Harbaugh calls for locker-room guidelines after UM endures 'hot box'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, being direct and even-mannered, said the Big Ten must have consistent guidelines for visitor locker rooms and medical facilities.

Harbaugh, speaking Monday at his weekly news conference, raised the issue after his team opened the Big Ten season at Purdue last Saturday and endured sweltering temperatures in a tight locker room that did not have air conditioning and sub-par health services for injured players.

Injured Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight had to be transported by van to a student health building to undergo an X-ray after what Harbaugh on Monday called an “egregious” late hit that he believes should have been ruled targeting.

“Gamesmanship should cease at the line of health and safety for the players,” Harbaugh said. “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 said he was not “putting this on Purdue” but said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany should look into the situation.

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“It was so cramped, it was so hot. It was like a hot box,” Harbaugh said. “Really, the only way to get relief was to open the doors. Again, you have people watching you dress. It’s not good. It’s not good. I’ve seen this at other facilities in the Big Ten. It needs to be addressed by the commissioner. I would hope they would look into it immediately. Hope that it does some good.”

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on Monday at his news conference said “absolutely” when asked if there should be a standard for visitor’s locker rooms in the conference.

Michigan radio reported last Saturday the on-field game-time temperature was 101 degrees. Michigan had to buy large fans to offer some relief in the locker room.

“This is no different than the facility I think I saw when I was there in 1986,” Harbaugh said, referring to his time as a Michigan player. “I’m not putting this on Purdue. This is league-wide. It needs to be addressed by the league, needs to be addressed by the commissioner and we’re going to lead the way.

“We’re going to look at what we have, but there needs to be a way to X-ray a player at the stadium. There has to be a minimum standard of care for the players. Again, we put a lot of emphasis on health and safety of the players, but it doesn’t even seem sanitary. You were all in there. We’ve already talked about the heat.

“It seems to be a conscious effort of gamesmanship, get an advantage over the opponent.”

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He could not believe the state of the athletic trainer facilities.

“I wish I had taken a picture of the actual table that is given to the visitors to put the players on when they’re injured,” Harbaugh said. “It looks like it’s from the ‘20s. It was ripped. It’s just not good.

“I think that’s a pattern in the Big Ten. I asked (Michigan defensive coordinator) Don Brown, ‘Did you see the same thing in the ACC?’ He did not see it to this extent. In the Pac-12 when we coached there … you can keep going on. Injured players that can’t get an X-ray. Taken to a student health center in a van. We needed a brace for a player. There wasn’t one at the facility we were taken to.”

Harbaugh is encouraging the other Big Ten coaches to weigh in on this.

“Together we should be able to do this. Urge my fellow coaches to weigh in as well and get their thoughts,” Harbaugh said. “Think it’s something we can all agree on. It is 2017. It’s not the ‘30s, it’s the ‘40s, it’s not the ‘50s ‘60s or ‘70s or ‘80s, there’s been advancements. Our stadiums need to reflect that. Visiting locker rooms needs to reflect that. Gamesmanship should cease at the line, the point of health and safety for the players.”

Purdue released a statement after Harbaugh's news conference. The school said it regards the welfare of all student-athletes as its No. 1 priority.

School officials said they were "surprised" to hear the Michigan coach's comments since a UM representative took a walk-through on July 18.

"Furthermore," the statement read, "to help teams prepare in advance, our visiting team manual highlights in bold type 'there is no air conditioning in the (visiting) locker room,' with accompanying Purdue Athletics staff contact information about how to request preferred temporary accommodations. We did not receive any such request.

"Basic X-ray is available within our athletic footprint and more-sophisticated capabilities are located two blocks away, similar to the arrangements at many other schools. Our sports medicine staff members, in fact, have received numerous compliments from their Michigan counterparts regarding the care they received at Purdue."


Twitter: @chengelis