Iowa coach Fran McCaffery apologizes (sort of) for tirade at referee and two-game suspension

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery said Wednesday he was sorry for haranguing a referee after Tuesday’s 90-70 loss at Ohio State.

But not entirely.

“I shouldn’t have said it, but I didn’t feel really good at that moment about what took place. At all,” McCaffery said at a news conference at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I think the official in question has been a guy of integrity in the past. So for that reason, I shouldn’t have said anything.”

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta suspended McCaffery for the Hawkeyes’ next two games — the home finale Saturday against Rutgers and at Wisconsin on March 7. The Big Ten Conference also levied a $10,000 fine on Iowa’s athletics department for violating its sportsmanship policy. Barta said McCaffery has agreed to pay that sum.

The Toledo Blade's Kyle Rowland and others observed McCaffery repeatedly shouting expletives and calling an official a "cheating (expletive)" and a "(expletive) disgrace" while heading to the locker room after Tuesday’s loss.

► MORE: The basketball part of Tuesday's blowout at Ohio State

McCaffery was issued his first technical foul of the season for protesting late in the game. His son, backup point guard Connor McCaffery, had gotten one earlier. It was not clear which of the three officials Fran McCaffery was singling out, although it was Steve McJunkins who issued both technical fouls. Iowa was called for 18 fouls in the game, Ohio State 12.

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, left, speaks during a press conference with Iowa men's basketball head coach Fran McCaffery on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

McCaffery was asked Wednesday why an official would “cheat” against his Hawkeyes team, a particularly pointed accusation.

“I don’t know that,” he said. “I can’t even speculate to that.”

McCaffery said he was intending to speak to the official out of earshot of others.

“I said what I said back in the tunnel directly. I didn’t want it to be public. I didn’t say it out on the floor in front of thousands of people. I said it directly to him, and somebody ended up hearing it. OK, that’s unfortunate. But that’s the reality of the situation,” he said.

McCaffery clarified that he did regret his words.

“Of course. Absolutely,” he said, before claiming that exchanges like that between a coach and referee are not uncommon.

“I think if you look at every coach, there’s been issues with officials at some point during the season. So this is not an isolated incident of one coach," McCaffery said. "We all express our opinions."


McCaffery was suspended for one game in 2014 by the Big Ten after an ejection on the road against Wisconsin in which he received consecutive technical fouls and bumped an official. Iowa was fined $10,000 by the Big Ten Conference on that occasion as well. Assistant coach Kirk Speraw led the Hawkeyes in their next game at Northwestern.

This time, Iowa assistant Andrew Francis will be the de facto head coach against Rutgers, while Speraw will fill that role at Wisconsin. Those two coaches are preparing the scouting reports for those opponents, McCaffery explained. Sherman Dillard is the other assistant. All have head-coaching experience and all have been on McCaffery’s staff for his nine seasons here.

McCaffery can still lead practices and film sessions, will still meet with the media to preview games and can even be in the building while they’re being played. He will be on hand Saturday to present Iowa’s lone senior, Nicholas Baer, with his framed Hawkeye jersey in a pregame ceremony.

“I love him,” McCaffery said of Baer.

Barta said he heard from someone with the Big Ten about the situation after Tuesday’s game, which he did not attend. He immediately called McCaffery and said his coach “took responsibility.”

The suspension and fine were worked out after consultation with the Big Ten and UI President Bruce Harreld on Wednesday, Barta said.

“Fran has 100 percent my full support as our head coach,” Barta said.

“The Fran McCaffery that some people see in a game, intense and passionate, that’s real. But what I see for nine years and watch with his players behind the scenes, when a player has an issue at home with a family member or a girlfriend issue or something that they’re struggling with, nobody pays more attention to them like a father than Fran.”

McCaffery’s temper has gotten him in trouble before.

In 2011, he was ejected late in a blowout loss at Northern Iowa. The next year, he slammed a chair to the court during a game at Michigan State.

Last season, McCaffery was ejected in a January game at Maryland after charging onto the court and berating officials.

But he doesn’t think he has an anger issue.

“I think I’m a pretty composed guy if you’re around me a lot,” McCaffery said. “If you’re at practice. If you’re at games, occasionally I’ll get upset.”