Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh delivered a scathing statement on the “egregious” and “sickening” incident in which a number of Michigan State players “assaulted” sophomore defensive back Ja’Den McBurrows and graduate defensive back Gemon Green in the Michigan Stadium tunnel following Saturday’s game.
“There needs to be accountability,” Harbaugh said Monday. “There needs to be a full, thorough, timely investigation. I can’t imagine that this will not result in criminal charges. The videos are bad and it’s clear what transpired. It seems very open and shut. As they say, watch the tape.
“I’m coming from a perspective of being a parent. And these young men are entrusted to me by their families. We have the responsibility to each player to treat them like our own. And I take that responsibility very seriously. An apology will not get the job done in this instance. There should be serious consequences for the many individuals that are culpable.”
Harbaugh reaffirmed that there is an ongoing police investigation looking into the incident, noting that Green and McBurrows have each submitted their statements to the police.
Green is currently in concussion protocol, according to the Detroit News. A video appears to show a Spartans player repeatedly striking Green with his helmet. Green’s attorney told Sports Illustrated that the Michigan State players involved in the altercation “are going to feel the full wrath of the law.”
Harbaugh said that McBurrows — who attempted to break up the initial fight involving Green — also suffered an injury, but he did not specify further. In videos, McBurrows is seen surrounded by a number of Michigan State players while being punched and kicked while on the ground inside the tunnel.
“This is a very traumatic experience for everybody, especially for Ja’Den and Gemon, and we will support them in every possible way,” Harbaugh added.
Following Saturday’s game, the four players made available to the press maintained that they had yet to see footage of the incident. Monday, after seeing the videos, players struck a vastly different tone.
“It was really disgusting,” junior defensive lineman Kris Jenkins said. “We’re really disappointed that something like that could happen. … It was not a great thing to watch.”
Junior running back Blake Corum added: “As a man, I wouldn’t have felt good about ganging up on other players. That’s just not how I roll. But to each his own.”
Sophomore safety Rod Moore recounted feeling helpless, as multiple Spartans pummeled Green and McBurrows, two of his closest friends on the team.
“To see that video, I couldn’t keep watching it because I like defending my brothers,” Moore said. “I couldn’t be up there to defend them. It really hurt me.”
Feelings of disgust also blended into confusion. None of the players recalled any unusual behavior during the game that may have foreshadowed the abhorrent behavior to come. For 60 minutes on the field, it was simply a rendition of the Michigan-Michigan State matchup, one of the nation’s fiercest rivalries.
Corum noted that during his time at Michigan, in spite of all the times he has entered the tunnel either trailing at half or in the wake of a loss, he has never behaved like the Spartans players did Saturday.
“It’s OK to talk trash and do that, but when you start doing other things it’s like, ‘Come on, are we really doing this?’ ” Corum said.
Harbaugh added: “The tunnel’s been in existence for nearly 100 years. … After the game, we’ve never had any kind of incident. Those are the people that are accountable.”
Harbaugh mentioned that, as of Monday afternoon, he has not yet spoken with Michigan State coach Mel Tucker regarding the incident. Tucker, who called the behavior “unacceptable” during his press conference on Monday, issued indefinite suspensions to four of his players: safety Angelo Grose, linebacker Itayvion “Tank” Brown, cornerback Khary Chump and defensive end Zion Young.
“We are deeply sorry to both universities, the conference, our fans, alumni, supporters and of course all of our student-athletes, past and present,” Tucker told reporters.
Now, Harbaugh and Michigan will await the results of the legal process to bring further resolution.