Another week, another fight at The Big House.
Following Michigan's 29-7 win over in-state rival Michigan State on Saturday night, an incident occurred in the shared tunnel between visitors and the home team in which Spartan football players threw punches and kicks at Wolverine defensive back Ja'Den McBurrows. Fellow Wolverine DB Gemon Green also received a blow from a swinging helmet while accosted by several members of MSU's team. Jim Harbaugh indicated afterwards that at least one player potentially suffered a nose injury.
Footage of the scuffling pic.twitter.com/cipLWi5RBS— Matt Charboneau (@mattcharboneau) October 30, 2022
The 2nd Jumping harbaugh was referring to— GBP (@GoBluePoole) October 30, 2022
Just kick them all off or suspend them pic.twitter.com/SWooBiVTLo
Preceding the fight, McBurrows could be seen on film skipping ahead of his teammates to get into the tunnel while making his way through a group of Michigan State players and high-fiving at least one fan in the stands.
Got a little feisty on the field after the game was over. Nothing major, a few spats pic.twitter.com/JUm6RAgGLR— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) October 30, 2022
Although Mel Tucker said after the end of the game he was not aware of the details of the altercation, Tucker himself was involved in an incident heading into the tunnel in which he swatted back at a Michigan fan extending his arm out to him before reaching into the stands again prior to the available footage cutting off.
Do not touch Mel Tuckers head pic.twitter.com/QvGueMHCue— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) October 30, 2022
MSU president Samuel L. Stanley Jr. referred to the actions of the Spartan student-athletes as "unacceptable behavior," while Tucker released his own statement Sunday morning on Twitter condemning his players for the treatment of their opponent.
As Spartans our program has a responsibility to uphold the highest level of sportsmanship. While emotions were very high at the conclusion of our rivalry game at Michigan Stadium, there is no excuse for behavior that puts our team or our opponents at risk.— Mel Tucker (@Coach_mtucker) October 30, 2022
Harbaugh deemed the altercation an assault and called the overall incident “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.” ESPN reported Harbaugh appeared “visibly distraught” after the game in handling the aftermath of the conflict.
Michigan president Warde Manuel further stated that “what happened after the game is completely unacceptable. I've talked to (Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren), he's looking into it. 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 now the third instance during Michigan's last seven home games in which standoffs and scuffles between the hosting and visiting teams have taken place. Two weeks ago, Penn State football players found themselves in a halftime shouting match with the Wolverines. While there were no reports of explicit violence, Michigan defensive back R.J. Moten went on to claim someone from the Nittany Lions threw a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at his face.
Some halftime tunnel shenanigans happening. pic.twitter.com/FwxgXdO7jj— Isaiah Hole (@isaiahhole) October 15, 2022
After that game, James Franklin noted: “We're not the first team that's had issues like that ... under the current structure, we won't be the last.” He also offered a simple solution to the recurring tunnel conflicts by proposing “a two-minute or minute buffer in between the two teams” entering the tunnel while each heads to their respective locker rooms.
Harbaugh vindicated Michigan of any responsibility the following Monday while casting blame on Franklin and Penn State’s team entirely for the incident. He claimed “pretty clearly, that (Penn State players) completely stopped. They weren't letting us get up the tunnel, and it just seemed like such a sophomoric ploy to try to keep us out of our locker rooms. And (Franklin) looked like he was the ringleader of the whole thing.”
Of course, Ohio State fans will recall yet another incident during last year's visit to Ann Arbor when the Wolverines chased the Buckeyes into the stadium tunnel during halftime of The Game.
Chaos in the tunnel between Ohio State & Michigan pic.twitter.com/HedljphBq1— Josh Pate (@LateKickJosh) November 27, 2021
In the days leading up to The Game, Ryan Day noted “there’s a lot of that stuff in the tunnel.” Shortly after the bout of shouting, a fight on the field between the teams nearly broke out during the third quarter when Ohio State defensive back Cameron Brown ripped Michigan receiver Roman Wilson's helmet off close to the goal line after Wilson grabbed Brown’s ankle.
As for the most recent incident in The Big House's shared tunnel, the Big Ten noted in its statement on the matter that the conference “is currently gathering information, will thoroughly review the facts, and will take appropriate action.”
Tucker announced Sunday night that he had suspended four players indefinitely for their roles in the altercation, and Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller also released a statement describing their behavior as “both uncharacteristic of our football program and unacceptable.”
Statement from Michigan State Vice President and Director of Athletics Alan Haller pic.twitter.com/0ZjScxrh6A— Michigan State Athletics (@MSU_Athletics) October 31, 2022