Critical Review: “The Game” 2016

Being one of the most disputed rivalries in football history, the Michigan vs. Ohio State football game is never quite like any other. Every year “The Game” is highly anticipated by fans, sports networks, announcers, and especially, the players. This intense rivalry is referred to as “The Game” anywhere you hear about it in the sports world; if that doesn’t express its significance enough to you, here’s some interesting facts about this historical matchup. Since 1897, the two teams have faced each other in 113 games; Michigan winning 58 games, Ohio winning 48 games, and 6 ties between the two. Since 1927, “The Game” has decided the Big Ten champions in at least 27 different occasions. Thousands of minutes of hard-hitting, smack-talking, and quality football have been shared between the teams throughout history, making “The Game” the greatest sports rivalry in North America (as ranked by ESPN in the year 2000). The great history of “The Game” has been intriguing for years and years…until November 26, 2016. On that day, absolutely pitiful officiating resulted in an undeserved Ohio State victory.

November 26, 2016: the 113th football game between Michigan and Ohio State. With Michigan being ranked #3 in the country and Ohio State being #2, the stakes were high for the already heated matchup. The game was played at Buckeye Stadium in Columbus. Homefield advantage never really decides a game much or even affects it in any way at all. That is unless the advantage includes the referees siding with one team over another. The officiating crew for the game included Daniel Capron (lead official), Kevin Schwarzel (back judge), and Bobby Sagers (sideline judge). In 2002, Daniel Capron  was fired from Big 10 Conference officiating because of poor calls  in numerous games, including a very important game between Purdue and Wake Forest. So, why was he allowed to officiate this year for the (very important) Michigan-Ohio State game? Not only did one referee, who shouldn’t have been on the field, participated in the game, but yet another was involved as well. Kevin Schwarzel, an Ohio native, apparently was exempt from the long-time rule that restricts any Michigan or Ohio native from officiating “The Game”. Born in Athens, Schwarzel has been an Ohio State fan and admitted exactly that, with proof showing he was a strong and loyal Buckeye fan in 2006. Not only that, but Schwarzel was restricted from officiating the 2006 Michigan vs. Ohio State game because of his nativity to Ohio and his bias in the Buckeyes’ favor. The sideline judge, a very important position in games, was taken up by yet another Ohio native, who happened to be a highly-supportive Buckeye fan: Bobby Sagers. In this past year of 2016, Sagers was elected into the Ohio Athletic Officials Hall of Fame, which is located in Columbus (where Ohio State University also resides). There’s also video footage of Sagers briefly talking with Mike Weber Jr., an OSU player, in a friendly conversation and slapping the player on the butt, signifying his support for the player and the Buckeyes. Sagers also appeared to have walked out onto the field alongside of the Ohio State football team and OSU head coach Urban Meyer. The ruling and overall officiating in the game was unfair and an act of injustice to not only Michigan but the football community as well.

Poor ruling contributed to the Ohio State victory and I believe so because, well, stats don’t lie. Ohio State only had 2 penalties called against them for a total of 6 yards, while Michigan had 7 penalties called against them for a total of 59 yards. Sagers penalized Michigan with a personal foul against head coach Jim Harbaugh for throwing his headset in anger over a missed call. The personal foul was called because, as Sagers explained to Harbaugh, it would’ve been called a technical in basketball.  Ohio State head coach, Urban Meyer, threw his headset out of anger when the Buckeyes failed to convert on fourth down with a fake punt. Did he get a penalty? Of course he didn’t. There were also numerous penalties against Ohio State that weren’t called, including a very blatant defensive holding/pass interference call that would’ve given Michigan a first down on their drive and possibly a red zone scoring opportunity. Again, Michigan had 7 penalties against them for 59 yards and Ohio State had 2 penalties against them for a total of 6 yards.

So, after watching this year’s football matchup between Michigan and Ohio State, I comfortably can say that I am very disappointed in the Big Ten Officiating Committee, and furthermore, I believe Ohio State’s victory wasn’t deserved. I’ll take it as far as to say that “The Game” of 2016 should be rescheduled with a different, unbiased officiating crew so that it is fair and so that both teams (especially Michigan) can play the great and genuine game that they deserve.

By: Travis Plessner

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