Big Ten official: No regrets about Michigan-Ohio State calls

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News



Ohio State's J.T. Barrett is brought down on a fourth-down play in overtime against Michigan last year. A controversial spot gave Ohio State a first down.

Chicago — Remember when Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was “bitterly disappointed” with the officiating in the aftermath of the Michigan-Ohio State game, which the Buckeyes won in double overtime?

Bill Carollo, Big Ten coordinator of football officials, certainly remembers. He took several calls from Harbaugh who was outraged by the first-down spot given to OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett on a fourth-down play that led to the Buckeyes’ eventual winning touchdown. Harbaugh after the game held his hands apart about a foot and said his view of the first down was “that short.”

"We talked multiple times,” Carollo said Tuesday during Big Ten media days.

And Harbaugh’s decibel level during those phone conversations?

“Jim is really good,” Carollo said. “He has his opinion, and he is pretty firm in his opinion. He’s educated. He understands the rules and what we can and can’t do, and when he doesn’t, we may agree to disagree on that.

“It came down to why didn’t replay change this play. I said, ‘Replay did it 100 percent correctly as far as there wasn’t indisputable video evidence. Give me another angle, show me the ball broke the plane or was short by two inches, I can live with it. I have no problem. But if we don’t have it, we’re not flipping it. We’re not changing the calls.’  It’s the same as all of (the coaches). He’s professional to me. I’ve known him since he was playing at Michigan, 15 years in the NFL. Great coach. Passionate about winning. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. The conversation was actually really solid.”

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There was considerable outrage among Michigan fans after the game because of the makeup of the crew, particularly the Ohio residents. Carollo said he sent his best crew, which consisted of three officials from Michigan, three from Ohio, four from Indiana, one from Illinois, and one from Pennsylvania.

He said his officials will recuse themselves if there is a conflict of interest.



“I have about 12 different categories of conflicts of interest, not just, ‘Did you play football at Michigan or Wisconsin or wherever it might be,’” he said. “So we have that. It’s all written and we have that. Residency is not one of my conflicts of interest. They have to live somewhere. But if you live somewhere, and you feel there’s any doubt, you take yourself off. I’ll give you another — you’re not losing a game. We have a lot of people that raise their hand and say, ‘I should not work here. My best friend’s in the front office of this team.’

“It was handled fine. It was one of my top crews. That crew went on to work the semifinal playoff game.”

Carollo knows it’s impossible to call a perfect game. And the Michigan-Ohio State officiating, he said, was not perfect.

“Are there mistakes in a few games? Yes. Were there some in that game? Yes,” Carollo said. “Did they have a good game? Yes. Solid game. It wasn’t perfect. Never is. Never will be. But I think the conversation with coach and Michigan was handled properly.”

Twitter: @chengelis