'Stormtrooper march': Harbaugh doubles down on criticism of Dantonio, MSU
Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that the incident before the Michigan-Michigan State game involving the Spartans and several Wolverines was “an orchestrated stormtrooper march” and reiterated his postgame remarks that it was a “bush league” move.
He expects the athletic directors from both school to hash out the situation.
On Monday night, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel issued a statement, saying he did not want to share his conversation with MSU athletic director Bill Beekman.
“I had a conversation on the field with Michigan State Athletic Director Bill Beekman prior to the game regarding the situation that occurred during pregame warmups” Manuel said. “My preference is to keep that conversation and any further discussions between us.
"I will work with our staff and the conference to see how this situation can be prevented from happening in the future. It is a great rivalry between two Michigan Universities, and the focus should remain on the game, the way it’s played, and the final result.”
Before the in-state rivalry game last Saturday at Spartan Stadium, Michigan players were already on the field, having been told it was clear for warm-ups, when the Spartans began their regular pregame walk down the length of the field. It is something it has done at all home games since Mark Dantonio has been head coach.
Several Michigan players were at midfield when there was a clash with the Spartans. The Wolverines said they were never asked to move. Michigan linebacker Devin Bush then kicked his cleats in the Spartan logo at midfield and tore up portions of the field.
Dantonio was just behind the players walking when the incident happened and didn’t appear to react to the players yelling at each other. After the game, Harbaugh said Dantonio was walking behind, “smiling the whole time,” to which Dantonio responded with, “B.S.”
Harbaugh spoke in some detail about the pregame incident during his weekly Monday news conference.
“It’s a thing that the two athletic directors really need to talk about because leading up to the game we were aware that they did a traditional walk and we contacted them because they send us a book of pregame operations that is the most detailed, finest I’ve ever seen,” Harbaugh said.
“It has everything in it in writing, but that part is not, and we call them and say, ‘What time are you guys doing your walk,’ because we don’t want to put our players out to warmup until after you guys do your traditional walk. They gave us a time that it would be at 9:45. OK, great. (Then), ‘Well, it might be 9:55.’ Now it is going to be 9:55 a day later. That walk happened another 10 minutes after that. At no point was there any kind of heads up or, ‘Hey, could you guys please leave the field?’
“I see where they’re using the word juvenile. I think that’s trying to brush it under the carpet because their strength coaches were out there leading it. Their assistant coaches were out there. Coach Dantonio was right behind it. That had all the ear-markings and evidence of an orchestrated stormtrooper march.”
Dantonio didn’t want to dwell on the incident during his teleconference Sunday night.
“As far as everything prior to the game, I’m really not gonna bother commenting on it,” Dantonio said. “I’ve never commented on a coach in the past. I’m not gonna comment on one now and the whole thing to me was sort of juvenile and things are gonna happen in rivalry games. I stand by what I said (Saturday).”
Harbaugh discussed the pre-game timeline and said Michigan wanted to avoid being on the field when the Spartans began their walk. He said it was never made clear exactly when the walk would take place.
“We were trying to not be out there when they were doing their traditional walk,” Harbaugh said. “That’s when the back and forth, the vagueness … They even told us, ‘Sometimes we don’t even do it.’ It came to a certain point where, maybe they’re not doing it. Guys can go out and start getting loosened up for a game that starts at 12 o’clock.”
He said it was fortunate this did not escalate into something bigger and more physical.
“When you host a team, both teams, you share the field,” Harbaugh said. “Each has a sideline, each gets half of the field to warm up on. Michigan State locked arms and used every inch of the field in their walk to attempt to (go) through or over our guys in a physical manner. To call that unsportsmanlike or bush league is putting it mildly. That could have been a real unfortunate incident.
“As I said, it’s the opposite of B.S. Coach said that was B.S., but that’s not B.S. That’s fact. That’s something now the two athletic directors really need to get together and talk about. I’ll go one step forward and use Coach Dantonio’s words from a few years back, ‘It’s not a product of a team but their program.’ Again, that’s using his words. That could have been an unfortunate deal. And I’m proud of our guys for keeping their cool and waiting for the game.”
Harbaugh said he had no issue with Bush kicking his cleats into the Spartan logo. Michigan State grounds crew members had to repair the damage he caused.
“I don’t blame Devin,” Harbaugh said. “I liked the way our guys handled it. That would be like going back and saying, ‘Oh, look at Devin Bush, look at him out there. He’s out at midfield scraping up the logo.’
“After what just took place, that’s straight out of the Pistons’ playbook. Do something to them, say something to them, elbow them and when somebody else does something back, then flop. That’s how I think about that. It’s unsportsmanlike, it’s bush league, and that is putting it very mildly.”
Harbaugh was asked his reaction to seeing the video that shows Dantonio just behind the line of Spartans. At the postgame news conference, he had not yet seen images of the pre-game altercation.
“That that was bush league,” Harbaugh said. “It has all the evidence of it being orchestrated.”