conflict that, if known, would prevent her from working that assigned game,” the NCAA said in a statement after an inquiry from The Associated Press.

An online profile for Paris says that she received a master’s degree from Chattanooga. The NCAA asks all officials who are being considered for the NCAA Tournament to disclose school affiliations to avoid potential conflicts. In this case, it wasn’t disclosed.

“They literally just … got me in the locker room and said they were making a change,” Chattanooga coach Shawn Poppie said of when he learned at halftime. “I don’t know what happened. I didn’t see anything specific. Maybe the second time in my career that’s happened. But the other one there was an injury, so you knew. But this one, I’m not really sure.”

Suffren, who worked the earlier Green Bay-Tennessee game, was on the court for the second half of Chattanooga-N.C. State game. Danielle Jackson had been listed as the game’s standby official.

The decision to send Suffren back out to the court came “because it provided the most on-court experience and allowed the game to maintain a full officiating crew, plus standby,” the NCAA’s statement said.

Poppie said: “I thought that’s what standby was for. But I’m new to this thing, too. We’re all learning. So I’m not exactly sure what happened.”

N.C. State won 64-45.

Suffren assessed a fourth-quarter technical foul on Poppie with the Mocs trailing 50-28.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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