Time for a Big Ten Network Boycott?

I jumped out of my seat, both hands in the air, screaming in jubilation! Despite a few costly mistakes, Michigan had salvaged the victory, ending an insufferable decade of mostly noncompetitive football against their bitter rival, Ohio State. JT Barrett was stopped short of the 15-yard line, and it was the happiest moment I’d experienced as a sports fan in many years….

…only to be torn away moments later by gross negligence, impropriety and general incompetence. The gall of the official to call that a first down! It was a decision that almost made me question whether or not I wanted to continue to watch sports.

I should have known. The officiating up that point of the game was tantamount to criminal malfeasance — why would it change now?

The game should’ve never made it to overtime. Yes, Michigan committed 3 critical turnovers-if any of those were avoided, they would’ve won this game comfortably. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that, even with those 3 mistakes, Michigan would’ve won this game if played on a remotely level playing field.

With 4:31 remaining in the game, down 17–14 Ohio State faces 3 and 7 from their own 21. Barret sails a pass over the head of Curtis Samuel. Delano Hill reaches across Samuels body in an attempt to knock it down, and grabs Samuel’s shoulder, and it hit with a pass interference call to extend Ohio State’s drive, which lead to the eventual game tying field goal. That was not pass interference — the ball was not catchable.

In the second overtime, on 3rd down, Speight throws a pass to Perry. Gareon Conley grabs Perry’s arm before the pass arrives, preventing him from making the catch. Michigan has to settle for a field goal, which is what allows Ohio State to win the game. How can you call the play above pass interference, and then not call this?

The most egregious play occurred early — on Michigan’s opening drive, they faced a 3rd and 7. Speight passes to Darboh, who is literally tackled to the ground before the ball arrives. How can a ref see this play and not call pass interference?

If any one of those three pass interference calls goes the other way, Michigan likely wins this game, or in the case of the 2nd overtime call, extends the game to a 3rd overtime.

Even the play that set up the now infamous failed fourth down conversion should’ve been called back for holding. Watch Jordan Lewis try to get out to contain Samuel. He gets blatantly held, and then finally, when Samuel cuts back, he gets shoved out of the play — either of those actions should’ve drawn a flag and forced run another play from 3rd and 15+.

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In isolation, #SpotGate wasn’t the egregious error that lead to the ferociousness and outrage from the Michigan fanbase. It was simply the final tipping point. Michigan played well enough to pull away early, and made a few costly mistakes that allowed Ohio State to creep back and make it close. It was the referees that tipped the balance and allowed the Buckeyes to steal a game that they should not have won. This was a travesty of injustice and demonstrated a complete lack of propriety unfair to a team of 18–21 players that played their hearts out for an entire season.

The true outrage began as news began to trickle out on the officiating crew assigned to the most publicized and highly rated regular season college football game in 10 years. The back judge, Kevin Schwarzel, was a lifelong Ohio State fan. In 2006, Schwarzel was not allowed to officiate the Michigan/Ohio State game because of his close ties to OSU. Who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to have him call this game?

The lead official, Daniel Capron, was fired from the Big Ten back in 2002 for gross incompetence. Who thought it was a good idea to have this guy referee the biggest game this league has seen in 10 years?

The side judge, Bobby Sagars, is in the Ohio High School Hall of Fame. On one play, after Mike Weber threw the ball at Sagars in frustration, the referee actually responded by patting Weber on the ass. Later, he was seen with a huge smile on his face after Ohio State scored a touchdown.

Harbaugh was called for a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty for throwing his playcards and headset. Later, Urban Meyer did the exact same thing and drew no foul.

How about this one? The referee is staring right at the play, and sees Mike Weber deliver a hit to a defenseless player, Watson, and doesn’t throw a flag. That should’ve been a 15-yard penalty, and the play should’ve been reviewed for targeting.

Edit: The entire game was full of instances where the referee spotted the ball an extra yard in favor of Ohio State, or a yard short of the spot achieved by the Wolverines. See http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/no-more-refereeing-threads.

Edit II: Here’s a pretty clearly flagrant facemask missed by the refs as well:

In total, Michigan faced 7 penalties for 59 yards, while Ohio State faced 2 penalties for a paltry six yards. The Big Ten fined Harbaugh $10,000 for violating the Big Ten Sportsmanship policy. The league had the gall to state that after reviewing the tape, the officials called a good game and missed only one call. Apparently, the only call the refs missed was a hold on Michigan’s interception, which should’ve resulted in Ohio State keeping the football.

This was a great game that was marred by terrible officiating. The Big Ten needs to be held accountable for allowing a crew of Ohio State fans to officiate this game, and then doubling down and stating that the officials called a good game. The lack of self-awareness by the league to first allow this crew to call the game, and then defend the officiating after the overwhelming level of video evidence demonstrating impropriety and bias is galling.

At this point, our only action as consumers is to boycott the league. All Michigan fans, and fans of sportsmanship, legitimacy and college football in general, should unite in unsubscribing from the Big Ten network. Call your local network providers and tell them that you no longer wish to have the network carried. Bill Carollo, the head of officiating for the Big Ten, should be immediately fired. In truth, Jim Delaney should be asked to step down-nothing he has done has benefitted this league. By failing to acknowledge the obvious lack of awareness in allowing this crew to call this game, and then defending the result, he is as culpable as anyone.

This is, by far, not the first time I’ve watched a poorly to horrendously refereed game this year. Long term, the Big Ten needs to address their officiating issues, which has been grossly inconsistent and often bordering on incompetent at various points throughout the season. The league makes enough money that they can afford to hire professional referees, and not part time refs with little to no accountability.