A referee from a crucial NCAA basketball tournament game says he is getting harassed over what some fans believe were several bad calls he made during the contest.
John Higgins met with cops for more than two hours Tuesday to discuss the hate messages he has been receiving since he officiated Sunday’s crucial Elite Eight Kentucky-North Carolina game.
North Carolina advanced to the Final Four after defeating Kentucky 75-73 with a last-second shot.
Many Kentucky fans felt Higgins made too many bad calls, including 19 fouls that were issued against their team.
As a result, Higgins claims he has been receiving threats on his home phone, despite the fact that his number is unlisted.
A roofing business Higgins runs called John Higgins Weatherguard Inc., has received 3,000 harassing emails, according to cops.
The business' Facebook page has also been inundated with negative comments. One cop called it "an orchestrated effort to run down his Better Business Bureau rating."
Those who may be targeting Higgins with hateful comments were also chastised by the NCAA.
“We appreciate the passion that fans bring to college basketball. But the behavior of some fans toward John Higgins that has been reported publicly after last weekend’s regional final is not appropriate," NCAA Vice President Dan Gavitt said in a statement to Inside Edition. "John is one of the most experienced and qualified college referees in the country, evidenced by his many years of officiating during March Madness, and for some fans to not only question his character but also criticize his private business is unfortunate.
"While we understand it’s nearly impossible to officiate a game without fans getting upset about a call, it’s also important that behavior during or after a game reflects the same standards of good sportsmanship that we encourage of our coaches and student-athletes."
The coach of the losing Kentucky team, John Calipari, was also disturbed by the actions toward Higgins.
"I always brag that we have the classiest fans in the country," Calipari tweeted. "Let's make sure we remain that way even after a tough loss."
Captain Dan Shukis of the Sarpy County Sheriff Office in Nebraska, where Higgins' business is located, told Inside Edition that more than 3,000 harassing messages have been posted and his unit will take care of "any local threats," adding that online harassment is a crime.
"Anytime we get a call like this — though this is a magnitude I have never seen before — we always take it serious and investigate as much as we can," he said.
Higgins has long been a larger-than-life figure in college basketball.
Sports Illustrated once called him "one of the nation's most wanted and loathed basketball referees."
Higgins has not commented on the matter and sources tell ESPN he will work the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz., this weekend.