Altercation following Ferris State-GVSU game included helmet swing; NCAA investigating
The NCAA is investigating a physical altercation involving multiple players and staffers from both teams in the moments after Ferris State's victory over rival Grand Valley State in a Division II football semifinal game at Lubbers Stadium in Allendale on Saturday afternoon.
The NCAA requested and retrieved stadium video footage from host Grand Valley State following the game, according to a university source who requested anonymity because of the NCAA investigation.
The News reviewed cell-phone video of the broadcast Sunday. Jack Doles, sports director of Grand Rapids' NBC affiliate, posted a clip from his sister station's broadcast on Twitter on Saturday night.
The incident occurred on the field, near the 35- to 40-yard lines, on the opposite side from the stadium's locker rooms, about five minutes following the conclusion of the game. Some coaches and players already had gone to the locker room, while many others were at midfield shaking hands, when a scrum broke out. Dozens of people were in or near the scrum, which saw at least one Ferris State player swing a helmet and appear to connect with a Grand Valley State staff member. At least 10 Ferris State players and several Grand Valley State staffers were in or near the altercation at its most-heated moments. Several more players from both teams eventually rushed over the altercation, which included a lot of shoving.
The altercation lasted several seconds, and most of the players and staffers appeared to be trying to break it up.
"The NCAA and the NCAA Division II Football Committee are aware of an incident that happened at the end of the Ferris St.-Grand Valley St. football game," Philip Pierce, an NCAA spokesman, told The News in an email Saturday night. "They are currently gathering information and looking into the matter."
The News reached out to Grand Valley State athletic director Keri Becker and Ferris State athletic director Steve Brockelbank for comment. Multiple messages weren't returned Saturday.
It's unclear if Grand Valley State head coach Matt Mitchell or Ferris State head coach Tony Annese saw the altercation. Mitchell declined comment Sunday morning, citing the NCAA investigation. Annese didn't immediately return a message from The News seeking comment Saturday night.
The incident marred an exciting day in west Michigan, where No. 5 Ferris State beat No. 1 Grand Valley State, 24-21, before a capacity crowd of 13,001, securing revenge from a 22-21 loss earlier in the season. The Bulldogs, the defending Division II national champions, are heading to next week's semifinals.
Ferris State scored twice in the final 6 minutes, including Eaton Rapids freshman Eddie Jewett's 18-yard field goal with 1 minute, 4 seconds, for the winning score. That was Ferris State's first lead since the game was fewer than 4 minutes old. Grand Valley State had one more shot, but senior Cyntell Williams (Battle Creek Central) intercepted a Hail Mary pass in the end zone to clinch the victory for Ferris State.
The Bulldogs (13-1) tied the game on a 2-yard run by redshirt freshman Carson Gulker (Zeeland West) with 5:48 left, capping a 6-plus-minute scoring drive. It was Gulker's second touchdown run of the game.
Junior quarterback Mylik Mitchell led the Bulldogs with 118 yards passing and 87 yards rushing, including one touchdown on the ground.
For Grand Valley State (12-1), junior quarterback Cade Peterson (Glen Lake) threw for 190 yards, junior running back Tariq Reid (Davison) rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown, and sophomore Avery Moore (New Lothrup) rushed for two touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Jahdae Walker had four catches for 85 yards.
It's the second consecutive season Ferris State has eliminated Grand Valley State — arguably, the state's third-biggest football rivalry, behind Michigan State-Michigan and Western Michigan-Central Michigan — in the postseason. Ferris State is looking to be the first repeat DII champion since Northwest Missouri State in 2015-16. Grand Valley State, with four titles in five years in the early 2000s, was the previous repeat winner.
In the reseeding of this year's Division II playoffs, Ferris State will be the No. 1 seed in the semifinals and host West Florida (12-1) at noon Saturday, Dec. 10.