A dispute over the color of Burke High's charity uniforms tainted the team's girls basketball game Monday night against Columbus.
The host Bulldogs wore light pink uniforms as part of a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Burke played well in the first half and led by one point at halftime over the sixth-ranked Discoverers.
Before the third quarter began, Columbus coach Dave Licari discussed the uniforms with the officials. State rules require the home team's uniforms to be predominantly white.
The officials then called a technical foul on Burke, and a Columbus player sank both free throws. The Discoverers went on to win 62-47.
"It was a total mistake by me,'' Bulldogs Athletic Director Kyle Rohrig said. "We had good intentions, but we made a mistake, and then there were consequences.''
The fundraiser was organized by Burke assistant coach Tom Law, who runs a youth basketball organization that annually selects a charity to support. He purchased the uniforms for the Burke girls that were to be auctioned off after the game, with the money going to Make-A-Wish.
"Coach Law has a big heart," Burke head coach Luke Lueders said. "He was trying to do a nice thing, and then this happened.''
Lueders said he should have notified the Columbus team of the pink uniforms earlier that day, but he added the timing of the meeting between Licari and officials at halftime was unfortunate.
"If they thought there was a problem, it should have been addressed before the game,'' he said. "To have that happen at halftime caught us all off-guard.''
Columbus Athletic Director John Krogstrand, who arrived at the game in the second quarter, said he was the one who brought the uniforms to the attention of the Discoverers coaches.
"I asked one of our assistants whether Burke had said anything ahead of time about wearing pink uniforms,'' Krogstrand said. "It was my suggestion to coach Licari to bring it to the attention of the officials."
The intent wasn't to be malicious, Krogstrand said. "It was a situation where we just asked the officials, and they called the foul.''
The athletic director added that Columbus High School also has done its part for charity, raising $2,000 in the fall for cancer research by having fans wear pink to a football game and a volleyball match.
"It put us in an awkward spot Monday night,'' Krogstrand said. "But when you want to maintain the integrity of the game, you've got to play by the rules.''
An assistant director of the Nebraska School Activities Association, the state's governing body for high school sports, said the officials were simply following those rules.
"It was an obvious uniform violation by Burke,'' the NSAA's Jon Dolliver said. "Unfortunately, there's not a lot of wiggle room in the rule book for that.''
Dolliver said that he had not spoken with the officials but that any technical foul probably should have been called at the start of the game.
Law, the Burke assistant, said he spoke with Licari about the incident afterward.
"I thought their team was more concerned about shooting technical foul shots than about doing a nice thing for charity,'' Law said. "Make-A-Wish is something I feel pretty strongly about.''
Law said more than $2,600 was raised for the organization Monday night and that a fundraising carnival also will be held March 11 at Omaha Creighton Prep.
"We've accepted what happened at the game and have moved on,'' Law said. "It was a learning experience for us all.''
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