With video: Police investigating postgame 'assault' involving MSU, UM players
Ann Arbor — Police have launched an investigation into an ugly postgame fight in the tunnel at Michigan Stadium following Michigan's 29-7 victory over rival Michigan State late Saturday night.
Tempers flared on the field as the closing seconds ticked off the clock, but cooler heads appeared to prevail — until the tunnel, where several reporters heading toward postgame press conferences captured video of what appeared to be about 10 Michigan State players surrounding one Michigan player, with several Spartans landing kicks and punches.
That one Michigan player appeared to be defensive back Ja'Den McBurrows, who was on the ground in the middle of several Michigan State players. When the player who appeared to be McBurrows got to his feet, Michigan State linebacker Itayvion Brown grabbed him and tossed him through an open doorway at the end of the tunnel. A Michigan State Police officer grabbed Brown’s jersey to hold him back.
At least two other Michigan State players, safety Angelo Grose and defensive end Zion Young, were seen by a Detroit News reporter throwing punches at the player who appeared to be McBurrows.
Shortly thereafter, both head coaches, Michigan State's Mel Tucker and Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, emerged to tell their players to get to their locker rooms.
Harbaugh called the postgame altercation "10 on one," with the 10 being Michigan State. He said there was another Michigan player who was "assaulted." Michigan didn't identify either of its players, but Harbaugh said one player might have suffered a broken nose.
"Pretty bad," Harbaugh said. "I'm going to let our athletic director, Warde Manuel, address it with authorities.
A source close to the team identified for The Detroit News the two players as McBurrows and cornerback Gemon Green, though it's unclear which one might have suffered the broken nose.
Manuel addressed the media and said Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, who was in attendance Saturday night, also will investigate the altercation. Both university campus police departments have launched a co-investigation, Michigan deputy police chief Melissa Overton confirmed to The Detroit News.
"Situations like these, and the safety of our community, are taken very seriously," she said.
Officers from Michigan's campus police department, the Michigan State Police and the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department were among the agencies that worked Michigan Stadium on Saturday.
Manuel repeatedly called the incident "unacceptable."
"What happened after the game is completely unacceptable," Manuel said. "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 totally unacceptable.
"This is not what a rivalry should be about, not how it should be remembered.
"For that to happen is unacceptable."
Both university presidents, Michigan State’s Samuel L. Stanley and Michigan’s Santa J. Ono, put out statements Sunday morning. Stanley said he was “saddened” by the incident, for which “there is no provocation that could justify the behavior we are seeing on videos.” Ono said he spoke with Stanley, and said Stanley personally apologized for the behavior of the Michigan State players.
Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller didn't respond to requests for comment from The News after the game, but issued a statement early Sunday morning.
“I have been in contact with Commissioner Warren," Haller said in the statement. "We will cooperate with the conference office and other efforts to gather more information.”
Tucker, when asked about the incident, said he didn't know what happened.
"I know it was a heated game. Things were heated," he said. "(We're) trying to get our guys in the locker room. We'll have to figure out what happened.
"I don't have anything to address. I don't know what happened."
Tucker released a statement Sunday morning on Twitter, saying there will be "swift and appropriate" action.
Several players from Michigan and Michigan State were asked about the altercation during the postgame press conferences, and all declined to comment, saying they hadn't seen the video which quickly lit up social media.
Manuel, Warren and Haller were seen together talking to police, after the players had all moved into the locker room. Warren didn't immediately respond to a phone call and text message from The News requesting comment, but the Big Ten said in a statement it is "thoroughly" investigating and "will take appropriate reaction."
Multiple Michigan players took to Twitter to comment on the incident. Receiver Darrius Clemons wrote: "Had 60 minutes to put your hands on somebody w zero repercussions. See y'all next year." Roman Wilson, another UM receiver, tweeted: "This what we doing?"
As the game clock wound down on a game dominated by Michigan over the final three quarters, Michigan players began to celebrate their first victory in the series since 2019, with several heading off to locate the prized Paul Bunyan Trophy and outfit him with maize pants. But dozens of other players from both teams exchanged heated words on the field. There didn't appear to be any punches thrown or any shoving on the field, before that changed in the tunnel.
The postgame problems in the tunnel extended beyond the players. Another video posted on Twitter from @MJoeBean showed a fan reaching down and touching Tucker’s head as the Michigan State coach had just entered the tunnel following the game. Tucker reacted by swatting the man’s hand away, then extending his right arm toward the man, seemingly pointing him out to law enforcement just as the video cuts off.
This is the second time there’s been a heated incident this season in the Michigan Stadium tunnel, which both teams use to leave the field, before the visiting team turns left and Michigan turns right. On Oct. 15, Penn State head coach James Franklin had an exchange with security guards when his players had words for Michigan players at halftime. The next week, Franklin called Michigan's tunnel a "problem"; Harbaugh called Franklin the incident's "ringleader." There were heated exchanges in the tunnel during last year's Michigan-Ohio State game, and before the 2013 Michigan-Ohio State game. None of those incidents got physical.