ANN ARBOR, Michigan – Jim Harbaugh expects the four suspended Michigan players involved in beating two Michigan teammates will be punished to the fullest extent.
“I can’t imagine it won’t lead to criminal charges,” the Michigan coach said on Monday.
Michigan state coach Mel Tucker said later on Monday that it would be irresponsible to respond to Harbaugh’s call for criminal charges over the ongoing investigation.
“We’re not here to make excuses for Saturday’s behavior,” said Tucker. “They are unacceptable.”
Harbaugh said defensive defender Gemon Green was hit by Spartans in a tunnel at Michigan Stadium to trigger a close quarters fight shortly after fourth-placed Wolverines defeated their domestic rivals Saturday night and teammate Ja’Den McBurrows was attacked when he tried to help.
McBurrows is seen in a video shared on social media, pushed, punched and kicked by many Michigan players who hauled him out of a tunnel into a corridor that doesn’t lead to any of the changing rooms.
Harbaugh said both players are injured, adding that he does not know if Green, who starts the defense for the third consecutive season, will be allowed to play Saturday night at Rutgers.
“It was a very traumatic experience for everyone, especially Ja’Den and Gemon,” said Harbaugh.
Attorney Tom Mars, who represents Green, said his client deserved compensation for his injuries, including concussion.
“The serious consequences in this case will scare others away who may think they can get away with a brutal beating of an opponent and only get a slap on the wrist,” Mars told the Associated Press. “I have a message for MSU players who did this to Gemon. They will feel the full wrath of the law. “
Tucker announced on Sunday night that linebacker Tank Brown, security Angelo Grose, defensive Zion Young and defender Khara Crump were immediately suspended. Tucker said the decision was made after “reviewing disturbing electronic evidence.”
Brown, Grose and Young are seen in the video harassing McBurrows. As the Michigan marching band plays a school fight song nearby, Crump hits Green in the tunnel in an ESPN video.
“The incidents involving a small group of our players do not represent our culture,” said Tucker.
Tucker was very close to the aftermath, standing in the tunnel as Green was surrounded by police and escorted to the locker room while shouting at the Michigan players.
McBurrows and Green moved down the tunnel past the Spartans after the game, while most of the Michigan team waved their opponents off the field and the other Wolverines celebrated near the student section of the stadium.
“These two players did what Penn State did, they did what they did in the previous games,” said Harbaugh, when asked why Green and McBurrows weren’t with the rest of their teammates. “They’re going through the tunnel with other players.”
The University of Michigan’s deputy police chief Melissa Overton said Saturday night that the investigation began in collaboration with Michigan Police, the Michigan Sports Division and the Wolverines Football Program.
“The investigation is ongoing,” Overton said on Monday.
Tucker said the school is working with law enforcement, Michigan and Michigan campus executives, and the Big Ten Conference to assess what happened, including identifying other players who were involved in the arguments and contributing factors.
“The suspensions will allow players to receive academic support and medical services, but will not be able to participate in any structured team activities,” said Tucker, who said the suspensions would remain in place until the investigation was completed.
Tucker’s head was touched in the tunnel by a fan in the stands before the game, and the coach responded by waving the fan’s hand. The supporter was identified and removed from the stadium, Kurt Svoboda, a spokesman for the athletics department, said.
Michigan President Samuel Stanley apologized for the “violent” skirmish.
“On behalf of Michigan State University, my sincere apologies to the University of Michigan and the injured student athletes,” Stanley said in a statement.
Harbaugh said on Monday that I was sorry wasn’t enough, and Green’s attorney agreed.
“When college football players brutally attack a member of the opposing team with helmets, resulting in a player suffering from concussions and other injuries, an apology is not enough,” said Mars. “There must be serious consequences to this kind of misconduct.”
The Big Ten said on Sunday that they were gathering information and planning to take appropriate action.
It was the second consecutive game and the third in seven games at Michigan Stadium that included a fight in a long, narrow tunnel that rises steeply from the pitch to the dressing room.
Earlier this month, Penn State coach James Franklin said a policy change was needed to ensure a more structured use of the tunnel after the halftime word exchange. Last year, Ohio and Michigan players had a very emotional confrontation in the tunnel at halftime.
Harbaugh said Franklin acted as a “ringleader” and claimed that the Nittany Lions stopped in the tunnel to prevent his team from accessing the locker room.
When asked if Tucker set the tone for his team’s behavior, Harbaugh declined to comment.