Amid a police investigation, Michigan State Coach Mel Tucker announced Sunday he was suspending four of his players after reviewing what he described as “disturbing electronic evidence” from a postgame scuffle involving Spartans and Wolverines players after Michigan’s 29-7 win at home Saturday.
Video via the Detroit News showed a group of Spartans throwing punches and kicking at defensive back Ja’Den McBurrows. Melissa Overton, deputy chief of University of Michigan police, said (via the Free Press) that an investigation was underway in conjunction with Michigan State police and Michigan’s athletic department and football program.
Tucker said his program had indefinitely suspended redshirt sophomore linebacker Itayvion “Tank” Brown, redshirt sophomore cornerback Khary Crump, junior safety Angelo Grose and freshman defensive end Zion Young.
Statement from Michigan State Head Football Coach Mel Tucker pic.twitter.com/67vqtVH0r6— Michigan State Athletics (@MSU_Athletics) October 31, 2022
“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, personnel and the Spartan community remain our number one priority,” Tucker said in a statement released by the Michigan State athletics department. “You have my promise that we are committed to fairness, transparency, and accountability, and that we will continue to take appropriate action in this matter.”
Tucker added that the Spartans were working with law enforcement, as well as with Michigan, Michigan State and Big Ten officials, to “further evaluate the events in Ann Arbor.” He indicated that more players could face punishment if warranted, and said that the four suspended Spartans would remain sidelined until the investigations were completed.
Footage of the scuffling pic.twitter.com/cipLWi5RBS— Matt Charboneau (@mattcharboneau) October 30, 2022
“Just like anybody, you want to protect your players,” Harbaugh had told reporters. “Ten on one, whatever it was, it was just bad. It needs to be investigated and brought to a conclusion. Our athletic director will make sure that takes place.”
While Harbaugh said “two of our players were assaulted,” only McBurrows was visible in some videos, although the Free Press noted that another video entering the tunnel showed Michigan cornerback Gemon Green also working his way through Spartans players. Harbaugh said one player appeared to have a nose injury but did not identify him.
Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel joined Harbaugh in addressing the media Saturday and called the incident “completely unacceptable.”
“I’ve talked to the [Big Ten] commissioner — he’s looking into it,” Manuel said. “The police are also looking into it, because they’ve seen the video and they’re addressing it. We will leave it in their hands, but this is not how we should interact after a game.
“This is not the way another team should grab a player and do what they did, it’s completely and utterly unacceptable. We will let the Big Ten and law enforcement handle it, but this is not what a rivalry should be about.”
Tucker told reporters after the game that he did not discuss the matter with his players in the locker room because “I don’t know what happened. … I know it was a heated game. Things were heated. We were trying to get our guys in the locker room. We’ll have to figure out what happened.”
Another video showed a fan leaning down from the stands and touching Tucker’s head as he entered the tunnel. Tucker batted the man’s hand away in the brief video.
#TuckSwingin pic.twitter.com/QmS0IzGPLK— MGo (@MJoeBean) October 30, 2022
Kevin Warren, the conference commissioner, was at the game and the Big Ten later released a statement promising “appropriate action” after an investigation.
“The Big Ten Conference is aware of an incident this evening at Michigan Stadium between student-athletes from Michigan State University and the University of Michigan,” it said. “The conference is currently gathering information, will thoroughly review the fact, and will take appropriate action.”
Statement from the Big Ten on Michigan State-Michigan: pic.twitter.com/ynKpsWeGih— Matt Fortuna (@Matt_Fortuna) October 30, 2022
The incident is the second to occur in the tunnel of Michigan stadium, which opened in 1927, in as many games. Penn State and Michigan players got into a heated exchange as they entered the tunnel at halftime of last weekend’s 41-17 Wolverines victory.
“All you got to do is walk into their locker room,” Harbaugh told reporters Monday. “Like, you saw pretty clearly that they completely stopped. They weren’t letting us get up the tunnel. And it just seemed like a sophomoric ploy to keep us out the locker rooms.”
There is only one entrance to the locker rooms from the field at the Big House and the visiting team usually goes in first. After the Penn State game, an unidentified Michigan player appeared to be in the tunnel while the team was still celebrating on the field.
“There really should be a policy that the first team that goes in, there is a buffer,” Penn State Coach James Franklin said afterward. “If not, this team starts talking to this team, they start jawing back and forth, and something bad is going to happen.”