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In a stunning turn of events, the Lexington Herald-Leader is reporting that the University of Kentucky men's basketball team has been reinstated into the 2003 NCAA Touranment.
According to an official statement released earlier today, the NCAA has nullified Marquette's 83-69 win over the Wildcats on Saturday "because of gross errors in officiating," and an "apparent conflict of interest." Further, the University of Marquette men's basketball team has been removed from tournament play.
The report says that Howard M. Epperson, a red-shirted Marquette sophomore who didn't even play in Saturday's game, was videotaped handing money to a "well-known" SEC official at the Hilton Towers in Minneapolis just hours before Saturday's game against the Wildcats.
According to the official NCAA statement, the referee--who made several crucial calls in Saturday's routing of the UK team, including a charging call that stalled a second-half UK surge--confessed to accepting the payment after he was confronted with the videotaped evidence. Marquette's Epperson has denied the allegations, and referred questions to his attorney, Donald Audette of Chicago.
Calls to the Univeristy of Marquette were not returned, but university officials are expected to file a grievance with the NCAA disputing the decision.
A spokesman for the University of Kentucky Athletics Department said "It's just an unbelievable turn of events. While we certainly regret this unfortunately incident for Marquette, we are grateful to NCAA officials for working so quickly to make things right. I always thought we had the talent to go all the way this year, and it looks like we'll be getting another chance to prove it."
If the ruling stands, UK will tip off against the University of Kansas (2) in the Final Four in New Orleans on April 5th.
This story was posted on 2003-04-01 00:00:00
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