ROSEMONT, Ill. — This one goes out to J.T. Barrett’s knee, wherever it is. Because the bump heard ’round Columbus apparently is going to be felt in Ann Arbor for quite a while, too.
Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said Tuesday at the Big Ten spring AD meetings that sideline access at Michigan Stadium this fall likely will be further controlled — and in some cases, restricted — to protect the safety of the student-athletes and staff.
“One of the things [we’ve talked about], for example, for us, is how do we control the sidelines better, particularly with [the] incident with Ohio State?” Manuel said, referring to a right knee injury suffered by Barrett, then the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback, during a 31-20 win against the Wolverines on Nov. 25.
“And, in particular, when we had bands on the field when we play Ohio State and when we play Michigan State and, more than likely, when Notre Dame comes [in October 2019], it becomes very dense down there.”
While Michigan Stadium is the Big Ten’s largest in terms of capacity, its sideline space is among the smallest, a classic construct without much wiggle room on autumn Saturday afternoons.
When combined with marquee events such as visits from Michigan rivals such as the Buckeyes, Spartans and Irish, and the attendant media and marching band throngs that accompany that, it can occasionally make for a tight fit.
Which brings us back to Barrett. The senior from Texas reportedly was warming up behind the Ohio State bench prior to entering the game when he said someone with a camera attempted to squirt past him, bumping his knee in the process and reaggravating an old injury.
— Adam Cairns (@atomicphoto) November 28, 2017
Barrett would wind up leaving the game in the third quarter after throwing for 1 touchdown and running for another, and was replaced by backup Dwayne Haskins Jr., with the Buckeyes trailing 20-14.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer fumed after the contest, demanding an “all-out investigation.”
“We really don’t have large sidelines,” Manuel said, “so how do we do a better job of ensuring that people are where they need to be in the [moment], and movement wouldn’t cause any issue for the visiting team or the home team, or for us?”
With bands, support staff and broadcast media, Manuel said game-day operations at Michigan Stadium will have to be “more diligent … we need to continue to communicate with each other and help each other when we find issues in that way. And we’ll continue to do that.
“Everyone is moving in the right direction for the visiting team so we all can have some consistency. It’s not going to be perfect. But have some consistency in the experience.”