Gilman football coach Biff Poggi is calling for a public apology from the officials who ejected him from Sunday’s game against Manatee (Fla.) in the Brothers In Arms Classic at Byrd Stadium after assessing him with two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties -- one of which was rescinded upon review after the game.
“I’m really upset,” Poggi said. “This was a national [internet] broadcast. It was at Byrd Stadium. It was in front of my wife and my children, my team, my coaches, our school community, and these guys haphazardly executed the rules and threw me out in a nationally public forum and I’ve never been thrown out of a game ever. They were wrong to do it. They admitted it afterward, and unfortunately no one knows it.
“I have to leave the game with [the score], 24-14, in this shroud of shame. I have to leave my players. It’s just wrong, and they have to answer for this. They need to issue a public apology. They cannot just say, ‘My bad.’ That’s ridiculous.”
In the game won by Manatee, 44-14, the first penalty was assessed after Gilman’s Jelani Roberts returned a kick up the right sideline for a long gain.
Gilman athletic director Tim Holley Jr. was on the sideline and explained that a Gilman spectator, not a coach or a player, stepped onto the field after Roberts ran by because the Greyhounds players were blocking his view. The trailing official on the sideline bumped into him, drawing what officials said at the time was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Because the head coach is responsible for the bench, even if he doesn’t commit a foul personally, Poggi was assessed the unsportsmanlike penalty.
That, however, was later determined to be the wrong penalty for the infraction. It should have been called illegal contact which is not unsportsmanlike conduct, according to Steve Smith, commissioner of the Maryland Board of Football Officials.
Later in the game, Poggi did receive an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing a no-call. Holley said Poggi thought a Manatee player should have been called for a clip, but the officials didn’t throw a flag.
A second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty is an automatic ejection. Had that ejection held up, Poggi would have been suspended for the next two weeks, said Lee Dove, executive director of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Because only one of the fouls actually qualified as unsportsmanlike, "Coach Poggi should not have been ejected," Smith wrote in an email to Dove forwarded to The Baltimore Sun by the Gilman coaching staff.
Dove said the ejection was never appealed to the MIAA because it was overturned so quickly by the officials.
“We didn’t appeal anything, because technically, it was never assessed,” Holley said. “The officials never made a report to the MIAA. In their automatic review session, which they do as a matter of course, they determined that the ejection should not have occurred, so literally, by the book, Biff was never ejected although we knew he left the game and he couldn’t coach.”