Seven Michigan State football players charged in tunnel melee

Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Seven Michigan State football players have been charged in the postgame melee in Michigan Stadium’s tunnel last month, according to a statement from the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office.

The most serious charge is against cornerback Khary Crump, who faces a felony count of felonious assault. The charges against the six others are misdemeanors. Linebacker Itayvion “Tank” Brown, safety Angelo Grose, cornerback Justin White, defensive end Brandon Wright and defensive end Zion Young are each charged with one count of aggravated assault, and linebacker Jacoby Windmon faces one count of assault and battery.

No Michigan players are facing charges, which were announced ahead of the final regular-season games. No. 3 Michigan plays rival No. 2 Ohio State on the road Saturday with the Big Ten East Division title at stake. A few hours later, the Spartans close the season out at No. 11 Penn State, needing a win to become bowl eligible.

Scuffles broke out in the Michigan Stadium tunnel on Oct. 29 after the then-No. 4 Wolverines beat the Spartans 29-7. Social media posts showed Michigan State players pushing, punching and kicking Michigan’s Ja'Den McBurrows in and near a hallway that doesn’t lead to either locker room. Brown, Grose and Young are seen on video getting physical with McBurrows.

McBurrows and defensive back Gemon Green went up the tunnel, walking alongside the Spartans, after the game while much of Michigan’s team was waving them off the field after beating their in-state rivals for the first time in three years.

Green, in another post, is surrounded by police while shouting across the tunnel at Michigan State players.

Crump in one video appears to swing his helmet at a Michigan player. That could account for the more serious charge, which carries a maximum of four years in prison. The state law describes felonious assault as an attack “using knife, iron bar, club, brass knuckles or other dangerous weapon without intending to commit murder or to inflict great bodily harm.”

A conviction for a misdemeanor count of assault carries a prison term of up to one year, while misdemeanor assault and battery carries a maximum sentence 93 days behind bars.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has said one of the players, who he did not identify, might have had a broken nose. He also said Green was punched by a Spartans player and McBurrows was attacked when he tried to help.

The statement from the prosecutor’s office provided no detail on the allegations, including who is accused of hitting whom. It added that the office will have no further comment as the case proceeds. It is not clear when the charged players will make initial appearances in court.

Michigan State’s athletic director and football coach did not immediately return requests for comment.

Michigan president Santa J. Ono said Wednesday in a statement that the school appreciated “the thoughtful, deliberate approach from the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office to this unfortunate incident.”

“We also want to express our concern for all the players involved, especially those who were injured,” Ono said. “The University of Michigan will continue to cooperate fully with any additional reviews of this matter.”

An attorney representing Green, Tom Mars, said after the charges were filed that he was “not at all surprised by the prosecutor’s decision.”

Asked if his client might sue over the melee, Mars said that after conferring with Green and his father, they agreed with his recommendation “not to take any action about the tunnel incident until the season is over.”

“I don’t want any of this to be a distraction to Michigan football and neither does Gemon,” Mars said.

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker suspended eight players – including Malcolm Jones, who is not being charged – for their role in the melee.

After the Oct. 29 incident, Michigan State President Samuel Stanley publicly 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 then in a statement. “On behalf of Michigan State University, my heartfelt apology to the University of Michigan and the student athletes who were injured.”

Georgia Tech promotes Brent Key from interim to head coach

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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Georgia Tech named interim coach Brent Key to the full-time position on Tuesday after he led the team to a 4-4 finish.

Key, 44, was in his fourth season as assistant head coach, run game coordinator and offensive line coach before Geoff Collins was fired on Sept. 26, two days after the Yellow Jackets lost 27-10 to Central Florida and dropped to 1-3.

Georgia Tech’s improvement under Key, who played for the Yellow Jackets and graduated in 2001, convinced Institute President Dr. Angel Cabrera and athletic director J Batt to make Key the full-time coach instead of looking outside the program for the hire.

“I am so proud and grateful to be the head coach at my alma mater, Georgia Tech,” Key said in a statement released by the school. “Like I’ve said many times over the past two months, I love this team, and I couldn’t be more excited to be their head coach. We will work unbelievably hard to make our fans, alumni and former players very proud of this program.”

Cabrera said Key’s history with Georgia Tech as a student, player and assistant coach was important.

“As an alum, he understands and cares deeply about this place and our extraordinary student-athletes,” Cabrera said. “He’s not only incredibly competitive but will do everything he can to make sure students grow as athletes, professionals and human beings.”

Georgia Tech had interest in Tulane coach Willie Fritz before choosing to promote Key.

“There was strong interest from across the country to be the next head coach at Georgia Tech, and we conducted an exhaustive national search,” Batt said. “At the beginning and end of the search, it was clear that the best choice for Georgia Tech is Brent Key.”

