There is little doubt that a handful of controversial calls went against Kentucky in the Wildcats’ 24-23 Music City Bowl loss to Northwestern on Dec. 29. The most notable of those calls was the highly questionable ejection of running back Benny Snell.
But were the calls egregious enough to warrant threats on the officials from Kentucky fans? In the eyes of some fans, apparently so.
ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura reported Tuesday night that Pac-12 official Chris Coyte and his crew have indeed received threats from fans in the weeks since the game.
According to the report, the threats and harassment stem from Coyte’s decision to eject Snell for making contact with Coyte, and they include repeated calls to both Coyte’s home and cell phones. Coyte and the rest of the crew are employed by the Pac-12, and the conference has stated that it will be in touch with the SEC regarding the harassment.
The story also indicated the Pac-12 is unhappy with Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, who sent a letter to Pac-12 vice president of officials David Coleman criticizing the officiating crew. The letter became public last week through an open-records request.
Bonagura reported that the Pac-12 viewed Barnhart’s letter as a break in protocol.
“We’re happy to discuss the matter with the SEC,” the conference said in a statement, according to ESPN. “We’re particularly sensitive about this issue because our officials have received threats and we are concerned about their safety.”
This is not the first time in the last year that Kentucky fans have publicly harassed an official for a controversial call that went against their team. Shortly after the Wildcats’ basketball team was defeated by eventual national champion North Carolina in the Elite Eight in March 2017, head official John Higgins received death threats for calls that went against the ‘Cats.