By now, everyone has probably heard of, if not seen, Joe Bolden’s actions before Saturday’s game against Michigan State. The junior linebacker took a black stake and speared the turf of Spartan Stadium near the Wolverine sideline just before the Michigan football team took the field in its 35-11 loss to the Spartans.
There were talks following the conclusion of the game that Michigan State players felt disrespected, which was one of the reasons Spartan coach Mark Dantonio uncharacteristically went for a late touchdown despite the game being well in hand with less than a minute to go.
“As far as the score at the end, it just felt like we needed to put a stake in them at that point,” Dantonio said after the game. “The little brother stuff, all the disrespect, it doesn’t have to go in that direction.
“We’ve tried to handle ourself with composure. That doesn’t come from the coach. It comes from the program.”
Meanwhile, one room over in Michigan’s postgame press conference, coach Brady Hoke was asked about the situation and said he was only aware that something happened pregame. He offered little information other than the fact that “Joe” did it — referring to one of the four Joe’s on the team’s roster.
But early Sunday afternoon, Hoke issued yet another apology in what feels like a season filled with them.
“I spoke with Mark (Dantonio) earlier today and expressed to him that we meant no disrespect to his team,” the statement said. “During our regular Friday night team meeting, one of the topics presented to motivate our team was a history lesson addressing commitment and teamwork in a tough environment. A tent stake was presented to the team as a symbol of this concept. The stake was brought into our locker room as a visual reminder, and one of our team leaders chose to take it out on the field.
“As the leader of our football program, I take full responsibility for the actions of our team. We believe in displaying a high level of respect at the University of Michigan and unfortunately that was not reflected by this action prior to kickoff.”
On Monday, Hoke reiterated his responsibility for the situation and said Bolden wouldn’t face disciplinary action. Hoke also said he wasn’t told to issue the statement, but felt it was the right course of action because of his longstanding relationship with Dantonio.
“I do think it was overblown,” Hoke said. “Mark and I have done this in the past. We’ve called when we’ve had some incidents in this game.”
Hoke also clarified the order of events that took place, saying he’s always the last one out of the locker room and by the time he found out the stake was making its way onto the field, it was too late to stop it. He took full responsibility for the act, not blaming Bolden for getting caught up in the emotion of the rivalry.
The support for Bolden extended beyond Hoke to the coordinators and players. When defensive coordinator Greg Mattison spoke at his weekly press conference on Monday, he only had good things to say about the linebacker.
“I love Joe Bolden, are you kidding me?” Mattison said. “Give me a room of Joe Boldens. Give me 11 of him, just line (them) up and put them at any position you want. You’re going to have a lot of happy people, and me being the happiest.”
But despite the internal support for Bolden, the program remains in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. While Michigan’s season has been less than enthralling on the field, it has stayed in the news after incidents with Coca-Cola products, potential concussions and now, tent stakes. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
Notes: After missing the last seven games, senior linebacker Desmond Morgan will receive a medical redshirt for a hand injury. Hoke said Morgan will return for his fifth-year senior season. … Freshman cornerback Jabrill Peppers was removed from the team’s depth chart. He’s been battling an injury for the last four weeks, but Hoke said Peppers hasn’t yet been ruled out for the year. … Senior middle linebacker Jake Ryan was named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, presented to college football’s best linebacker. Ryan is the only Big Ten semifinalist.