If you are upset about the Will Hill decision, you haven’t been paying attention

The CFL handed down its punishment to Will Hill for his incredibly boneheaded decision to put his hands on an official during the team’s 37-20 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and people are not happy that he was only suspended one game.

Prior to the ruling, everyone seemed to have an opinion on how long Hill should be suspended and those expectations that people set themselves is why they are angry today.

But the problem with all of this is that it completely ignores the precedent that has been set in the CFL, and elsewhere, for contacting an official and Hill’s punishment fits with what has come before.

Just last year, Hamilton was in a similar boat when Kent Austin made contact with an official in a game against Saskatchewan. Austin was fined $10,000 and banished to the press box for one game. There was plenty of debate as to what Austin’s penalty should have been. Austin may have gotten off light, but it sets the benchmark for what the league thinks is appropriate discipline in a case such as this.

If Austin was only suspended one game, the league would have a hard time justifying a longer suspension for a player in a similar incident. It would spark a whole round of “why are coaches getting off lighter than players” and that is a can of worms the league does not want to open.

But even if you think that Austin’s and Hill’s transgressions are different for whatever reason, then let’s take a look back at former Edmonton Eskimos receiver Ed Hervey, who twice had on-field run-ins with officials.

Hervey once threw a ball at an official in anger after a touchdown was called back, but his most famous on-field incident with a ref took place during the 2003 Labour Day Classic. During a fracas on the sideline, Hervey swung his helmet and hit an official in the head. The ref was not his intended target, but that should not matter. He was attempting to use his helmet as a weapon and that should never be tolerated. His punishment for his lapse in judgment: a one-game suspension, handed out by the team, not the league.

If we look outside the CFL bubble, a couple of famous player-official altercations occurred in both Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. If you were around at the time, it will be hard to forget when Roberto Alomar spit in umpire John Hirschbeck’s face in 1996. Alomar’s punishment for that: five games. More recently we saw Calgary Flames defensemen Dennis Wideman plow into a referee during a game in 2016. He initially received a 20-game suspension, which was reduced to 10 games on appeal. Those suspensions constitute about 1/30 of an MLB season and 1/8 of an NHL one. A comparable suspension in the CFL would be between half a game and two games. Where did Hill’s suspension fall? Right in the middle.

I also saw the phrase “make an example of” used a lot to justify a longer suspension for Hill, and while no one is going to argue that Hill didn’t deserve to be suspended, this is not an instance in which an example needs to be set. I had to go back almost 14 years to find another example of a CFL player aggressively contacting an official, and it didn’t become open season on refs after Hervey was suspended just one game. The argument that officials are now in danger is a ridiculous one.

If the league wants to start setting examples, it should start with headshots and intent to injure, like when Khalif Mitchell attempted to de-limb Eskimos lineman Simeon Rottier back in 2012.

Or someone like Kyries Hebert, who thought he was Stan Hanson and clotheslined Jon Cornish back in 2014.

The league suspended Mitchell for two games, and Hebert was fined, but not suspended, for his hit on Cornish. A hit, I might add, that pretty much ended Cornish’s career (he played in just 17 games after that hit and retired following the 2015 season). If you want to start making examples, start with those guys. Dangerous hits are more worrisome than official abuse. We see way more of the former and a lot less of the latter.

Also, we have a new commissioner who just started the job on Monday and his first major act was deciding Will Hill’s punishment. No matter what he did he was going to anger a segment of the CFL fan base, but the one thing he did not want to do was look foolish in his first act as commissioner. Suspending Hill for an unprecedented amount of games only to see that suspension reduced on appeal, which it would have been, would do just that. It would make it look like he bit off more than he can chew and doesn’t understand how the league operates. Ambrosie has done everything right since being named commissioner and handing out a one-game ban to Hill furthers that winning streak.

No one is saying what Hill did was in any way acceptable; what he did was completely inappropriate and he was rightly punished for it. But anyone that was expecting more than what Hill got was fooling themselves and hasn’t been paying attention.

Josh Smith

Josh Smith

Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.
Josh Smith

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Josh Smith
About Josh Smith (274 Articles)
Josh has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.

39 Comments on If you are upset about the Will Hill decision, you haven’t been paying attention

  1. Solara2000 // July 11, 2017 at 12:54 pm //

    And all the furor without anyone hearing Hill’s account of the even and/or that of the Official involved, I am assuming he has a story and as a first time offender (in this League which is the only true measure in this case) and the past practice of the League, think the new Commissioner handled the situation correctly.
    The arbitrator will have the last definitive word.

