UAA athletic director 'surprised and dismayed'

Beth Bragg

An outburst by the Syracuse women's basketball coach -- who in postgame comments Wednesday said UAA's Great Alaska Shootout championship had been tainted by cheating -- was answered Thursday by an angry UAA athletic director Steve Cobb.

Cobb fired off a letter to his counterpart at Syracuse, athletic director Daryl Gross. In it, he called Hillsman's behavior "unsportsmanlike."

"We are surprised and dismayed by Coach Quentin Hillsman's unsportmanlike comment about the last night's game," Cobb wrote. "Statements like his do a disservice to all participating athletes."

Cobb stopped short of asking for an apology.

Hillsman was livid about a timeout awarded to UAA with 21 seconds left in the women's championship game, which the Seawolves won 58-57.

Hillsman said the referees were wrong to give UAA the timeout because he claimed Syracuse had the ball at the time. "That is cheating," he said.

Two of the three referees who worked the game are from Outside.

Hillsman had to be restrained by his assistants when the timeout was called. Later, he confronted reporters about the call and spoke about little else than that call and other instances that he considered suspect.

He used the word "cheating" more than once in his postgame meeting with reporters. He pointed to Syracuse's 23-10 advantage on the offensive boards, implying that a team can't have that big an edge in such a critical aspect of the game and not win, unless the refs are helping the other team. And he pointed to a point early in the second half when Syracuse had seven fouls to UAA's two.

It's no surprise top-ranked teams are choosing to go to other tournaments instead of the Shootout, he said, referring to the decline of Top 25 teams in the annual tournament.

"We are proud and supportive of all the athletes who participate in the Shootout," Cobb's letter said. "We are especially proud of UAA's women's team who played an exceptional game last night. Coach Hillsman's comments should not cloud their victory, nor should it cast a doubt in anyone's mind about the integrity of our organization."

Photo blog: The Shootout