We here at Dawg Sports rarely comment on Big Ten football. Frankly it's all we can do to keep up with the epic on field action and crazy off field hijinks of the SEC. But this morning we're making an exception.
By now you may have seen the video of quarterback Shane Morris taking a vicious hit during this weekend's shellacking of the Michigan Wolverines at the hands of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Morris was first left in the game when he clearly shouldn't have been following the hit (he threw an incomplete pass and fortunately avoided getting Hulk smashed again). But when backup Devon Gardner's helmet came off forcing him out of the game, Michigan coaches sent the clearly dazed Morris back into the game rather than the third stringer. If you haven't seen the sequence, have a look here.
Hoke declined comment on the situation after the game, which is understandable in a sense. He needed to take a step back and evaluate how he and his staff responded to this situation. Viewed in the best light it was a horrible job of player management and a huge risk to his player's safety.
Then last night Brady Hoke and the Michigan athletic department did something monumentally stupid. They issued this statement. It includes this gem:
"Our coaches have no influence or authority to make determinations if or when an injured player returns to competition."
No matter how you look at it, Brady Hoke looks bad here. Obviously, Hoke does not truly believe that as the head coach of a college football team he is powerless to decide when players do and do not reenter a football game. Instead, he is attempting to hide behind the wall between coaching and training staffs in determining when players are physically able to return to competition. The fact that a trainer says Morris is okay to return doesn't mean Brady Hoke or his assistants have to put him back in. Insinuating otherwise is ridiculous. If in fact Brady Hoke does not believe that the buck stops with him on whether or not an injured player re-enters the game, then he's the one who needs to be checked for a head injury.
One imagines that the Michigan training staff is not at liberty to discuss Morris's situation independently of Hoke, so all of this makes a great smokescreen for Hoke's dumb move. But it also points to something larger. Gone are the days when a coach could ask a 19 year old kid if he felt okay, then send the woozy guy back in to tough it out. There are cameras now, as there have been for some time, but there's now also an awareness that sending a hobbled pocket passer into the game with a possible concussion to serve as a human pinata is a morally reprehensible thing to do. It's something that fans, writers, and administrators can no longer ignore.
Make no mistake, Brady Hoke is not long for his position as head football coach at the University of Michigan. After losing 9 of 13 football games at one of the winningest programs in America this much was a foregone conclusion. However, what Hoke has now done in attempting to extricate himself from the Morris flap is given every athletic director in America a good, politically salient reason to not even look at his resume in the event that it ever crosses their desks in the future. Until later . . .