ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan Stadium’s lone tunnel – the site of altercations between players as they enter and exit the field – will be a little wider next season.
The school confirmed that it will remove a portable section of seats from the front of the tunnel to give players, coaches and staff members more room to enter and exit the football field.
Previously, fans were close enough to touch coaches and players as one spectator did last season with Michigan State’s Mel Tucker well before the postgame altercation between Spartans and Wolverines players that led to suspensions and criminal charges.
A total of 45 portable seats will be lost and enough standing-room only tickets are expected to be added in the stadium to keep its capacity at 107,601.
“This decision was made after a thorough review for the health and wellness of everyone who uses the tunnel to get on and off the field,” Michigan spokesman Kurt Svoboda said.
The Big Ten fined Michigan State $100,000 for its role in the stadium tunnel altercations and reprimanded Michigan for failing to “provide adequate protection for personnel of both home and visiting teams when entering and leaving playing arenas,” per conference policy.
Penn State coach James Franklin said in October that there should be a policy in place to prevent teams from heading to the locker rooms at the same time and suggested the need for some sort of buffer to separate them.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh bristled, saying Franklin acted as a “ringleader” when a lot of heated words were exchanged and Wolverines players reportedly said Nittany Lions players threw peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at them.
For the final two games of the season, Michigan did keep players and coaches from Nebraska and Illinois separate from the Wolverines in the tunnel.
The University of Michigan Board of Regents approved the athletic department’s request last year to name the tunnel after former coach Lloyd Carr, who led the program to its last national championship in 1997.