Kentucky fans have apparently expressed their displeasure with the officiating in the Music City Bowl in ways that are incredibly unhealthy.
According to the Pac-12, official Chris Coyte has received threats following his crew’s performance in Northwestern’s win over Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.
Per ESPN, the issue had apparently subsided until Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart’s letter to the conference regarding the quality of the officiating became public. The story said Coyte has received threatening messages on both his cell and office phone.
When contacted by ESPN for comment regarding Barnhart’s letter, the Pac-12 made it clear it felt his decision to reach out directly to Coleman was a break from protocol.
“We’re happy to discuss the matter with the SEC,” the Pac-12 said in a statement. “We’re particularly sensitive about this issue because our officials have received threats and we are concerned about their safety.”
Barnhart took issue with the way officials handled Benny Snell’s ejection and Stephen Johnson’s injury. Snell was ejected for pushing Coyte’s hands away after a play when Coyte reached out to help snell up. Coyte could have, but did not, call a late hit on the play where Snell was driven to the ground after the whistle.
Coyte also did not call for a late hit on the sidelines when Johnson was taken to the ground. Johnson injured his shoulder on the play, though he came back to play in the game. The senior told Kentucky Sports Radio this week that he’s facing multiple surgeries and is retiring from football.
It’s fair to criticize Coyte’s decisions regarding those two instances. But it’s absurd that criticism has turned into threats. It feels absolutely unnecessary to say that sports shouldn’t lead people to make threats towards officials, but it’s clearly necessary at this point.
This is also the second time Kentucky fans have made threats to an official after a postseason game. After the Wildcats lost to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament in March, Kentucky fans flooded basketball official John Higgins phone and office with threats. It’s ridiculous. And it has to stop.
Let Barnhart argue for Kentucky on the school’s behalf, Wildcat fans. Take a deep breath. And please never, ever threaten officials again.
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