Michigan Football Apologizes For Letting QB With A Concussion Play
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Michigan plays Rutgers in college football this weekend. It is the first game since a controversy for Michigan. Last weekend, the team sent a player with a concussion back onto the field. This amid so much attention to the long-term effects on the health of players. The university says it's taking steps to prevent incidents like that from happening again. And we have a report this morning from Quinn Klinefelter of member station WDET.
QUINN KLINEFELTER, BYLINE: Last weekend, Michigan quarterback Shane Morris hobbled to the sideline having just absorbed a hard hit to the head. But when his understudy lost his helmet and by rule had to come out of the game, Morris was sent back in. Even the ESPN announcers broadcasting the game were aghast.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ED CUNNINGHAM: He can barely stand up. I am - this is not good player management. We've talked about player safety in this game, guys getting hit in the head. This is atrocious to me.
KLINEFELTER: Morris had outward signs that suggested he had a concussion. But at a news conference days later, Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke said the quarterback was banged up, not concussed.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BRADY HOKE: What I can tell you is we would never - ever - put a guy on the field when there's a possibility with head trauma. And we won't do that. Guys play beat-up every day. If they're not beat-up a little bit, then they're not doing much.
KLINEFELTER: Shortly afterwards, the university issued a statement that the young quarterback had, in fact, suffered a concussion. The university president publicly apologized to the player and his family. The athletic director, Dave Brandon, said the team's medical staff did not communicate effectively with each other or the coach in diagnosing the player's condition. And about 1000 Michigan students marched to the front lawn of the president's home to deliver a message.
(SOUNDBITE OF MICHIGAN STUDENT PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Fire Brandon. Fire Brandon.
KLINEFELTER: Students like sophomore Angie Rousten say the reaction is equal parts frustration and fear - frustration that Michigan's famed football program, which was a draw for many attending the university, has floundered on the field in recent years, and fear that the officials in charge of the health of student athletes so obviously failed this time.
ANGIE ROUSTEN: I feel like that was wrong on everyone's part. You can't blame just one person like Dave Brandon. I feel like it's a whole bunch of people in the athletic department.
KLINEFELTER: As Michigan heads to New Jersey for this weekend's game against Rutgers, members of Congress are examining the university's athletic department, too. U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell of New Jersey chairs the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. He says the NCAA has issued guidelines for how universities should deal with head injuries, but no truly enforceable rules.
REPRESENTATIVE BILL PASCRELL: And I've fought the NCAA for not making it mandatory. The NFL - it took them so damn long to get going, but now they recognize what the story is. When you wind up with vegetables that are 45, 50 years of age, you know, we have serious problems.
KLINEFELTER: For its part, beginning this weekend, Michigan will station a medical profession in a press box, watching the action from above the field and on a television monitor, ready to radio reports of possible head injuries to trainers on the sideline. The hope is the team can identify and address concussions far more quickly before any additional damage is done to a player or the beleaguered football program. For NPR News, I'm Quinn Klinefelter in Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.