Jim Harbaugh expects 4 Michigan State players to be charged

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jim Harbaugh expects the four suspended Michigan State football players involved in roughing up two members of Michigan’s team to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

“I can’t imagine that this will not result in criminal charges,” the Michigan coach said.

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said later Monday that it would be irresponsible to respond to Harbaugh’s call for criminal charges due to the ongoing investigation.

“We’re not here to make any excuses for the behaviors Saturday,” Tucker said. “They are unacceptable.”

Harbaugh said defensive back Gemon Green was punched by a Spartan in the Michigan Stadium tunnel to spark the melee shortly after the fourth-ranked Wolverines beat their in-state rival on Saturday night and teammate Ja'Den McBurrows was attacked when he tried to help.

McBurrows is seen on a video shared on social media being pushed, punched and kicked by multiple Michigan State players, who pulled him out of the tunnel and into a hallway that doesn’t lead to either locker room.

Harbaugh said both players have injuries, adding he did not know if Green, a starting cornerback for a third straight season, would be cleared to play Saturday night at Rutgers.

Tucker announced Sunday night that linebacker Tank Brown, safety Angelo Grose, defensive end Zion Young and cornerback Khary Crump were suspended immediately. Tucker said the decision was made after “reviewing the disturbing electronic evidence.”

Brown, Grose and Young are seen on video getting physical with McBurrows.

“The incidents involving a small group of our players do not represent our culture,” Tucker said.

Tucker was very close to the aftermath, standing in the tunnel as Green was surrounded by police and escorted to the locker room while he shouted at Michigan State players. One social media post shows a Spartan, whose identity is not clear, appearing to swing his helmet at Green.

McBurrows and Green went up the tunnel alongside the Spartans following the game while many of Michigan’s players were waving their rivals off the field and other Wolverines were celebrating near the stadium’s student section.

“They were walking up the tunnel,” Harbaugh said when asked why Green and McBurrows were not with the rest of their teammates.

University of Michigan Deputy Police Chief Melissa Overton said Saturday night that an investigation began in partnership with Michigan State police, Michigan’s athletic department and the Wolverines’ football program.

“The investigation takes some time,” Overton said Sunday.

Tucker said the school is working with law enforcement, Michigan State and Michigan campus leadership, and the Big Ten Conference to evaluate what happened, including identifying other players who were involved in the altercations and contributing factors.

“The suspensions will allow the players to receive academic support and medical services, but they will not be able to attend any organized team activities,” said Tucker, who said the suspensions will remain in place until the investigations are completed.

Tucker’s head was touched in the tunnel by a fan in the stands Saturday night and the coach responded by swiping the fan’s hand away.

Michigan State President Samuel Stanley apologized for the “violent” skirmish.

“I’m extremely saddened by this incident and the unacceptable behavior depicted by members of our football program,” Stanley said in a statement. “On behalf of Michigan State University, my heartfelt apology to the University of Michigan and the student athletes who were injured.”

Harbaugh said Monday an apology is not enough.

The Big Ten said Sunday it is gathering information and plans to take appropriate action.

It was the second straight game at Michigan that included an altercation in the long, narrow tunnel that goes from the locker rooms to the field.

Earlier this month, Penn State coach James Franklin said a policy change was needed to provide a more orderly use of the tunnel.

Some heated words were exchanged, and Michigan players said Penn State players threw peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at them as the teams headed to the locker room at halftime of a close game the Wolverines ultimately won 41-17 on Oct. 15.

Harbaugh said Franklin acted as a “ringleader” and claimed the Nittany Lions stopped in the tunnel to prevent his team from accessing its locker room.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.