Opinion: Why the post-game melee at Michigan Stadium is bad for UM-MSU rivalry


Photo courtesy of The Detroit Free Press

Michigan State University defeated The University of Michigan last Saturday 10/30 in a highly anticipated game, 37-33.

The rivalry between the Michigan Wolverines (U-M) and the Michigan State Spartans (MSU) is the best two-sport, in-state rivalry in the country. 

In football, you’ve got Auburn and Alabama, and in basketball, you’ve got Duke and North Carolina. But neither of those rivalries compares to the intensity that comes out of Ann Arbor and East Lansing every time the two teams meet in football and basketball.

The rivals met on the gridiron for the 115th time on Saturday, Oct. 29 at Michigan Stadium, and although the Spartans haven’t performed like many expected them to this season, the game was still highly anticipated. 

U-M won 29-7, but the game was quickly in the rearview mirror thanks to some postgame fireworks that took place in the tunnel. U-M defensive backs Ja’Den McBurrows and Gemon Green were “assaulted,” according to Jim Harbaugh in a postgame press conference. 

Multiple videos were quickly released on Twitter of at least half a dozen Spartans physically manhandling McBurrows in the tunnel after the game. Law enforcement officials are looking into the situation.

In a statement released Sunday, MSU head coach Mel Tucker announced that four players — Tank Brown, Khary Crump, Angelo Grose and Zion Young — are suspended effective immediately, “until the investigations are complete.”

The rivalry has reached new levels of foolishness. Obviously there have been plenty of moments of hatred among the two teams, but this feels different.

In 2018, U-M linebacker Devin Bush interrupted MSU’s pregame march of the field and then followed it up with a vicious scraping of the Spartan logo at midfield prior to the game. 

There have been countless other scuffles in the past, but this year’s shenanigans are not okay.

There are 60 minutes in a football game. The players have 60 minutes to go out on the field and hit the opposing players as much as they want, without any consequences.

MSU, quite frankly, got outhit. The Spartans were outgained in the yards department, 443-252, and they failed to get into any sort of rhythm in the second half. 

After 60 minutes of pretty thorough dominance from U-M over MSU, the frustration from the Spartans is understandable. Emotions always run high in the rivalry matchup.

However, what happened in the tunnel at the end of the game is NEVER okay. McBurrows was being ganged up on in what Harbaugh described as a “10-on-1.”

In reality, it may have only been six or seven Spartans — but nonetheless, it is terrible behavior. 

There has always been hatred between the players, coaches and fans of both teams, but this crosses the line. Although neither team would like to admit it, there is a certain amount of respect given every year when the game comes around, but it was all lost on Saturday night. 

The rivalry has lost a lot of the respect it once had. It will be interesting to see how, or if, this altercation impacts the trajectory of the rivalry for the years to come. 

We may never see another night game in this rivalry ever again.