Immediately after the game, Harbaugh claimed that the Spartans “clotheslined” a couple of his players while they walked past, as part of their “bush league” tactics, and that “Dantonio was five yards behind them” and “smiling” as it happened. Told of those accusations at his own postgame news conference, Dantonio called them “B.S.”
In a Sunday teleconference, the MSU coach told reporters, “I’ve never commented on a coach in the past, I’m not going to comment on one now.” However, he went on to say, “The whole thing to me was sort of juvenile. Things are going to happen in rivalry games, but I sort of stand by what I said yesterday.”
Monday found Harbaugh also standing by his previous remarks. “When you host a team, both teams, you share the field. Each has a sideline, each has a half of the field to warm up on,” he said (via the Detroit Free Press). “And then Michigan State locked arms and used every inch of the field in their walk with the attempt of going through or over our guys in a physical manner."
“To call that unsportsmanlike or to call that bush league is putting it mildly,” he continued. “That could’ve been a real unfortunate incident. And as I said, it’s the opposite of BS. Coach [Dantonio] said that was B.S. But that’s not B.S. That’s fact. I think that’s something now the two athletic directors really need to get together and talk about.
"I’ll go one step further and use Coach Dantonio’s words from a few years back. It’s not a product of the team but their program. Again, that’s using his words. That could’ve been an unfortunate deal. And I’m proud of our guys for keeping their cool.”
Not surprisingly, the back-and-forth between the coaches was more than amplified by their respective, archrival fan bases. Michigan supporters, in particular, were intent on trying to prove that Dantonio’s “B.S.” line could not have applied to the accusation that he had been smiling while walking just behind his players.
Harbaugh claimed Monday that he and his team knew about the Spartans' pregame walk and tried to avoid it, but that MSU officials were deliberately vague about when it would take place.
“We called them and said, ‘What time are you guys doing your walk? We don’t want to put our players out until you do your traditional walk,’” he said. “They gave us a time. ‘It’ll be at 9:45 [a.m.].’ Said, ‘Okay, great.’ Then, ‘Well, it might be 9:55′ — now it is going to be 9:55, a day later.
“That walk happened another 10 minutes after that. At no point was there any kind of heads up or, ‘Hey, could you guys please leave the field.’ ”
Harbugh stuck up for Bush, his linebacker who marked up the Spartans' logo, saying, “I don’t blame Devin. I like the way our guys handled it.” He was also not about to let Dantonio’s “juvenile” line pass without comment.
“I see where they used the word ‘juvenile.’ That’s trying to brush it under the carpet,” Harbaugh said. “Their strength coaches were out there leading it, their assistant coaches were out there. Coach Dantonio was right behind it.”
“That had all the earmarkings and evidence of an orchestrated, stormtrooper march,” the Michigan coach added.
Stay tuned for Dantonio’s response to the inevitable questions about his players being compared to “Star Wars” villains. In the meantime, college football fans can enjoy the fact that while the matchup on the field may have come and gone this year, one of the sport’s most intense intrastate rivalries marches on.