Music City Bowl Referees Threatened After Ejecting Kentucky RB Benny Snell

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2018

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 29:  Benny Snell Jr. #26 of the Kentucky Wildcats is escorted off the field after being ejected for contact with an official against the Northwestern Wildcats during the Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium on December 29, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Pac-12 officiating crew from the Northwestern Wildcats' 24-23 Music City Bowl victory over the Kentucky Wildcats have received threatening phone calls in the weeks after the game, ESPN.com's Kyle Bonagura reported.

Chris Coyte and his officiating crew received criticism after ejecting Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. in the second quarter. Not only did calls reportedly go to Coyte's cell phone and office phone but also to his commercial real estate association.

Coyte had reached out to help Snell up after the Wildcats had tackled him. Snell appeared to push Coyte's arms away, which drew a flag. After the game, Coyte stood by his decision.

"I was on top of the play," he said, per The Athletic's Stewart Mandel. "And the player got up and grabbed my arms and pushed them away and contacted me. That's a foul."

The Pac-12 publicly supported Coyte's call as well.

According to Bonagura, the animosity toward Coyte had begun simmering down until the Lexington Herald-Leader's Jennifer Smith shared a letter to the Pac-12 written by Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart.

In addition to Snell's ejection, Barnhart had taken issue with what he believed was a lack of proper attention paid to Wildcats quarterback Stephen Johnson.

"Video clearly shows that he was not only hit after releasing the ball, but taken down and driven into the ground out of bounds by the defender," Barnhart said. "No penalty was called."

In a statement to Bonagura, the Pac-12 said it would discuss Kentucky's concerns with the SEC, in particular "because our officials have received threats and we are concerned about their safety."

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