Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has not, during his two and a half years as head coach, held a news conference on the Monday of a bye week.
But two days after the Wolverines victory at Purdue Sept. 23, he spent a lengthy amount of time discussing the visitors locker room conditions at Purdue and the lack of on-site X-ray facilities for injured players, like Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight. Speight fractured three vertebrae in that game.
“Gamesmanship should cease at the line of health and safety for the players,” Harbaugh said on Sept. 25.
It was extremely hot on Sept. 23 in West Lafayette, Ind. The game box score listed the game time (4 p.m.) temperature as 89 degrees. Michigan radio broadcast sideline reporter Doug Karsch reported it was 101 degrees on the field at the start of the game.
Because the visitors locker room did not have air conditioning, Harbaugh offered to his starters the option of sitting on the team’s air conditioned charter bus before the game. According to a survey after the game by the Journal & Courier, 10 of the 13 Big Ten schools that responded said their visitors locker rooms have air conditioning. Purdue, Penn State and Northwestern do not, and Northwestern also doesn’t have heat.
As Harbaugh detailed his issues with the visitor locker rooms at Purdue, he made clear to point out he was not singling out Purdue. He said the Big Ten should look into the situation league-wide, and Harbaugh said Michigan would take a look at its visitors facilities provided at Michigan Stadium.
Purdue responded later Sept. 25 with a statement sent via Tom Schott, senior associate athletics director for communications. After hearing Harbaugh’s comments, Purdue wrote it “fully supports” conversations about guidelines for visiting football accommodations.
“The after-the-fact concerns expressed by Michigan are somewhat surprising because a member of its football staff conducted a walk-thru of our facilities with our athletics department staff at Ross-Ade Stadium on July 18,” the statement read.
According to Purdue’s statement, it is made clear to all opponents there is no air conditioning and information is shared on how to contact Purdue for “preferred temporary accommodations.”
“We did not receive any such request (from Michigan).” Also, basic X-ray is made available within “the athletic footprint,” the statement said.
But an internal Michigan memo written by Scott Goldschmidt, Michigan assistant director of football operations and obtained by The Detroit News, described a different take on the Purdue visit in July and later requests. Goldschmidt, who made the tour of the Purdue facilities in July, wrote he viewed portions of the visitors locker room.
“At that time, the locker room was being used as an office for construction contractors and storage space for the stadium’s pavilion seating,” he wrote, adding the individual giving him the tour did not have keys to “view portions of the training facilities inside the locker room.”
Goldschmidt was told there is no air conditioning but was assured “that cooling fans could be provided as necessary.” He wrote on Sept. 20 he reached out regarding the cooling units but his call was not returned.
On Sept. 22, the day before the game, he said the Michigan equipment staff was provided two fans for the locker room.
There were electrical and mechanical failures in the locker room on the day of the game, including power to one of the fans, Goldschmidt wrote in the memo. The 90-minute pregame countdown clock in the locker room failed and had to be replaced.
“Following the game, both fans had to be removed due to concerns of electrical units plugged in near the locker room showers,” he wrote.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer weighed in on the topic the day Harbaugh said guidelines for visitor locker rooms must be set, and said he agreed something should be done league-wide to assure consistency.
“We stick with our original statement,” Purdue, via Schott, said in a response to a request by The Detroit News for comment regarding the internal memo from Michigan. “And are looking forward to being engaged in continued conversations as they relate to setting standards for visiting teams.”