    • What could Hill say that would make it OK to grab the official?

      • the paw // July 11, 2017 at 1:17 pm //

        If Hill was demonstrating how the offensive player was holding him during a block, then he is guilty of extreme stupidity, but without aggressive intent. Still deserves the suspension, but it would be a mitigating factor…

        • That was exactly what I thought. It looked as if he was talking to and explaining himself. The ref didnt look terified or tried to back away or push Hill off him. Im sure both were interviewed in this process. I do believe he deserved the suspension and fine but for everyone to call for the guys head without having all the info is mob mentality. Get all the facts before convicting the guy.

          • Christopher // July 11, 2017 at 3:37 pm //

            If you were in a bar fight and the cops arrived and you went to one of the officers and punched him in the mouth demonstrating what happened to you… What do you think is going to happen to your stupid ass????

  2. Hors E Power // July 11, 2017 at 1:08 pm //

    There is a difference between physical assuse of an offical and disrespecting an offical. This is the latter. If Dennis Wideman (who absolutely assaulted an offical) had a 20 game suspension reduced in half by law it’s hard to justify any more than 1 game.
    Kryries Hebert is the dirtiest palyer in the league and has multiple incidences of dirty play. It’s hard to campare the puntive standard of the two. Hebert made a move during the play against another player. It’s apples to oranges

  3. Hors E Power // July 11, 2017 at 1:13 pm //

    The guy the league needs to keep an eye on now is Carter

    • And Rick Campbell, whose dive was very disrespectful of the CFL and unsportsmanlike in general.

      • Hors E Power // July 11, 2017 at 9:54 pm //

        So you think Carter knocking him over was justified. Is Carter the judge of these things? Stop deflecting from the real issue…Carter knocking down a defenseless coach

        • Riders13 // July 11, 2017 at 10:33 pm //

          Actually the real issue has nothing to do with Carter but a discussion about whether the suspension and fine for Will Hill is adequate. Nice try though.

  4. Paul Bomber // July 11, 2017 at 1:44 pm //

    You need a league office with teeth to do what’s right with power TRULY given by the teams. In general/on the whole, the owners aren’t making (much) money, so why would they cede power to a league office they see as unproductive? This is entirely predictable. Not right, but not surprising either.

  5. GoCats! // July 11, 2017 at 1:48 pm //

    I’d have to seem more of Hill’s offense and Austin’s … my impression as well as what the official’s reaction and later statement was more of incidental contact.

    I’d have been okay with Hill getting two games as it looks more aggressive than Austin’s.

    No idea where the others get the four plus games and/or gone for the season … unless they are talking about what they would like to see instead of what the CFL was likely to do.

  6. Hill..did a very stupid thing.
    He was showing the official what happened to him..on that play..by grabbing him.
    Stupid move…bottom line.
    But…
    After watching the bone headed calls made in that game..up to the point of what happened to Hill.
    I prob would have done the same thing..
    And if people were honest..they would react in same.
    A lot of emotion goes into players minds in every play and every game.
    And we are all human..
    End of story.

    • Hors E Power // July 11, 2017 at 2:24 pm //

      The officiating was fairly egregious and in favor of the riders. particularly on that drive. It’s hard to imagine there isn’t favoritism at times. The fact Saskatchewan runs ads during games might suggest this possibility. Having said that, it doesn’t excuse disrespect of the officials.

      • Brian Lazorko // July 11, 2017 at 5:59 pm //

        That’s just stupid. Officiating in favour of the Riders? Only a Rider hater would come to that conclusion. Surprise, surprise, that’s exactly the case here, Stampland, or whatever is your alias of the day.

    • I guess it’s a good thing Hill wasn’t poked in the eyes or kicked in the nether-regions, or that official could have been much worse off after the re-enactment.

      • BC Dave // July 11, 2017 at 9:03 pm //

        You and Christopher need to know the difference between demonstrating and following thru to completion. Not saying Hill was right but HUGE difference between your examples and what happened.

    • Completely agree. That call on Stephens at the goal line still has me shaking my head. Also Hills on roughing Glenn.

  7. Harebare // July 11, 2017 at 3:00 pm //

    Ok it’s done it’s over with. We have bigger fish to fry people.

  8. Sounds fair to me. He misses a game day payday check and on top of that gets fined also. Best way to get things right with a guy is hit him in the WALLET. With 8 kids to support last I read Will Hill will be a good guy if he has any sense from here on out thru the rest of the season.

