Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Colleges

Teddy Greenstein: Big Ten needed a stronger response to Jim Harbaugh's rant

Big Ten officials spent Monday morning focused on something that truly matters — the safety of the Ohio State community. Hopefully reports indicating that none of the 11 victims has life-threatening injuries, though one was injured critically, will bring peace to that campus.

Then it was time for the conference to address some ugliness on a much smaller scale.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh acted like a jerk after Ohio State's 30-27 double-overtime victory Saturday, going on and on and on about the officiating.

His response — when you lose, blame the refs — was precisely what we do not teach our kids about handling defeat. The only thing as bad as a sore winner ("millions" of illegal votes, really?) is a sore loser.

Harbaugh drew an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty during the game for ranting about an offside call that was valid and then ripped the official who flagged him, insinuating that the side judge was not focused on the game. Harbaugh also insisted that J.T. Barrett came up short on the fourth-down rush that preceded Ohio State's 15-yard game-winning touchdown run.

Various analyses with frame-by-frame breakdowns have been inconclusive. Yet some fans, spurred on by Harbaugh's bluster, think Big Ten replay officials should have reversed the call, ending the game in the emptiest way possible.

I'd feel the same if Barrett had been ruled short. Replay exists to correct calls that are obviously wrong, not to flip ones that reasonable people with good eyesight find debatable.

The Big Ten chimed in Monday afternoon, acting in predictable fashion. The conference issued a public reprimand of Harbaugh for violating its sportsmanship policy and fined him $10,000.

Nebraska's Bo Pelini got dinged the same amount for ripping officials after a game in 2013, calling an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty "a chicken(bleep) call."

Pelini apologized a day after the game, before he was reprimanded. Harbaugh, as of Monday evening, had not expressed any regret. Certainly the amount he was fined — one-nine-hundredth of his 2016 salary — won't send him to confessional.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Harbaugh is a wonderful coach, an asset to the Big Ten and a hoot to cover because of his zest for competition and his unpredictable and occasionally zany answers. I picked Michigan to beat Ohio State in the Tribune, by the way.

But again, Harbaugh acted like a jerk. He still needs to learn the basics of sportsmanship, of praising your opponent and acknowledging that no game is determined by a single play.

"What's your deal?" Pete Carroll asked Harbaugh during the 2009 Stanford-USC postgame handshake after Harbaugh ran up the score on Carroll's Trojans. We're still not sure.

The officials did not lose the game for Michigan on Saturday. Were there some questionable pass-interference calls? Yup. There are in every game.

The Wolverines turned it over three times, fumbling inside the 2 and attempting a pass from their 6 that went for a pick-six. Their defense surrendered 177 yards in the fourth quarter and the two overtimes. That's why they lost.

Harbaugh's comments have spurred unfortunate stuff such as this: The Michigan Insider, a sports talk station, fired on Big Ten coordinator of officials Bill Carollo on Monday in a tweet to its 36,858 followers, with these hashtags: #FireBillCarollo #BoycottB1G Events. The station included the phone number of the league office with Carollo's extension.

A lengthier explanation from the station included fair-minded criticism of Michigan for its "failures in the game" and a slam on the Big Ten and Carollo over their choice of officials, alleging that two are "Ohio natives and known OSU fans … Why even subject yourself to this postgame scrutiny? That's why I've said #FireBillCarollo. That was negligence from the league before the game even started."

Maybe Big Ten honchos such as Carollo think it's beneath them to respond to conspiracy theories regarding their officials and where they were born.

Harbaugh, meanwhile, is one of their own.

He paid too small a price considering his noxious tone.

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