ESPN was first to report Georgia Tech had focused its search on Key.

Collins was 10-28 in his fourth season. When announcing the move with Collins, Georgia Tech also fired athletic director Todd Stansbury, who hired Collins. The school hired Batt, a former deputy athletic director at Alabama, as its athletic director on Oct. 14.

After Key was named interim coach, the Yellow Jackets beat two ranked teams, Pittsburgh and North Carolina, on the road. Georgia Tech finished 5-7 overall following Saturday’s 37-14 loss at No. 1 Georgia.

Even in the loss, Georgia Tech’s improvement showed. The Yellow Jackets trailed Georgia only 10-7 at halftime.

Key was Alabama’s offensive line coach from 2016-18 following 11 seasons at UCF. At UCF, Key coached under George O'Leary, who was his coach at Georgia Tech.

O’Leary said Georgia Tech made “a great decision” in promoting Key.

“I watched very closely this season as Brent took over and saw things move in the right direction,” O’Leary said. “It was clear that the team responded to the changes he made and played hard for him.”

Hugh Freeze asks Auburn fans for ‘chance to earn your trust’

Jake Crandall / USA TODAY NETWORK
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AUBURN, Ala. – Hugh Freeze‘s checkered past in the Southeastern Conference means he’ll have to win more than just games. He’ll also have to win over Auburn fans.

Freeze’s return to the league more than five years after his scandal-plagued exit was greeted by considerable backlash on social media from wary fans. The former Mississippi and Liberty coach had to talk about his past during Tuesday’s introductory news conference as much as his belief that Auburn can make a quick turnaround, urging fans to “please give me a chance to earn your trust.”

“Give me some time. Get to know us. Get to know our family. Get to know the truth of our story,” Freeze said. “And I think the ones who have done that have said, `Man, you know what, I kinda like this guy and this family.’

“But that’s all you can ask is, man, give us a chance to earn your trust and I think you’ll like the end result.”

His message clearly resonated with athletic director John Cohen. Now he has to win over fans tired of embarrassments, including the failed 21-game tenure of former coach Bryan Harsin.

Auburn gave Freeze a six-year contract worth at least $6.5 million annually, making him the eighth-highest paid coach in the SEC. The buyout, if Freeze is fired without cause, would be 75% of his remaining contract.

Freeze resigned from Ole Miss in the summer of 2017 after school officials uncovered a “pattern of personal misconduct” starting with a call to a number used by an escort service from a university-issued cellphone. The program ultimately landed on NCAA probation for 21 violations of academic, booster and recruiting misconduct mostly under Freeze’s watch.

Still Cohen, who was at Mississippi State at the time, said Freeze was his top choice from the outset.

“Coach Freeze was completely transparent about his past transgressions,” Cohen said. “He showed remorse, and he’s had an accountability plan that he’s used for the last five-plus years.

“Everything he disclosed to us turned out to be accurate, after speaking with credible industry sources. In this way, Coach Freeze was honest and truthful.”

Freeze’s hiring was delayed after a former Liberty student emailed Auburn officials about a direct message the coach had sent her defending the Flames athletic director after she had made critical comments. The woman said she was sexually assaulted at Liberty and had reached a settlement, a case that pre-dated Freeze’s arrival.

Cohen did not take questions from reporters at the news conference and later declined to comment when asked about the direct message by The Associated Press.

Freeze has gone 103-47 on the field in 13 seasons at four programs, but 27 of those wins at Ole Miss were vacated because of NCAA violations. He spent the last four seasons at Liberty.

Freeze’s first move was to keep Carnell Williams on staff as running backs coach and associate head coach. Williams, a former Auburn All-America running back, was interim coach for the final four games.

He was a candidate for the head job, interviewing with Cohen about a week ago. Williams expressed his support of Freeze.

“I did have the opportunity to state my case, but look, that’s old news,” said Williams, who attended the news conference. “Like I told them whenever they brought me the news, honestly, they looked more disappointed than me. They were, `I’m sorry.’ But I’m like, I’m disappointed, (but) I’m not upset.”

Freeze isn’t the first high-profile coach with NCAA baggage that Auburn has hired. Bruce Pearl was hired while in the final months of a show-cause penalty stemming from violations that led to his ouster from Tennessee.

Pearl has turned the program into an SEC power, but not without more trouble.

Auburn self-imposed a postseason ban two years ago stemming from a bribery scheme involving former assistant coach Chuck Person. Pearl served a two-game suspension and players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy were ruled ineligible for at least one season. Person later pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy charge.

Now, Freeze is getting his own second chance to change the script in the SEC.

“I don’t know if rewriting the story is exactly the right word,” he said. “But it’s going to make for a good ending.”