The Big Ten suspended Ohio State senior safety Kurt Coleman on Monday for one game after a helmet-to-helmet hit in the final minute of Saturday’s 30-0 victory over Illinois.
Coleman, a team captain, was flagged for a personal foul after an illegal hit on Illini backup quarterback Eddie McGee.
“Obviously, we will abide by the one-game suspension from the Big Ten Conference, but we feel as if there was poor judgment throughout,” said Director of Athletics Gene Smith and coach Jim Tressel in a statement.
After a four-yard rush, McGee was wrapped up by linebackers Tom Ingham and Andrew Sweat before Coleman entered the action.
The Big Ten prohibits helmet-to-helmet contact, and the league said Coleman targeted a defenseless player, a motion that Smith and Tressel disagreed with.
“We concur that Kurt’s hit was late and a result of poor judgment; he was thus penalized and removed from the game by his coaches,” they said in the statement. “We do not agree that it was ‘pre-meditated’ or that he was ‘targeting a defenseless’ player.”
The Big Ten can review any questionable offense, and since Coleman wasn’t ejected from Saturday’s game, his suspension signals that the referees viewed the play differently, Smith and Tressel said.
“The decision to suspend points to the Conference office’s feeling as if there was poor judgment by the game officials for their decision not to eject at the time,” they said.
Though they don’t agree with the penalty, Smith and Tressel said they will abide by the final ruling.
“In our estimation, the final ‘poor judgment’ is in levying a one-game suspension in this particular case,” they said. “We will abide by the decision, learn from it, and move forward.”
Coleman is second on the Buckeye defense with 29 tackles. Senior Anderson Russell, who lost his starting job to Jermale Hines two weeks ago, is expected to start in Coleman’s place on Saturday.
University officials declined to comment further on the suspension.