East Lansing — Michigan State’s disappointing season on the football field was dealt another blow on Thursday when the school announced that senior linebacker Joe Bachie had been suspended by the Big Ten after failing a random drug test.
Michigan State said that Bachie, a two-time captain, tested positive for a supplement that is classified as a performance-enhancing substance banned by the league.
The university also said it will be file an immediate appeal with the Big Ten.
“All my career I’ve done my very best to represent Michigan State in a positive manner on and off the field,” Bachie said in a statement. “I plan to appeal, but to all of those affected, from my coaches to my teammates and to the fans, I apologize for putting them through this situation. I will always be a Spartan.”
Bachie was leading the Spartans (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) with 72 tackles this season and had 3.5 sacks and an interception.
As a sophomore in 2017, Bachie was voted Team MVP and named third-team All-Big Ten. In his junior season, Bachie was named a captain, finished with 102 tackles and was named first-team All-Big Ten. Entering his senior year, Bachie was named a first-team preseason All-American by the Associated Press and was named to watch lists for the Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year), Butkus Award (nation’s best linebacker), Nagurski Trophy (nation's most outstanding college defensive player) and Lott IMPACT Trophy.
“Joe Bachie has built himself into an All-Big Ten middle linebacker and two-time team captain through his incredible work ethic and leadership skills,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. “This situation breaks my heart, but I know Joe is resilient and accountable. No one feels worse than Joe does, a sentiment he expressed when he spoke to the team earlier today. This does not define Joe as a player, and more importantly, as a man. He will graduate in December and has a very bright future ahead of him, both on and off the field. As a program, we plan to appeal immediately, and will continue to support Joe however we can. He will forever be a Spartan.”
Bachie is the second Michigan collegiate player suspended this season over a banned substance. Central Michigan starting quarterback David Moore was supsended in early October, and that university is appealing as well.
Having a team leader and one of its most productive players declared ineligible is just the latest setback for a team that entered the season ranked among the top 15 teams in the country with expectations of getting back to the Big Ten Championship game.
But an early loss to Arizona State highlighted the fact that, even with some shuffling of the coaching staff, the Spartans were still a sub-par offensive team. Wins over Northwestern and Indiana provided only a slight reprieve before Michigan State suffered three straight blowout losses to Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State.
Along the way, the Spartans watched player after player enter the NCAA transfer portal.
First it was junior linebacker Brandon Bouyer-Randle, but things got messier from there as junior running back Connor Heyward, the starting tailback in week one, opted to enter the portal followed by his backup, sophomore La’Darius Jefferson. That left Michigan State thin at running back with starter Elijah Collins backed up by true freshmen Anthony Williams and Brandon Wright, the only scholarship running backs left on the roster.
More transfers came from there as sophomore wide receiver and former running back Weston Bridges entered the portal followed by junior wide receiver Cam Chambers and junior tight end Noah Davis.
“When a scholarship opens up, you try and make yourself better,” Dantonio said last week. “You try and improve your quality of play. Some guys have played for us and looked for bigger roles. Some guys, quite frankly, haven't played for us and are looking for an opportunity to play elsewhere, and that's the way it's gone. That's probably the way it goes for everybody in America right now.”
Who steps in for Bachie is the question now for Michigan State, which is off this week before hosting Illinois on Nov. 9. Sophomore Noah Harvey is a likely option as he has been listed as Bachie’s backup on the depth chart. However, Harvey also plays on the outside in passing situations, which could open the door for redshirt freshman Edward Warinner to see some action after appearing in only three games this season.
Fifth-year senior Tyriq Thompson, one starter on the outside, also has worked some in the middle over the past couple of seasons.
Michigan State has reached a bowl game in every one of Dantonio’s first 12 seasons but one – 2016. The Spartans will need to win two of their final four games to become bowl eligible. After the Illinois game, Michigan State travels to Michigan and Rutgers in back-to-back weeks before hosting Maryland to close the season.