The Controversy Over Hannah Hidalgo’s Nose Ring Removal During NCAA Tournament Game

During Notre Dame’s 70-65 loss to Oregon State in the Sweet 16, freshman All-American Hannah Hidalgo was shocked to be forced to remove her nose ring mid-game due to an NCAA rule prohibiting jewelry during games. Despite wearing the nose ring throughout the entire season and the first two NCAA tournament games without any issue, game officials decided to enforce the rule during the crucial matchup, causing confusion and frustration for Hidalgo, coach Niele Ivey, and the entire Notre Dame bench.

Conflicting Instructions

In a postgame interview with ESPN, Hidalgo revealed that an official initially allowed her to wear the nose ring as long as it was covered up. However, during the first quarter, she was suddenly informed that the ring had to be removed for her to continue playing. This led to a significant delay as athletic trainers struggled to remove the ring, causing discomfort and even a nosebleed for Hidalgo. The lack of clear communication and consistency in enforcing the rule left both Hidalgo and Ivey questioning the decision made during the game.

After the game, the NCAA released a statement citing Rule 1, Section 25, Article 7, which explicitly states that head decorations, headwear, helmets, and jewelry are considered illegal during games. According to NCAA regulations, if a player is found wearing jewelry, they must remove it at the first dead ball and cannot return until it is taken off. While the rule itself was not disputed, the timing and manner in which it was enforced in Hidalgo’s case raised eyebrows, especially considering she had worn the nose ring without issue all season.

Impact on Performance

The forced removal of her nose ring seemed to have a negative impact on Hidalgo’s performance during the game. She tied a season low with 10 points, shooting 4-of-17 from the field and missing all her open field goal attempts. When asked about the factors contributing to her poor shooting, Hidalgo expressed uncertainty, mentioning that she felt her shots were open but simply couldn’t find her rhythm. This disappointing performance left both her and her coach frustrated, especially considering the game-changing nature of the NCAA rule enforcement incident.

Oregon State coach Scott Rueck, on the other hand, seemed unaware of the controversy surrounding Hidalgo’s removal from the game until questioned during his postgame news conference. He credited his players’ defensive efforts for disrupting Hidalgo’s shot, highlighting their consistent ability to challenge and contain top shooters throughout the season. Rueck’s response shed light on the competitive nature of the game and the strategic defensive approach employed by Oregon State to limit Hidalgo’s impact on the court.

The unexpected and controversial decision to force Hannah Hidalgo to remove her nose ring during the NCAA tournament game against Oregon State sparked debates about the enforcement of rules and their impact on players’ performance. The lack of communication, timing, and consistency in applying the jewelry prohibition rule raised concerns among players, coaches, and fans alike, highlighting the need for clearer guidelines and understanding in similar situations in the future.


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