Refs Withdraw From Big East Tourney

The three officials responsible for botching the closing seconds of Rutgers' season-ending 65-63 loss to St. John's on Wednesday withdrew from the Big East tournament Thursday.

Big East basketball officials Jim Burr, Tim Higgins and Earl Walton will not work the final three days of tournament games at Madison Square Garden, according to a statement by the conference.

"Our officials are a very dedicated and loyal group of professionals who care deeply about the Big East Conference," Big East commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement. "In the best interests of everyone involved -- including coaches, student-athletes, game officials and Big East member institutions -- the officials who were assigned to the St. John's-Rutgers game Wednesday have voluntarily withdrawn for the remainder of the 2011 Big East championship.

"With three days of competition remaining, it is our hope that everyone will now focus on our outstanding teams and the exciting games ahead."

Rutgers coach Mike Rice continued to take the high road about calls that went against his team in a close loss to St. John's.

"These three are really, really good referees," Rice said on ESPN. "I just appreciate them. ...There's an accountability there. They didn't have to do this, and I'm sure, beside my 13 players and my staff, they probably feel just as bad about what happened, and I have to believe that."

The lack of calls, beginning with an apparent foul as Rutgers' Mike Coburn drove to the basket with eight seconds left and Rutgers down a point, created a firestorm across the country.

Commentators from various networks blasted officials for not calling a foul on Coburn's drive and for not calling a foul when a St. John's player fell into Rutgers forward Jonathan Mitchell after a missed free throw with six seconds remaining.

But that was only a precursor to what transpired in the final 4.9 seconds, when Gilvydas Biruta was sandwiched trying to catch a length-of-the-court pass, followed by St. John's forward Justin Brownlee traveling and then stepping out of bounds with 1.7 seconds left, only to have the three officials run off the court without making a call.

Less than an hour after the game's conclusion, Marinatto released a statement saying the officials blew two calls in the closing moments. Although it didn't specify which calls were blown, it is believed he was talking about Brownlee traveling and also stepping out of bounds.

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