SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 22, 2012

Billy Packer took shots at mayor

NCAA analyst's slight was 'a big deal'

(Continued)

Bettencourt didn't make much of Packer's insult at the time, because he was still too rattled by the loss and the cold fact that the senior-led team had just played its last game together. When he got back to Worcester and Peabody, however, Packer's remarks were impossible to ignore. There were articles in the newspapers, and friends, family, even Peabody High School teachers barraged CBS with telephone calls and letters demanding an apology, not just to Bettencourt, but to the state of Massachusetts for slandering its entire basketball prowess.

"It was a big deal," said Bettencourt, who acknowledges that the Packer comments did sour his only NCAA tournament appearance. "My mother is still mad about it."

Ted's brother Kevin Bettencourt, a prominent player on the 2005 Bucknell team that stunned Kansas in the first round of that season's NCAA tournament (see sidebar), was only 8 years old at the time, but even he has the controversy seared into his memory.

"I remember people talking about it and all the backlash afterward," he said.

Packer eventually wrote a letter to Bettencourt's mom, Barbara, "apologizing, but not really taking back what he said," Bettencourt said.

Despite the hoopla, Bettencourt said he cherished his time in the spotlight as a basketball player at the NCAA tournament, which continues tonight with Sweet 16 action. He and his teammates, for one weekend anyway, were treated like celebrities, with fans asking autographs, press conferences, a packed area and a nationally televised game.

Bettencourt used the Packer slight as motivation going forward in his career, and it worked. He went on to score more than 1,000 points in his collegiate career, start two years, captain the team and make all-Patriot League honors his senior year.

But even as success followed, Packer's five-second remark did, too — college sports fans can be particularly brutal creatures. Clever student sections in road games at rivals like Lehigh and Bucknell knew exactly what chant to use when Bettencourt got the ball: "BILL-LEE PACK-ER!"

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