Ann Arbor — It was meant as a symbol of unity.
During last Friday night's pre-Michigan State meeting, a stake was used as part of a discussion describing how a team stays together during challenging circumstances. It was then left in the locker room at Spartan Stadium before the game the next day.
But before the game, linebacker Joe Bolden took the tent stake, and with a number of his teammates around him, drove it into the ground by the Michigan sideline.
After the game, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio used the incident to drive home his perception Michigan has been disrespectful to Michigan State, which has won six of the last seven meetings.
Michigan State scored a late touchdown instead of taking a knee during the 35-11 victory.
"It just felt like we needed to put a stake in them at that point," Dantonio said after the game. "Throwing the stake down in our backyard out here and coming out there like they're all that. That got shoved up … it got shoved in the last minute and a half."
Michigan coach Brady Hoke issued a public apology a day later and phoned Dantonio. Hoke said Monday he was not told to apologize and said Bolden "feels about as bad as anybody," but will not face discipline.
"Mark and I have known each other a long time, so me calling him and apologizing for something that was really overblown and had nothing to do with Michigan State, had to do with a stake in the commitment for our football team," Hoke said. "Believe me, no one feels worse than Joe, and (being disrespectful) wasn't the intent."
Hoke said the reason for the public apology was simple.
"(It was) to Mark and his team as much as anything," he said. "Mark and I go back a long, long way. That's pretty much it.
"Mark and I have done this in the past. We've called when we've had incidents in this game. That's the way we are because we have respect for each other."
Because Hoke comes out of the tunnel last when the team runs onto the field, he said he was not aware the stake was being brought onto the field until it was too late.
"I always come out at the end because I want the seniors and kids (to go ahead)," Hoke said. "So that's when I find out. ... There was no disrespect intended for anybody. It was a thing for our team."
Jack Miller, Michigan's center, said he understands why the Spartans reacted as they did, but echoed Hoke's comments.
"Any time stuff like that happens on your home field it can spark a little bit of emotion from the home team," Miller said. "That's their prerogative to feel how they want to feel about it.
"First and foremost it wasn't meant to be disrespectful to Michigan State in any way. It was an emotional thing and a motivational thing that happened.
"Yeah, it got overblown, but that's what happens when people are upset."