Multiple Michigan State football players punched and kicked a Michigan football player as the two teams headed to their locker rooms following the fourth-ranked Wolverines’ 29-7 victory Saturday in Ann Arbor.
U-M athletic director Warde Manuel said “the police are looking into it, and it’s because they’ve seen the video.” U-M Deputy Police Chief Melissa Overton said an investigation is underway in partnership with MSU Police and Michigan’s athletic department and football program.
“We will leave it in their hands,” Manuel said. “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.”
After a few of MSU’s sideline support staff yelled at the referees as they left the Michigan Stadium tunnel for a side hallway, a scrum turned into a melee behind them. At least three Spartans — Zion Young, Itayvion Brown and Angelo Grose — fought with U-M’s Ja’Den McBurrows moments in the tunnel after the final horn. All three threw punches at the player, and Young attempted to kick him while on the ground.
A number of other players, including Jayden Reed, Tyrell Henry and Daniel Barker were near the incident and got pushed backward down a hallway where three reporters watched and filmed as it escalated. Other MSU players attempted to pull their teammates away from the U-M player. A police officer watched the incident also was in the hallway and tried to hold back Brown as the initial scuffle began to die down.
As it did, the rest of Michigan’s team began coming up the tunnel after McBurrows escaped the pile and retreated toward the top of the walkway under the east grandstand. Players from both squads continued barking and swearing at one another as coaches attempted to pull them out of the tunnel into their respective locker rooms.
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It was unclear if others were involved in the physical altercation before the group reached the hallway.
Asked what happened in the tunnel, MSU coach Mel Tucker responded: “I don’t know.”
Told of the players fighting, Tucker said. “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.”
Tucker said he did not address it with his team once they got in there.
“I did not address that, because I didn’t have anything to address,” he said. “Because I don’t know what happened. We’ll have to figure it out.”
Another video emerged later on social media of a fan leaning down from the stands and touching Tucker’s head as he walked up the tunnel. The third-year MSU coach swatted the man’s hand away, then appeared to reach back up toward him as the 3-second video ended.
Asked what it was like inside after the victory and the melee, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh called his postgame talk to his team “weird.”
“We were addressing that,” he said. “Just like anybody, you want to protect your players. Ten-on-one or whatever it was, it was just bad.”
Harbaugh added, “I’m disappointed that happened to two of our players,” but it is unclear who the second player he was referring to was and if it was a separate incident. Only McBurrows was in the videos shot by reporters, though another video as the players entered the tunnel showed U-M cornerback Gemon Green also working through MSU players.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren was at the game as well. The conference released a statement after the game: “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. The conference is currently gathering information, will thoroughly review the fact, and will take appropriate action.”
“We will let the Big Ten and law enforcement handle it,” Manuel said. “But this is not what a rivalry should be about. And it’s not how it should be remembered.
“We won on the field. (Harbaugh) and his team and those players went out there and won. And for that to happen is unacceptable. And that’s all I’m gonna say. I gotta leave it to Kevin and the law enforcement handle it from here on out.”
Manuel would not confirm the U-M player involved, but he referred back to the video.
Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller issued a statement shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday about the incident: “I have been in contact with Commissioner Warren. We will cooperate with the conference office and other efforts to gather more information.”
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