Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Big Ten athletic directors will discuss at an upcoming meeting the need for the conference to review visitor locker rooms in light of the Wolverines’ visit last weekend to Purdue.
Harbaugh on Monday at his weekly news conference said injured Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight had to be transported by van to a student health building to have an X-ray after what Harbaugh on Monday called an “egregious” late hit. The locker room did not have air conditioning on a day that registered 101 degrees on the field at kickoff.
“Gamesmanship should cease at the line of health and safety for the players,” Harbaugh said Monday. “It’s become apparent after going around to all the visiting schools in the last couple of years that a conscious effort of gamesmanship that is unsportsmanlike when you have locker rooms that are too small, that are not heated or cooled properly, in this case, there’s no air conditioning.
"Such a tight, cramped environment where you have to open the doors to get some kind of ventilation going in a very small area. People are walking by, they’re watching you dress. The number of urinals or bathrooms for the players and staff, I think there were two. There was not even a private door around it.”
Harbaugh, during the Big Ten coaches call on Tuesday, said Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel has raised the issue for discussion. Michigan already is looking into the visiting team accommodations it provides, he said.
“Warde has told me it’s on the athletic directors’ agenda for October,” Harbaugh said Tuesday. “My feelings are well known. I think it should be addressed right away. As I said, we’re going to look into ourselves first, and we are doing that. It needs to come from the Big Ten. It should be addressed by the conference.
“I went out of my way to say it’s not just Purdue. I’ve been in hundreds of lockerrooms, hundreds of hundreds, and it’s unacceptable. If some would say it’s acceptable, then they don’t subscribe to the same acceptable as I do. I would further say that I really, and I think we all appreciate the effort of the players and the sacrifice here at Michigan and all across the country, we feel it’s important to speak about this. Their health, their safety, their welfare and all, talking about all players participate in intercollegiate football, I want to speak out on their behalf on matters of health and safety. And if I’m or we are wrong about caring about their safety, their health, so be it. I think it’s our responsibility to do that.”
Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said the program’s game-management staff is in constant communication with visiting teams.
“There’s nothing we hide from them,” Brohm said on the Big Ten call. “We’re open to discussing anything with anybody on any matter and that’s what we’ve done the entire year. We want everybody to have a good experience when they come here, so that’s something we’re always shooting for.”
Brohm said visitor locker rooms are never high-end.
“I know a lot of the locker rooms across the country, it’s not like you’re going to the Marriott hotel,” he said. “They’re normal locker rooms and definitely don’t have all the frills that you’d love to have, but it’s a visiting locker room and you take it for what it’s worth and you deal with it. That’s kind of my experience in visiting locker rooms. I haven’t been in a whole lot of collegiate visiting locker rooms that are extremely nice and comfortable for the visiting team.”
The Big Ten has weighed in on the topic, saying there are opportunities for discussions like this.
“Big Ten member institutions have direct access to conference governance and policy development,” a Big Ten spokesperson said in a statement, “so if any institutions have game management procedures that warrant discussion at the conference level — including those related to student welfare, health and safety, film exchange, media services or any other game-related procedures — there are processes and opportunities to do so.”
“While current conference policy does not set minimum specifications for team locker rooms, most, if not all, of our sports and game management procedures come from recommendations based on the experience of our schools and are supported by a vote of the majority of our members.”
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said on the Big Ten call that he’s in favor of visitor locker room review.
“I think it’s good they’re looking into to it,” Chryst said. “We all want what’s good for the players.”
Nebraska coach Mike Riley said he was not aware of the discussion Harbaugh had raised, but he also agreed it’s a worthwhile subject to continue to visit.
“I’ll tell you this, there are vast differences of places you go,” Riley said. “I haven’t really thought about it, but that might be a good idea for people to look at facilities that are provided.”
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio was asked on the call if Michigan’s visitor locker room and facilities are up to standards, or do they need improvement. Michigan State travels to Michigan on Oct. 7, following its home game Saturday against Iowa.
“I’m not going to answer that question right now,” Dantonio said with an uncomfortable laugh. “I’m sort of focused on our job at hand (Iowa). That’s not for me to say right now. I’m sorry.”
During Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s news conference on Monday, he was asked in light of Harbaugh’s comments if the league should explore the issue of visitor locker rooms. He agreed wholeheartedly and expanded on his thoughts during the call.
“Years ago there I remember there was some gamesmanship about putting people in bad places and all that,” Meyer said. “I asked our people to make sure we would never do that. That’s not something I check very often, but this is Ohio State and you never want to put a team without air conditioning or those types of things.
“I was not aware what happened at Purdue. We played there years ago, but we were in a couple situations where you’re just looking around, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ (OSU athletic director) Gene Smith said that this is going to be brought up in Big Ten meetings, that these players do a lot for us and do a lot for our conference, and they should be treated right. And that’s a very clean environment, obviously the proper heat, proper air conditioning and a sanitary environment. I would imagine from this point forward people will look at this very closely.”