Jim Harbaugh expects ‘criminal charges’ for Michigan State players after brawl

Jim Harbaugh expects ‘criminal charges’ for Michigan State players after brawl


Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday he expects “criminal charges” to emerge from the investigation into the violence that broke out in the stadium tunnel Saturday after his Wolverines beat visiting Michigan State.

Noting that the “police investigation is ongoing,” Harbaugh said, “What happened in the tunnel was horrific. It’s sickening to watch the videos, the ones that are currently on social media.”

Video of the incident from different angles shows several Spartans players attacking Michigan’s Ja’Den McBurrows and Gemon Green. On Sunday, Michigan State coach Mel Tucker announced the indefinite suspensions of four players: redshirt sophomore linebacker Itayvion “Tank” Brown, redshirt sophomore cornerback Khary Crump, junior Angel Grose and freshman defensive end Zion Young.

“We’re not here to make excuses for the behavior on Saturday,” Tucker said at a news conference Monday. “They are unacceptable.”

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“There is accountability,” Harbaugh told reporters earlier in the day. “A complete, thorough, timely investigation is needed.

“I can’t imagine that this won’t result in criminal charges,” he continued. “The footage is bad and it’s clear what happened. This is very open and closed. As they say, watch the video.”

In a video shared shortly after the game ended, Brown, Grose and Young could be seen pushing and appearing to punch and kick McBurrows. Footage from an ABC/ESPN tunnel camera that emerged Monday appears to show Green being hit by a Spartan helmet and Crump being involved in the altercation. In that video, another Michigan State player not immediately suspended, linebacker/defensive end Jacoby Windmon, could be seen putting on his helmet and tackling Green.

Harbaugh said placing the ABC/ESPN camera at a “higher altitude” allowed it to show “a lot more of what happened” during the incident.

“I’m coming at this from a parenting perspective,” Harbaugh said. “These young men were entrusted to me by their families in our program, and we have a responsibility to each player to treat them as our own, and I take that responsibility very seriously. An apology won’t get the job done in this case. There should be serious consequences for the many people who are guilty.”

In a statement issued late Sunday night by the Spartans athletic department, Michigan State President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said he was “extremely saddened by this incident and the unacceptable behavior displayed by members of our football program.”

“On behalf of Michigan State University, my sincere apologies to the University of Michigan and the student-athletes who were injured,” Stanley continued. “There are no provocations that could justify the behavior we see in the videos. Rivalries can be intense, but they should never be violent.”

Michigan State athletics director Alan Haller said in a simultaneous statement that the suspensions of the four players were “necessary” in light of the “alarming evidence” of their involvement.

Tucker offered another apology at a news conference Monday.

“We are deeply sorry to both universities, the conference, our fans, alumni, supporters and of course all of our student-athletes, past and present,” said the coach, who is in his third season with the Spartans.

“Incidents involving a small group of our players do not represent our culture,” Tucker added.

Citing the police and university/Big Ten investigations, Tucker declined to comment on questions from reporters about Harbaugh’s mention of possible criminal charges and whether he was “upset” that other Spartans players didn’t do more to stop the attacks.

In response to reporters at his news conference, Harbaugh did not elaborate on why McBurrows, a sophomore defensive back, and Green, a graduate defensive back, were walking through the tunnel toward the locker room at the same time as the Michigan State players. After games at Ann Arbor Stadium in Michigan, the visiting team and its staff are the first to leave the field and enter the tunnel, followed by the Wolverines contingent.

At halftime of Michigan’s previous home game, the win over Penn State, the Wolverines and the Nittany Lions had heated exchanges. Penn State coach James Franklin later described sharing one tunnel as “problem,” after which Harbaugh accused Franklin of being “ringleader” confrontations. Franklin called for a “buffer” of a minute or two before Michigan players followed the visiting team into the tunnel and then predicted that the ill will generated during his team’s visit to Michigan Stadium “won’t be the last” of its kind.

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On Monday, Harbaugh downplayed the tunnel as a problem and reiterated that it was the “actions of these individuals” at Michigan State. He added that he was unsure whether Green, who has made 21 career starts for Michigan, would be available for the Wolverines’ next game, 8-0, on Saturday at Rutgers.

“This was a very traumatic experience for everybody, especially Ja’Den and Gemon,” said Harbaugh, a former Michigan standout in his eighth season as coach.

An attorney for Green, Tom Mars, said Associated Press that those involved in the attack on his client “will feel the full wrath of the law”.

“The severe consequences in this case will deter others who might think they can get away with brutally beating an opposing player and only get a slap on the wrist,” Mars said. “…When college football players brutally attack a member of the opposing team with their helmets, resulting in a player suffering a concussion and other injuries, an apology will not be enough. There must be severe consequences for this type of misconduct.”

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