The controversy around Saturday’s pre-game rituals didn’t end before the game Saturday. Nor did it end after.
Apparently, it’s still not over.
Monday afternoon, during his weekly media availability, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh doubled down on his claim that Michigan State and its head coach Mark Dantonio orchestrated the events that transpired.
“That that was bush league,” Harbaugh said, repeating a phrase he used after the game. “That it has all the evidence of being orchestrated.”
What were those events, exactly? Depends who you ask.
It centers around the Spartans’ pre-game walk, a tradition in the program of walking the length of the field with arms linked. Harbaugh says Michigan requested information ahead of time about the timing of that walk, in order to stay off the field until it was over.
According to him, the response was vague.
“We contacted them because they send us a book, pregame operations, that was the most detailed, finest I’ve ever seen,” Harbaugh said. “Has everything in it, in writing. But (the walk) is not (in it) — so we called them and asked, ‘What time are you guys doing your walk? Because we don’t want to put our players out to warmup until after you guys do your traditional walk.”
First, Harbaugh said, they were told it would be at 9:45. Then they were told 9:55. Then, according to Harbaugh, Michigan State responded that it might not even happen.
“That walk happened another 10 minutes after that,” Harbaugh said, “and at no point was there any kind of heads up or, ‘Hey, could you guys please leave the field?”
Wolverines players remained on the field warming up as the Michigan State players lined up to do the walk shortly after 10am. That’s when the altercation transpired, with fifth-year senior defensive lineman Lawrence Marshall getting “clotheslined” and junior cornerback Lavert Hill getting his headphones ripped off his head, according to Michigan.
This led to junior linebacker Devin Bush scraping up the Spartans’ midfield logo with his cleats before the game, and the Wolverines proceeding to celebrate on the logo after the 21-7 win.
Michigan State players claimed the timing of the walk was ordinary practice, that no team had ever remained on the field while the Spartans were walking. Dantonio addressed the ordeal at a press conference Sunday. His comments hinted at a desire to move forward.
“The whole thing to me was sort of juvenile,” Dantonio told reporters. “Things are going to happen in rivalry games. So, I stand by what I said yesterday.”
Harbaugh clearly didn’t take kindly to that.
“Using the word ‘juvenile,’ I think that’s kind of brushing it under the carpet. Their strength coaches were out there leading it. Their assistant coaches were out there. Coach Dantonio was right behind,” Harbaugh said. “That had all the ear-markings and evidence of an orchestrated, storm-trooper march.”
After the game on Saturday, shortly after Harbaugh said the move was “bush league,” Dantonio denied the claim.
“You heard me. That’s B.S.”
Monday, Harbaugh clapped back.
“As I said, it’s the opposite of B.S. Coach (Dantonio) said it was B.S., that’s not B.S., that’s fact,” Harbaugh said. … “I’ll go one step further and use Coach Dantonio’s words from a few years back: ‘It’s not a product of a team, but their program.’ ”
Harbaugh called on the athletic directors to discuss the incident, saying, “I think that’s something (Michigan Athletic Director) Warde (Manuel) will address.”
Late Monday evening, Michigan State issued a statement once again disputing Harbaugh’s accusation. It reads as follows:
“Regarding last Saturday’s pregame timeline, both teams were distributed pregame timing sheets and were in communication earlier in the week about Michigan State’s pregame tradition of walking the field upon arrival to Spartan Stadium. There has never been an on-field issue with this tradition in the 12 years under head coach Mark Dantonio. The timing of Saturday’s pregame tradition did not change from previous games, nor did the communication change between both schools. MSU was scheduled to leave the Kellogg Center for its walk to the stadium at 9:45 a.m. and left at 9:47 a.m. The team was scheduled to arrive at Spartan Stadium at approximately 10 a.m. and walked the field at approximately 10:02 a.m. As a courtesy, Michigan was granted field access before MSU’s arrival with the understanding from both sides that the U of M student-athletes would leave the field during this tradition. Michigan was on the field prior to 10 a.m. as previously agreed upon, but when multiple MSU staff members asked both U of M student-athletes and staff members to please move off the field for the pregame field walk, this did not occur.”
On a related note, Michigan and Michigan State square off again in 390 days. Might want to mark that one on your calendar.