  9. Hill didn’t do anything worse than Austin. If a coach can slap the hand of an official on purpose, then what Hill got is sufficient punishment. If it happens again then a multi game suspension is in order.

    Then there are players who get caught cheating, lie about it and only get 2 games for using performance enhancing drugs.

  10. BC Dave // July 11, 2017 at 3:33 pm //

    I SO disagree with the writer . He says the hits like the examples he cited, where player injuries are possible, “Dangerous hits are more worrisome than official abuse.” Yes this are serious offences but touching an official is just as serious. If we wait til an official gets injured, it’s TOO LATE. There is no way in hell an official should feel fear of a possible player attack. Whether an official gets injured or not is irrelevant. Same thing with players. Certain actions like (example only) clotheslining a guy, toking him out at the knees etc should receive the same treatment regardless of injury, or lack thereof.

    If he was explaining what another player did to him (warning, this will sound stupid) I actually have WAY less of a problem with it. As stupid a it sounds, the reason is that he was not showing ANY aggression toward an official but merely demonstrating HOWEVER, you still do not touch an official, use a team mate to demonstrate. In that case, it was still stupid but at least his intent was in a totally different direction.

    • GoCats! // July 11, 2017 at 4:37 pm //

      So essentially you are good with an appeal that says hitting a ref with a helmet in the head is worth one game while grabbing shirt then letting is go is worth more?

      The good news is that the commish sounds like he will change the framework but in the meantime, I doubt anything over one game would survive an appeal.

      • George Porge // July 11, 2017 at 6:09 pm //

        Not sure how many people would be “good” with anything that says throwing a helmet at a ref is only good for one game.

  11. Christopher // July 11, 2017 at 3:34 pm //

    You are using last years Kent Austin incident as an example…. the part you are missing here.. is that then commissioner, Jeffery Orridge wanted to suspend Kent Austin for 4 games… but Hamilton Ticats’s owner Bob Young went crying to the Board of Governors about how the mean old commish was trying to ruin his football team… the BoG would not allow Orridge to suspend Austin… and this was the beginning of the end of the Commissioners tenure with the CFL…. One game suspension for assaulting an official is a joke.. and totally ridiculous…

    • GoCats! // July 11, 2017 at 4:41 pm //

      You are good with the punishment changing, with no notice then?

      Why doesn’t the league decide that team A’s TDs are worth two points and team B’s TDs are worth 14?

      Or perhaps a better example, part way through the game – RTP goes from fifteen yards to forty yards.

      • George Porge // July 11, 2017 at 6:11 pm //

        “Why doesn’t the league decide that team A’s TDs are worth two points and team B’s TDs are worth 14?”

        Leave it to a Cats fan to not know the difference between deciding punishment for stupid, illegal shenanigans happening away from the field of play, and deciding written rules for legal plays during a ball game.

    • Where did you hear that information about Bob Young?

    • What information and or sourse do you have that Austin was going to get four games and that Bob Young complained to the BOG and it reduced to one game off the side line?

  12. Until the new Commish gets a defined penalty in place, the penalties have to be consistent, which one game is.

  13. I agree with Josh. This was a good call. If the commissioner now fires Jeff Harbin and Jake Ireland and sends the officiating crew that handled the Hamilton Saskatchewan game for remedial training then he will be off to a great start.

    • Brian Lazorko // July 11, 2017 at 6:15 pm //

      Take offf your blinders and watch the game. Blocking from behind, holding, roughing the passer, pushing a ball carrier in the back as the ball carrier’s momentum was taking him out of bounds anyway (roughing) all overlooked by the officials who you would have us believe were favouring the Riders. Don’t insult everyone’s intelligence. The officiating was not biased against Hamilton. The TiCats were beaten by a team that played far better. Nobody cares how upset you are by that.

      • Brian. I will call the push Out of bounds play and I agree that it should’ve been called.and I certainly don’t think that the officiating change the outcome of the game. Hamilton lost and deserve to. however we could watch the game together and I can point out at least five or six completely unjustified calls against Hamilton. The three roughing calls in a row being an example. At least two of them were completely bogus. The officiating got under the players skin and they lost composure. They need to be professionals. But the league must do something about the quality of officiating.

      • BC Dave // July 11, 2017 at 9:08 pm //

        Actually Brian, Blinders are what FORCE you to watch the game and not be distracted y stuff off to the side.

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