UNC baseball coach Scott Forbes’ jersey hung in the Tar Heels’ dugout Sunday while the team played an elimination game in the NCAA baseball tournament’s Chapel Hill regional.
Absent was Forbes himself, who was thrown out of Carolina’s loss to VCU on Saturday after arguing vehemently with umpires, and suspended two games by the NCAA.
Here were the Tar Heels on Sunday, facing Georgia, on the brink of elimination, with no head coach to guide them, and a convoluted explanation as to why.
The scenario played out like this: With runners at first and second, a UNC batter popped a ball into the space between the pitcher’s mound and second base. The VCU fielder made a play on the ball, but the ball hit the fielder and fell to the turf. Umpires did not signal an infield fly rule, and the two UNC runners were immediately caught in no-man’s land, one forced out at second and another tagged out easily at third.
Forbes was incensed. He wanted an explanation on the uncalled infield fly, and continued to argue well after the play was over.
In a statement attributed to Randy Burns, NCAA baseball secretary rules editor, the explanation was as follows: “The definition of Infield Fly (Rule 2-48) requires that a fair fly ball must be able to be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort In order to be considered an infield fly and, in the umpire crew’s judgment, this did not meet the criteria for an infield fly. The ball remained in play and led to a force out at second base and a tag out of the runner from second base attempting to advance to third base.”
Forbes’ ejection, per Burns, was because Forbes “began to argue the decisions about the play and was ultimately ejected from the game. He returned to the field to continue arguing the play and, after several warnings was issued a 2-game suspension per Rule 5-15-a-4 which states that ‘No team may continue to argue or to excessively express themselves with prolonged actions or offensive language after an ejection.'”
Saturday night, UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham took to Twitter to voice his frustration with the suspension.
Cunningham started out by saying there is judgment associated with the infield fly rule, but didn’t agree with the length of the suspension.
“A two-game suspension for the head coach arguing the call is excessive,” Cunningham wrote. “There should be an appeals process for these situations or at least a statement or explanation.”
Immediately following the game on Saturday, Cunningham wrote, “It is incredibly disappointing to have the NCAA confirm a two game suspension for our head baseball coach — yet have no explanation for the call that ultimately led to the suspension. We must do better for our student-athletes and teams.”
Cunningham said he would not be making any more public comments regarding the matter.
UNC spokesperson Jody Jones confirmed with The News & Observer that there is no appeals process for the suspension.
The Tar Heels needed two wins on Sunday — one each against Georgia and VCU — to force an “if necessary” game Monday, also against VCU, to give Forbes a chance to coach again this season. Saturday night was the first postseason loss for Carolina (39-20), which had won eight straight games and 16 of its last 18, including the ACC tournament championship.
Per NCAA rules, Forbes was not allowed to dress in uniform or communicate with any team personnel or umpires Sunday. He was also not allowed in the stadium or on the field once pregame activities started. His jersey, though, served as a motivator to his UNC team.
This story was originally published June 5, 2022 2:01 PM.