The biggest controversy in the men’s basketball team’s season took place during a game, but didn’t involve the team at all.
Jason Deck, a sophomore business major, was involved in the first replay review at the Sun Dome in the Bulls’ game against St. John’s on Saturday to determine if he stepped on the half-court line prior to sinking a shot in what an Athletic Department waiver calls the “Shot for Cash Promotion.” The ball banked in, and Deck and the crowd thought he’d won $500. But immediately after draining the shot, Assistant Director of Athletics for Marketing and Event Management Kosha Irby called the shot no good.
“The kid shot the ball on his first shot and makes it,” Irby said. “But if you look at the replay, he clearly stepped on the line. Part of the rules are that you clearly cannot go over the line.”
Deck, who was celebrating after his incredible shot, was surprised when Irby approached him amid a storm of boos.
“I was walking back over to the sideline and I just turned and everyone was booing,” Deck said. “I had no idea what was going on, and then the guy put his arm around me and said, ‘Your foot was on the line, you got to go back and shoot it.”
Deck reluctantly returned to the court the next time-out only to miss his next two attempts.
“As I looked back over, there was a lot of confusion because nobody knew if he was kidding or not,” Deck said.
Before the Athletic Department would rule on the shot, Irby and Associate Athletic Director Tom Veit decided to take a look at the replay, using the Sun Dome’s four new screens.
“One of the good things about the new boards is you can see everything,” Veit said. “More or less he crossed over the line, and Kosha made the right call at the time.
“It took actually all of two replays to determine. I saw that from the court we went to the replay to how far he was over and it was really by a toenail.”
Deck remained on the sideline more confused than ever as the Athletic Department deliberated.
“We kind of looked at it like an NFL call,” Veit said. “Where we looked at it and it was something where it was close enough where it could have gone either way. The decision at first was to not give him the money.”According to the waiver, which Deck signed, the fifth criteria states, “No part of the contestant’s body or clothing may come in contact with the demarcation lines prior to releasing the ball. Any such contact shall constitute a foul and the shot will be considered missed.”
Veit said each participant in the promotion is fully aware of the rules.”Here’s the deal,” Veit said. “Whatever the rules of the contest are, the person knows it before they ever get in the contest.”
But Deck denies any knowledge of the aforementioned rule.
“They made me sign something like right at the beginning,” Deck said. “My name, my address, I don’t even remember what it said – just a page with information.”
Asked if he remembered a rules page, Deck said, “I think there was. I couldn’t tell you what it said. I just kind of signed it and said, ‘Let’s do it.'”
Despite the violation, the Athletic Department decided to award Deck the prize and later in the game, Deck was approached by Irby.
“He came back over and said, ‘My boss said I have to give you the money,'” said Deck, who was escorted by Irby to the middle of the floor to shake his hand while the announcer said Deck would receive the money upon further review.
“It could have gone either way,” Veit said. “We decided to err on the side of saying, ‘Hey, you won,’ instead of saying, ‘No, he didn’t.'”
The Athletic Department also said it would award Deck the $500 even if the sponsor of the promotion – the USF Federal Credit Union – disputed the outcome. According to ESPN Regional’s Chris Lahey, who spoke to Tom Ness, the president of the credit union, Ness is “more than happy” to pay Deck.
Whatever happens with the money, Deck is just happy he got the chance.
“Before I went out and shot the ball, (Irby) said, ‘This is a joke. If you don’t make it, you’ll still get a pat on the back from me,'” Deck said.
According to a conversation between Irby and Deck, Deck should receive the money in two to three weeks in a formal presentation at another basketball game. But did he ever get that pat on the back?
“No, I never did.”