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Justice Delayed — For All Involved

by | Nov 13, 2022 | Uncategorized | 12 comments

Four weeks ago I tweeted that “The only thing more annoying than a week of juvenile taunting between Michigan and Michigan State fans? Two weeks of it.”

But I was wrong: the two weeks that followed the game have been even more annoying. 

Michigan won the game, 29-7, for the first time in three years. But that was eclipsed by the scene in the tunnel afterward, when some Spartan players attacked two Michigan players with their helmets, and punched and kicked them when they were on the ground. When the videos surfaced, Michigan State’s head coach, athletic director, and president all apologized the next day, and the school suspended eight players indefinitely – about all any reasonable fan could ask for. 

But the Big Ten has been far less responsive. When the conference announced it was investigating the incident, commissioner Kevin Warren, whose son plays for Michigan State, should have recused himself immediately. Instead, not a peep from his office. 

In the two weeks since, we haven’t heard anything from the Big Ten’s investigation, either – an investigation that would take a competent journalist about two days to complete, not two weeks. The incident was bad but it wasn’t complicated, and lasted only a minute. 

In the past two weeks I’ve found out more than I wanted to without trying. A number of witnesses have reached out, unsolicited, including two sideline workers who have sent letters to the Big Ten describing what they heard from the MSU players, staffers, and coaches during the game. Frustrated with the Big Ten’s lack of a response, they sent copies to me this week. 

In the first, the witness writes, “While working…on the Michigan State sideline I heard many of their coaches, players, and staff yelling and encouraging [their] players to aim to tackle [Michigan running back] Blake Corum ‘at the knees and end his career.’… While I can’t identify specifically who was saying it, I know from turning around a few times after it was yelled that I saw it was a mix of players on the bench, staff in MSU clothing, and Coaches on the sideline yelling ‘aim/go for his knees,’ ‘tackle him at the knees and end his career,’ throughout the game. It was very clear the message they were trying to get across to the players: they were encouraging them to try and injure Blake’s knees.”

Although he put his name on the letter, and others have confirmed he is a credible source, there are few things I’m less excited to do than to dive back into this swamp, so I sat on his letter. But then another witness sent me a copy of his letter that he’d sent to the Big Ten, which corroborated much of what the first witness described. 

This witness, who attended another Big Ten university, starts by saying he’s been working on the Michigan Stadium sideline crew for a specific number of years, but suffice it to say that it’s been decades, all of them spent on the visiting team sideline. 

“The MSU players and staff were by far the most hostile and undisciplined team I have ever been around. Below is a list of things I heard.” 

I’ve reduced it here to a few points:

  • “Constant complaining to the officials. During the second quarter the line judge comments to me that ‘this is not what I signed up for.’
  • “There was an unprecedented amount of trash talk. JJ McCarthy was running the ball and I heard a MSU staff member yell ‘break his fucking arm.’ The MSU sideline was still using over the top vulgarity even when there was only one minute left in the game.
  • “Usually after the clock hits 0.00 the referee’s sprint off the field. This game they stayed to break players up on the field. While leaving the field the head referee was confronted by a MSU staff member. The staff member then calls the referee ‘a bitch ass mother fucker.’ I have never seen anything like that.
  • “Mel Tucker spent the entire game arguing with the officials. He looked very agitated and never accepted the official’s explanation.”

The witness concludes by saying, “I will say it was the most toxic and hate filled sideline I have ever been a part of and it starts with the head coach. The staff and players follow his lead.”

I can add that I’ve been on the sidelines a few feet from the Michigan coaches, staffers, and players, for 25 games, and another 4 behind the Penn State bench, and never heard anything like that. What the witnesses are reporting is not common.  As one of them told me in our conversation, “When Ohio State comes to town there’s almost no trash talking. They are focused on trying to win a football game.”

It’s not clear what the Big Ten is doing with this information, if anything. Obviously, these and other eye-witness accounts should be including in the report. Likewise, if the investigators found Michigan players had taunted the Spartans, and if they engaged in any physical altercations, that should be included too. In other words, the investigators should do an honest job of pursuing the truth wherever it leads, without fear or favor – but they should do it sooner than later. 

Dragging this out is not just dumb public relations, turning a one-week story into a two week-story and beyond for no good reason I can see. More importantly it’s unfair to everyone involved: the witnesses who’ve had the courage to come forward, the victims, and the suspended players who are still waiting to hear how long their suspensions are going to be – something that should have been decided long ago. 

If they are waiting for the University of Michigan Police Department to issue its report, that’s another issue, since the Big Ten leaders shouldn’t expect the UMPD to do their job for them. The methods and objectives of the two organizations are not the same. 

All this lands on the desk of Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren. His silence has been deafening. 

You can follow me on Twitter, and on my leadership podcast, LET THEM LEAD, at Letthemleadbybacon.com

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12 Comments

  1. Jay Prasad

    This is a sad state of affairs. To hear Izzo stand at a podium and point out that there are other bad guys and he is sick of MSU being perceived as the Bad Guys is disgusting. Izzo and Dantonio publicly stated their hatred for UM. To their credit, it has served them well. They had players and teams that were better for a period. Coach D took advantage of a UM program in transition to build his legacy. Tucker rode a Covid Year and a transfer + horrendously one sided officiating to a 95 million dollar payday. If the BIG 10 does nothing, it will be far from shocking. It seems like UM is pretty disrespected. MSU points to Mike Hart and Devin Bush and screams. They forget that Coach D started it after the APP St. game and that the BIG 10 fined MSU for their role in the Devin Bush pregame situation. Go Blue

  2. Daniel Schuetz

    Thank you, John!

    The rivalry should be suspended for a while!

    Cooler heads need to prevail!

    This is getting worse, not better! 🤔

  3. Avik Roy

    When the new 16 team schedule comes out, MSU should no longer be a permanent rival of Michigan’s. We can have Minnesota or USC as their replacement. Furthermore, make MSU forfeit their 2023 game against M. That will hit them where it hurts: financially. Warde Manuel needs to protect his players from deliberate intent to injure.

    • Barb

      Excellent suggestion, playing Michigan is a big money maker for those Universities.

  4. Marc

    The silence has also been palpitating!

    • Dena

      Wow if these allegations are fact, besides what we have witnessed that day and in the past from this team. The entire program needs to answer for their equivalent of a verbal ‘ hit list’. These comments are no different than what several pro teams were punished for in the past. Start in College. Start with the Coaches.

  5. Grant

    RIVALRY HAS TO STAY. this brawl happened one time in over 100 games.
    that green thing from Lansing can’t survive without playing us, and October isn’t as fun when we don’t beat them.
    No state is more in to college football than the state of Michigan, and the rivalry is almost a state holiday.

    Go Blue.

  6. trenton

    Jay, while the 2021 matchup involved bad officiating, we let them come back down 3 scores. that’s on us.

  7. W Orr

    Thank you for not letting this get “swept under the rug” by the Big Ten not responding. I have shared this article in the hopes that some justice yet comes. And for those at MSU, that sure as Hell is no way to run a football team!!

  8. W Orr

    Thank you for not letting this get “swept under the rug” by the Big Ten not responding. I have shared this article in the hopes that some justice yet comes. And for those at MSU, that sure as Hell is no way to run a football team!!

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