Harbaugh Criticizes Facilities at Big Ten Schools

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Shortly after he was forced out of Saturday's football game with an injury, Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight was forced to climb into a minivan and leave Ross-Ade Stadium for X-rays.

Not by choice. But because Ross-Ade Stadium's visiting locker room did not have sufficient medical technology.

This was one of several problems Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh had with his team's visiting space provided by Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind. And moving forward, he wants the Big Ten -- Michigan included -- to take a deeper look at how opposing teams are welcomed in league stadiums.

"We are going to look at everything we can do for the visiting team here at the University of Michigan as it relates to a standard of care for the visitors," Harbaugh said Monday. "It's become apparent after going around to all the visiting schools the last couple years that a conscious effort of gamesmanship (is happening). It's unsportsmanlike when you have locker rooms that are too small, they're not heated or cooled properly. In this case, no air conditioning.

"Such a tight, cramped environment. We had to open the doors to get ventilation going in a small area, and people are walking by (outside) watching you dress. The number of urinals or bathrooms for the players and staff, I think there was two. Not even a private door around it. And, mainly, the health and safety of the players. Very small space for a training room."

Later in the day, Purdue released a statement responding to Harbaugh's concerns:

"The after-the-fact concerns expressed by Michigan are somewhat surprising because a member of its football staff conducted a walk-thru of our facilities with our athletics department staff at Ross-Ade Stadium on July 18.

"Furthermore, to help teams prepare in advance, our visiting team manual highlights in bold type 'there is no air conditioning in the (visiting) locker room,' with accompanying Purdue Athletics staff contact information about how to request preferred temporary accommodations. We did not receive any such request."

Harbaugh wanted to make it clear that he wasn't only calling out Purdue but did say the opposing locker room Saturday felt "no different than the facility I think I saw when I was there in 1986."

Before the game, Harbaugh gave some of his players the option of heading back onto the team's air-conditioned bus to prepare for the game -- as opposed to sitting in the uncooled locker room. The temperature was approaching 90 degrees at kickoff Saturday.

The biggest issue Harbaugh had, though, was the lack of medical equipment and/or space to treat injured players.

"I'm not putting this (all) on Purdue, this is leaguewide. It needs to be addressed by the league, it needs to be addressed by the commissioner and we're going to lead the way," he said. "There needs to be a way to X-ray a player at the stadium. There needs to be a minimum standard of care for the players. We put a lot of emphasis on health and safety of the players, but it didn't even seem sanitary.

"I wish I'd have taken a picture of the actual table that was given to the visitors to put the players on when they're injured. It looks like it was from the '20s. It was ripped. Just not good. I think that's a pattern in the Big Ten."

Shortly after Harbaugh's comments Monday, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer -- speaking to reporters in Columbus, Ohio -- said he agreed with Harbaugh's stance.

Harbaugh says he plans to look more into what Michigan is providing visiting football teams with regard to locker room space and medical equipment inside Michigan Stadium.

He also encouraged other coaches and leaders in the league to speak out on this matter.

"Injured players can't get an X-ray. Taken to a student health center in a van. We needed a brace for a player, and there wasn't one at the facility we were taken to. A lot of things needed to be addressed," Harbaugh said. "I would ask the rest of the Big Ten coaches to look into this as well. Make this a priority. We're talking about all our players here.

"We'll start first with us and make sure that when you have guests, when you have visitors coming in, their health and safety needs need to be addressed. ... It needs to be addressed by the commissioner, and I would hope it would be looked into immediately."

Baumgardner covers Michigan for the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network.

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September 26, 2017


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