After Ohio State’s dramatic come-from-behind win over Michigan to end the regular season, many Michigan fans, and one Michigan coach in particular, were mad online about the officiating. Soon, online conspiracy theories started to fly around. Did you know that all the officials were secret Ohio State fans? And that they had been fired for being bad at officiating? THAT THE FIX WAS IN?!
Well, upon further review ... that wasn’t exactly the case. The Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein chatted with the Big Ten’s head of officiating to get a little more clarity on what went down in the game.
First, let’s address the elephant in the room here. Was the spot, in fact, good? From the article:
And on the game's most controversial play — The Spot — Barrett was ruled on the field to have broken the plane of the 15-yard line when a Michigan defender contacted him. The ruling was close enough, Carollo said, that whatever was called on the field would not have been overturned by replay
Despite all the doctored photographs and screenshots you saw on Twitter for a good week after the game, the Big Ten reached the same conclusion basically everybody else outside of Michigan did ... it was really close, and not something that should have been overturned.
But what about the fact that this game included multiple officials from Ohio? Surely refs that reside in the Buckeye state could not possibly be impartial. #WellActually, not only is there no residency requirement for Big Ten refs, but the exact same number of refs from Michigan officiated the game as Ohio. Again, from the article:
The Big Ten has no residency rule, and here's why: Crews, especially the best ones, work together all season. (A crew consists of eight on-field officials, an alternate, two replay officials and an independent timer.)
The one sent to Ohio Stadium on Nov. 26 was Carollo's highest-rated crew, and it contained this geographic makeup: four from Indiana, three from Ohio, three from Michigan, one from Illinois, one from Pennsylvania.
And that picture of the ref that looks like he’s patting Mike Weber on the butt? That ref is from Indiana, not Ohio. While it wasn’t a great look for him to do so, he evidently was patting him as encouragement after he didn’t retaliate following a contentious event.
Of course, those conspiracy theories didn’t stop one Michigan radio station from broadcasting the officiating crew’s contact info while calling for their jobs. According to the article, a security company is reviewing the threatening phone calls the officials got, so great job, everybody.
Was every call in this game perfect? No. Did some of those calls go against Michigan, like a missed PI penalty? Seems like it. But this is a football game, and football games are officiated by humans, who make mistakes. Was there a concentrated effort to screw Michigan out of this game, or should Michigan blame the officiating as the reason they lost? Definitely not.
Big Ten officiating isn’t perfect, but compared to the Pac-12 or Big 12, us Big Ten fans probably have it pretty good. And if you want to get a better idea about what goes into selecting, training, and holding the refs accountable, it’s a good idea to give the Tribune a click.