Michigan State may not have filed an official protest with the Big Ten over the video kerfuffle Pat Narduzzi detailed after Ohio State's 17-16 win over the Spartans this Saturday, but make no mistake: It's a pretty big deal.
According to Narduzzi, Ohio State cut out the portions of its pre-snap routines on offense, per the Detroit Free Press (h/t USA Today). To put it generously, this is ethically dubious.
The editing of the game tape—which has not been refuted by Urban Meyer or anybody else in Ohio State's athletic department—is a major problem, especially because these are tape exchanges, so Ohio State was able to get access to Michigan State's full pre-snap packages—as all teams are supposed to do with all other teams.
That's an informational inequality that Ohio State manufactured on its own.
Moreover, this isn't film that Michigan State can just get from a DVR. The film exchanged is the "All-22" type filmed from the end zones that shows—you guessed it—all 22 players on the field. TV cameras also usually don't show an entire play develop from the huddle to snap, so even then pre-snap adjustments remain mysteries. And forget about watching coverages and pass routes develop deep—those usually remain off-camera unless the ball finds its way downfield.
Here's an example, even though it comes from a video game.
So it's important to get the footage directly from the school, and at the very least, nobody from Michigan State has claimed that Ohio State did anything to the video once the plays began. But the editing is still a major red flag, as we'll see later.
Michigan State, for the record, never blamed the 17-16 loss outright on the video troubles. And it shouldn't. That's every bit as unsportsmanlike as chopping up bad film. Well, almost as bad. But it's ugly.
That said, MSU had every right to at least want to go to the Big Ten about this, and if Ohio State's video department makes a habit of this kind of video work, the Big Ten should put a stop to it.
One person who works in a BCS conference program's video department told Bleacher Report that while what Ohio State's accused of is something that could be done, it's not generally something that would be.
"It's not overly difficult to edit out pre-snap motion. Slightly tedious, but nothing that someone couldn't make a student worker do," the source told Bleacher Report. "I'd be surprised if their VC [video coordinator] did it of his own volition. That'd be more work on his part for no real reason."
For the record, he is not involved in the Ohio State video department and could not offer particulars on Ohio State's editing process.
The source also told Bleacher Report that game video is typically compiled "either Saturday night or Sunday morning," which makes this next note from Narduzzi's initial comments on Saturday night especially troubling. Via the Detroit Free Press:
Narduzzi said MSU did not get full game film of Ohio State until Thursday.
“It doesn’t help you,” he said.
Now, we don't know when Michigan State first told Ohio State the film was incomplete, so this one might not be on Ohio State. But it's awfully hard to imagine that Michigan State coaches didn't at least notice the discrepancy well before Wednesday or Thursday. Film prep is a little more important than that.
From the sound of things, Ohio State's trust has been eroded within the Big Ten as a result of this miniature scandal. UCF coach George O'Leary, whose team played Ohio State in Week 3, told reporters that when it came time for Nebraska to get its game tape, it went to UCF instead of Ohio State.
Here's more from UCFSports.com's transcript of O'Leary's weekly press conference:
"You're supposed to send whatever you film out. I guess there was some problem in the Big Ten? Nebraska called for our tape. I don't know what's going on there. You're supposed to show everything. What happened was you're supposed to show from the huddle out so you see everything taking place. I guess some people are cutting out some motions and things like that. They're showing the end result, not the beginning of how he got to that."
“I don’t know anything about that, but we do that a lot, as far as getting film from other opponents and that type of thing,” Pelini said on the Big Ten teleconference. “We didn’t have any issues with the film exchange.”
Asked if NU made the request to Central Florida as a precaution before knowing what it would receive from Ohio State, Pelini said: “I’m not involved in that. That’s video guys.”
Sure, you can say that Nebraska was just covering its bases by approaching UCF for film. Exactly. Covering bases is what you do when trust is no longer a guarantee.