March Madness: NCAA swaps out official at halftime of NC State's win over Chattanooga due to 'background conflict'

An official assigned to the game got her master's degree at Chattanooga

The NCAA was forced to make an officiating change at halftime of No. 3 NC State’s 64-45 win over No. 14 Chattanooga in the first round of the 2024 NCAA women's tournament on Saturday.

According to the NCAA, umpire Tommi Paris was removed from her spot on the court because of a “background conflict.” According to the NCAA’s statement, Paris should never have been working the game in the first place.

“There was a switch of game officials at halftime of the Chattanooga-NC State first-round game because it was learned after the game had started that Umpire 2 Tommi Paris had a background conflict that, if known, would prevent her from working that assigned game,” the NCAA’s statement said. “The decision was made to move Angelica Suffren, who had worked the first game of the session, into the Umpire 2 position because it provided the most on-court experience and allowed the game to maintain a full officiating crew, plus standby.”

Per the biography on Paris’ employer’s site, she received her bachelor’s degree from Furman before getting her master’s in public administration at Tennessee-Chattanooga. There seems to be a clear mistake somewhere in the assignment process that led to Paris working a game involving a school she attended. Officials are routinely not assigned games involving their alma maters.

NC State led 26-17 at the end of the second quarter before taking a 19-point lead at the end of the third quarter. Aziaha James scored 19 points for the Wolfpack as they shot just 33% from the field but out-rebounded Chattanooga 46-29.

NC State will play Tennessee in the second round of the tournament on Monday. The No. 6 Volunteers beat No. 11 Green Bay 92-63 in the game before the Wolfpack’s win. It’s a safe assumption that the NCAA and the folks in charge of assigning the officiating crew for that game will be double-checking the alma maters of the three officials working the game.