March 19, 2019 10:52:32 AM
Vic Schaefer, the women's basketball coach at Mississippi State, was in a plane when the news happened.
As he so eloquently put it Monday night, his phone "blew up."
Well, not literally.
Just the texting part of it.
In what is sure to produce a large-scale investigation on ESPN's home campus in Bristol, Connecticut, the NCAA Women's Tournament bracket mistakenly went out hours before it was supposed to. FBI detectives are already on the way. Investigators are studying emails and phone conversations. There's a rumor that even those FBI guys from "Die Hard" are checking in.
I joke, of course.
Schaefer was returning to Starkville from a recruiting trip to Lubbock, Texas. MSU had planned an elaborate selection show-watching party for Monday night at Humphrey Coliseum. The plan was, thousands of fans and the team's players would shout and cheer and show their faces to a live ESPN camera as the Bulldogs were announced as a number one seed in the tournament.
But the news broke early.
One student worker inside the MSU athletic department said she saw a text in her phone shortly after 2:30, while she was still in class.
Schaefer couldn't even keep up with the texts on his phone.
"Let's just say," he said later, "I got it early."
In one sense, Schaefer was thrilled. His team had secured the top seed in the Portland Regional (that's Oregon, not Maine).
In another sense, his heart dropped. What about the planned celebration at Humphrey?
"That's what makes this day so special," Schaefer said.
Bulldog Central did the right thing. The show must go on, and so it did.
The Dawgs players sat down at a long table in the concourse between 5 and 6, signing autographs for the thousands of fans who came.
They were introduced one by one underneath a spotlight on the course.
And then everybody watched ESPN's live broadcast of the tournament show. When it came time for their turn on camera, the place erupted in noise as the team sat behind their recently won Southeastern Conference trophy.
So there was elation on campus.
And also a little disappointment.
Did you ever have a little brother spoil the surprise by telling you about a birthday party you weren't supposed to know about?
And then you're supposed to flash a smile because, golly, you're just so surprised.
That's what happened Monday.
ESPN apologized for the blunder. It took to the airways at 4 p.m. on ESPN2 to announce the tournament field. And then the regular show two hours later. Oh, and ESPN announced there would be an investigation.
Somebody didn't tell somebody.
They never got the memo.
No matter. State still has the number one seed and their fans went home happy anyway.
Paul Bowker is sports editor of the Commercial Dispatch. He can be reached at [email protected]
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