‘Gemon was punched, Ja’Den was trying to help’: Jim Harbaugh talks ‘sickening’ Michigan-MSU incident

‘I can’t imagine that this will not result in criminal charges,’ Harbaugh says

Jim Harbaugh spoke on Oct. 31, 2022, about the altercations between Michigan and Michigan State players in the Big House tunnel. (Getty Images 2022)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Jim Harbaugh said he “can’t imagine that this will not result in criminal charges” after seeing videos from the Michigan football tunnel altercations between Michigan State players and Michigan defensive backs Gemon Green and Ja’Den McBurrow.

“What happened in the tunnel was egregious,” Harbaugh said. “(It’s) sickening to watch the videos, the ones that are on social media right now, and also the ABC tunnel cam that’s in a higher elevation that shows much more of what took place.”

The fights broke out after Saturday night’s Michigan-Michigan State game in Ann Arbor. Following the Wolverines’ 29-7 victory, there was a minor scuffle on the field before players began filtering into the locker rooms.

While most of the Spartans were heading toward the tunnel, Green and McBurrows were the first Wolverines to do so.

“They were walking up the tunnel exactly how they have each of the last games,” Harbaugh said. “Those two players did the same thing the Penn State game, did the same thing the previous games. They go up the tunnel with the other players.”

A social media video appears to show several Spartans involved in an altercation with McBurrows. Another appears to show Green being struck with a helmet.

“They’ve given all their statements to the police,” Harbaugh said. “They were walking up the tunnel together. You can see that in the video. Gemon was punched, and then Ja’Den was trying to help. I’ll let the investigation proceed from there.”

Harbaugh said the two players have injuries, but wouldn’t elaborate any further. He doesn’t know if Green, a starting cornerback, will be available for this weekend’s game against Rutgers in Piscataway.

This is the second game in a row with some sort of incident in the Michigan Stadium tunnel. At halftime of Michigan’s dominant win over Penn State, some Nittany Lions players threw peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the Wolverines, according to Michigan’s team dietitian.

Harbaugh didn’t have a lot of patience for Penn State coach James Franklin’s complaints about the tunnel, and that hasn’t changed after this week’s incident.

“The tunnel’s been in existence for nearly 100 years,” Harbaugh said. “When it comes to halftime, there’s a specific procedure. The visiting team is closest to the tunnel. They exit and go up the tunnel first, Michigan team comes to about half-field, just past half-field, forms almost a crescent moon, waits until all the visitors and their staff have gone into the tunnel. Once they’re into the tunnel, completely into the tunnel, then the Michigan team starts moving into the tunnel. The other team goes up the tunnel, they turn left, go into their locker room. The Michigan team follows and then goes into our tunnel.

“After the game, we’ve never had any kind of incident. Those are the people that are accountable. The video shows four, five, six on one, and four, five, six on another, dragging them into a -- Ja’Den was pulled into, you saw it, where the media is in that hallway.”

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker announced late Sunday night that four players have been suspended. Harbaugh said there’s an ongoing police investigation.

“There needs to be accountability,” he said. “There needs to be a full, thorough, timely investigation. I can’t imagine that this will not result in criminal charges. The videos are bad. It’s clear what transpired. It seems very open and shut.

“I’m coming from this from a perspective of being a parent, and these young men are entrusted to me by their families, and to our program, and we have the responsibility to each player to treat them like our own, and I take that responsibility very seriously.”

He said this has been a “traumatic experience” for Green and McBurrows, and that an apology isn’t enough.

“There should be serious consequences for the many individuals that are culpable,” Harbaugh said.

When asked whether he thinks the intensity of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has gone too far, Harbaugh didn’t want that used as justification for what happened.

“I don’t buy any excuse that’s going to be laid off on the rivalry or the tunnel or any other thing that somebody could possibly blame,” Harbaugh said. “These are the actions of these individuals, and they need to be accountable for them.”

He said he has not heard from Tucker since the game.

RELATED: Don’t blame tunnel, trick play, ‘skipping’ for what happened after Michigan vs. Michigan State game

Here are Harbaugh’s full comments about the tunnel incidents:

Jim Harbaugh said he “can’t imagine that this will not result in criminal charges” after seeing videos from the Michigan football tunnel altercations between Michigan State players and Michigan defensive backs Gemon Green and Ja’Den McBurrow.

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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.