COLUMBUS, Ohio — Talk about adding insult to injury.
When Urban Meyer was smacked in the face by an official during Ohio State’s win against Wisconsin on Saturday, the flag was up in the air before Meyer had even finished recoiling. The Buckeyes were penalized 15 yards for sideline interference, turning a second-and-12 into second-and-27. They punted two plays later.
Urban Meyer hit with a 15 yard flag right here for sideline inference after ref hits him in the face. pic.twitter.com/yav2M3R56S
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) October 16, 2016
When the official windmilled his way into Meyer, he had two choices: assess a warning or skip straight to sideline interference.
“The premise of that whole rule is substitutes, coaches, trainers, etc., cannot be within six feet of the sideline,” ESPN rules expert Dave Cutaia, who was at the game for ABC, told Land of 10.
The coaches box starts six feet from the sideline, and nobody is supposed to be closer than six feet, an area called the “white.” If that’s the only violation, the first time it’s a warning, the second and third times it’s five yards, and the fourth time it’s 15 yards, Cutaia said.
“The second part of that rule is being in that same area and judging to have interfered with an official,” he continued. “If that occurs, it’s 15 yards with no warning. What was called was the second one because of the contact.”
Cutaia said most of the time when violations are enforced as a 15-yard penalty instead of a warning, they come in situations where an official is running downfield to keep up with a play and runs into, or has to run around, a coach who is outside of the boundary. This was a unique situation, given that the ball was no longer in play, it was minimal contact, and Meyer didn’t interfere directly with the official’s ability to do his job.
Technically, the written word of the rule concludes that “physical interference with an official is a foul charged to the team for unsportsmanlike conduct.” Meyer, however, said that Big Ten coordinator of officials, Bill Carollo, told him he shouldn’t have been flagged and instead it should have been a warning.
“It should not have been a penalty,” Meyer said. “We’ve just got to do a better job staying back. That broke my heart. To put your players in a 15-yard penalty for that in a big game. Some will say, ‘Well, that’s just the rule.’ Get rid of the damn rule. That’s not a good rule.”
If Meyer needs some support, he found it from his players on Monday. DE Jalyn Holmes wasn’t even aware that his coach had been flagged, but after a reporter showed him the footage, it didn’t take him long to form an opinion.
“That’s crazy,” he said. “The ref should get a fine for that.”