Jim Harbaugh: ‘Whining’ James Franklin looked like ringleader of Michigan Stadium tunnel incident

Scuffle broke out between Michigan, Penn State players at halftime of game

James Franklin head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions congratulates Jim Harbaugh head coach of the Michigan Wolverines after the game at Beaver Stadium on November 21, 2015 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Jim Harbaugh shared his side of the Michigan football vs. Penn State tunnel dust-up from last week, saying James Franklin looked like the “ringleader” of the ploy and that he doesn’t have time for “that kind of whining.”

At halftime of Michigan’s 41-17 victory over Penn State last weekend, players from both teams got into a scuffle on the way to the locker rooms.

READ: Michigan football puts ‘easy schedule’ talks to rest with dismantling of Penn State

Video of the incident surfaced on social media, and the Michigan team dietitian later said peanut butter and jelly sandwiches had been thrown at the Wolverines.

Franklin, the head coach of the Nittany Lions, complained about the Michigan Stadium tunnel during his media availability last week.

“The one tunnel is a problem,” Franklin said. “It’s a problem, and has been. To me, we need to put a policy in place from a conference perspective, in my mind, that’s going to stop (that). We’re not the first team to kind of get into a jawing match in the tunnel.”

Penn State head coach James Franklin watches against Michigan in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. (The Associated Press 2022)

Michigan players are adamant that the scuffle was sparked by Nittany Lions who talked throughout the week on social media and carried that into the first half of the game.

The Wolverines would eventually get the last laugh, running away from the No. 10 Nittany Lions with a 25-3 second half.

On Monday, after the bye week, Harbaugh was asked about Franklin’s comments.

“I’ve really got bigger fish to fry than Coach Franklin’s opinion on the halftime tunnel from a game ago,” Harbaugh said. “All you’ve got to do is walk into their locker room. I think you saw pretty clearly: They completely stopped. They weren’t letting us get up the tunnel, and it just seemed like a sophomoric ploy to try to keep us out of our locker room, and he looked like he was the ringleader of the whole thing.”

I’ll save you a few seconds: The definition of sophomoric is “pretentious or juvenile.” Harbaugh obviously believes Franklin was at least partially to blame for what happened in the tunnel.

But honestly, is it that big of a deal for two teams to be “jawing” at one another during halftime of a hotly contested contact sport? Harbaugh probably wouldn’t have said anything if Franklin hadn’t complained about a tunnel setup that, candidly, has functioned just fine for far longer than he’s been around.

It seems odd that Franklin went out of his way to make this a bigger deal even though it seemed like a fairly minor confrontation, and nobody was ejected or injured.

“I’ve got bigger fish to fry than worry about that kind of whining,” Harbaugh said.

The most pressing among those “bigger fish” is a visit from in-state rival Michigan State on Saturday. Harbaugh is looking for his first win over Mel Tucker after losing to the Spartans each of the past two seasons.


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Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.