University of Michigan head football coach, Brady Hoke, decision to allow quarterback Shane Morris to continue playing after he took a violent hit to the head in his team’s 30-14 loss to Minnesota is inexcusable, and in my opinion a dismissible offense.
The play occurred in the fourth quarter when Shane Morris took a hard hit and was visibly dazed, so much so that he needed assistance in standing up. Despite needing to lean on teammates in order to maintain his balance, Morris was allowed by Coach Hoke to stay in the game for one more play.
ESPN’s Ed Cunningham called the decision “appalling”:
“I got to tell you right now that No. 7 is still in this game is appalling. It is appalling that he was left in on that play to throw the ball again as badly as he was hit by [Minnesota]. To have No. 7 in the game on a gimpy leg after a hit like that, that is terrible looking after a young player.”
Coach Hoke compounded the issue two plays later when he decided that instead of using the third string quarterback, he would put Shane Morris back into the game after the quarterback who replaced him had to leave the field because his helmet fell off. Shame Morris was later carted off of the field of play.
After the game, Coach Hoke said he didn’t know if Shane Morris got a concussion and that he didn’t see that he was wobbly. He stated that Morris is tough and if he were concussed he wouldn’t have wanted to go back in the game:
“I don’t know if he had a concussion or not, I don’t know that. Shane’s a pretty competitive, tough kid. And Shane wanted to be the quarterback, and so, believe me, if he didn’t want to be he would’ve come to the sideline or stayed down.”
Coach Hoke, you may not have known if Shane Morris was concussed or not, but you should have. You are his coach, his leader and his guardian – and as such are responsible for looking out for his safety. Coach Hoke, your blindness if the form of a win/loss record allowed you to ignore the obvious to the point where you put a young player at risk of serious injury: injury that could have resulted in his death. What football player, or parent of a football player, would now want to play for you after seeing what you just put Morris through?
Especially since Michigan Athletic Director, Dave Brandon, confirmed that Shane Morris did, in fact, suffer a concussion in a statement wherein he apologized for miscommunications that allowed Morris to continue playing.
Luckily the University of Michigan and Coach Hoke’s actions have not gone unnoticed. U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., has contacted Big Ten Commissioner, Jim Delany, requesting that he begin an investigation into how the matter was handled.
Congressman Pascrell is the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force and in his letter to Commissioner Delany stated; “allowing a possibly concussed player to determine whether or not he is fit to return to play not only violates common sense, but is also an egregious violation of standard concussion protocol.”
Congressman Pascrell’s letter then cites head coach Brady Hoke’s comments about the situation from Monday.
“During a press conference on Monday afternoon, Michigan coach Brady Hoke initially stated that he “[didn’t] know if [Morris] has a concussion or not.” Hoke also stated that “Shane’s a pretty competitive, tough kid. And Shane wanted to be the quarterback, and so, believe me, if he didn’t want to be, he would’ve come to the sideline or stayed down.” Allowing a possibly concussed player to determine whether or not he is fit to return to play not only violates common sense, but is also an egregious violation of standard concussion protocol, including protocol set forth by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Big Ten Conference.”
Congressman Pascrell asks for Commissioner Delany to investigate the matter and “reexamine the protocols in place and what changes can be made to improve them” while also establishing “penalties for violations of concussion protocols.”
Additionally, University of Michigan students turned out Tuesday evening for a massive protest against Coach Hoke’s actions, chanting on the center of the campus before ultimately marching to the Michigan president’s house. This protest spotlights how times have changed and the issues of concussions and player safety have taken a backseat as to whether or not a team wins on Saturday.
While fans continue to love the physicality of the sport, in seems now that many are now becoming vocal guardians for their players’ safety. But in all honesty, fans are not the player’s guardian – that role lies with the Head Coach. Coach Hoke, as Shane Morris’ guardian, you failed miserably.