Michigan students rallied on the steps of the university president’s on-campus residence Tuesday night, calling for the removal of the school’s athletic director and head football coach.
At issue is the school’s handling of a head injury suffered by Michigan quarterback Shane Morris during Saturday’s 30-14 loss to Minnesota.
Early in the fourth quarter, Morris took an hit to the chin from the helmet of 6-foot-6, 255-pound Minnesota lineman Theiren Cockran. Morris, who was knocked to the ground, struggled to keep his balance when he returned to his feet and had to be supported by a teammate.
But Morris motioned to the sideline that he did not wish to leave the field, and he remained in the game for another play. He was not hit on the ensuing play and was then sent to the sideline.
“It is appalling that he was left in on that play to throw the ball again as badly as he was hit by Cochran,” ESPN announcer Ed Cunningham said as Morris walked off the field.
Three plays later, Morris returned to the field for a single play.
“This is atrocious to me,” Cunningham said.
Morris was then removed for the remainder of the game.
Watch the series in question below. (The hit in question comes at the 2:20 mark.):
After the game, Michigan coach Brady Hoke tried to explain why Morris was left in the game:
“Shane wanted to be the quarterback,” Hoke said. “And so believe me, if he didn’t want to be, he would have come to the sideline.”
Many onlookers have been critical of that reasoning.
“It is not up to a 19-year-old quarterback who has already got his head banged by someone else’s helmet to determine his own health,” John Bacon, author of several books about college football, told NPR’s Here & Now on Monday. “That is a ridiculous protocol, and one that clearly failed here.”
Early Tuesday morning, Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon released a statement, in which he said, “In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline.”
From the field level and without the benefit of replays, medical and coaching staffs did not see the hit. Because they did not see the hit, the athletic training staff believed Shane stumbled because of his ankle injury. The team neurologist watching from further down the field, also did not see the hit. However, the neurologist, with expertise in detecting signs of concussion, saw Shane stumble and determined he needed to head down the sideline to evaluate Shane.
Shane came off the field after the following play and was reassessed by the head athletic trainer for the ankle injury. Since the athletic trainer had not seen the hit to the chin and was not aware that a neurological evaluation was necessary, he cleared Shane for one additional play.
But the statement has not quieted calls for Brandon’s resignation.
According to the Michigan Daily, the handling of the Morris injury is only one of the students’ grievances. Also in question are rising ticket prices and the team’s on-field performance.
“For the past two years, Dave Brandon has been treating students terribly,” junior Audrey Cords told the student paper. “People say that only students from wealthy families go to games anymore, and I had to pay $295 to see a crappy schedule and results.”
In his statement, Brandon said Morris has been diagnosed with a “probable, mild concussion.” On Wednesday morning, Hoke announced that Devin Gardner will replace Morris as the team’s starting quarterback for this Saturday’s game at Rutgers.