By LARRY LAGE (AP Sports Writer)
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — 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 Monday.
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 Spartans player in the Michigan Stadium tunnel to spark the melee shortly after the fourth-ranked Wolverines beat their in-state rivals on Saturday night, and that 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.
“This has been a very traumatic experience for everybody, especially for Ja’Den and Gemon,” Harbaugh said.
Attorney Tom Mars, who is representing Green, said his client deserves to be compensated for his injuries that include a concussion.
“Severe consequences in this case will deter others who might think they can get away with brutally beating an opposing player and only get a slap on the wrist,” Mars told The Associated Press. “I’ve got news for the MSU players who did this to Gemon. They are going to feel the full wrath of the law.”
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. With the Michigan Marching Band playing the school’s fight song nearby, Crump is seen hitting Green in the tunnel on video captured by ESPN.
“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.
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.
“Those two players did the same thing the Penn State game, did the same thing the previous games,” Harbaugh said when asked why Green and McBurrows were not with the rest of their teammates. “They go up the tunnel with the other players.”
University of Michigan Deputy Police Chief Melissa Overton said an investigation began Saturday night in partnership with Michigan State police, Michigan’s athletic department and the Wolverines’ football program.
“The investigation is continuing,” Overton said Monday.
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 before the game and the coach responded by swiping the fan’s hand away. The fan was identified and ejected from the stadium, according to athletic department spokesman Kurt Svoboda.
Michigan State President Samuel Stanley apologized for the “violent” skirmish.
“On behalf of Michigan State University, my heartfelt apology to the University of Michigan and the student athletes who were injured,” Stanley said in a statement.
Harbaugh said Monday saying sorry is not enough, and Green’s attorney agreed.
“When college football players brutally attack a member of the opposing team with their helmets, resulting in the player suffering a concussion and other injuries, an apology won’t suffice,” Mars said. “There has to be severe consequences for this kind of misconduct.”
The Big Ten said Sunday it is gathering information and plans to take appropriate action.
It was the second straight game and third in seven games at Michigan Stadium that included an altercation in the long, narrow tunnel that goes up a steep incline from the field to the locker rooms.
Earlier this month, Penn State coach James Franklin said a policy change was needed to provide a more orderly use of the tunnel after words were exchanged at halftime. Last year, Ohio State and Michigan players had a highly charged confrontation in the tunnel at halftime.
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.
When asked if Tucker set the tone for his team’s behavior, Harbaugh declined to comment.
Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage
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