Rosemont, Ill. — The Big Ten is “moving in the right direction” regarding consistent injury protocol and player safety, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said.
Manuel spoke during the conference’s spring meetings Tuesday and was asked about player safety after Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight suffered three fractured vertebrae late in the first quarter last September during a game at Purdue. Speight’s parents described the care their son received that day as a “train wreck” and later in the season coach Jim Harbaugh said the Big Ten needed to address the issue.
“We did have a great conversation about that,” Manuel said. “(It was) thorough and I think everybody is moving in the right direction for the visiting team so that we all can have some consistency. It’s not gonna be perfect, but have some consistency.”
Speight, who did not play the rest of the season and has since transferred to UCLA, needed to be transported off-site for X-rays that weren’t available at Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium. It’s something that is available at most Big Ten schools, including Michigan Stadium and Spartan Stadium.
In October, Harbaugh talked about his hope that care would be consistent throughout the conference.
“It’s a serious thing,” he said on his radio show. “I know the Big Ten is addressing it, will address it. I think everyone has admitted there needs to be a high standard of care for the student-athletes and their health and welfare is the most important thing, overarching over everything else. You hope to see changes that result from it.”
What sort of concrete changes might come remains to be seen, but Manuel did point out it is not just about facilities, mentioning the incident during last season’s Ohio State game when Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett was injured on the sidelines before the game.
That took place on the Michigan Stadium sidelines and drew the ire of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer after the Buckeyes’ victory.
“We’ve had a lot of great discussion and we all did a review,” Manuel said. “We talked about some of the things we’re looking to do. One of the things, for example, is how do we control the sideline better?
“With the incident with Ohio State, in particular when we have bands on the field, like when we play Ohio State and Michigan State and more than likely when Notre Dame comes, it becomes very dense down there. We already don’t have a large sideline. So how do we do a better job ensuring people are where they need to be?”
Whether it’s on-field issues are standard of care, Manuel said the key is that the schools do a better job of communicating to ensure safety.
“We have to make sure that we define and we go over with visiting teams,” Manuel said. “That everyone on our staff knows what to look out for, everyone on their staff knows and make sure, not just with that particular issue, but continue to examine it and make sure we’re doing what is necessary.
“But I think everybody has agreed that we need to continue to communicate with each other and help each other when we find issues in that way.”