Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney issued the following statement, "The Big Ten and its member institutions, coaches, and student-athletes, and fans place a high value on competing fairly and with dignity regardless of the competitive outcome."
"The conduct of the players last week in the postgame environment violated our rules and expectations for student-athletes and as a result we have taken the aforementioned actions."
Twice this year, the Spartans have been on the short end of "fracas situations." First there was the Notre Dame situation when Spartan quarterback Drew Stanton got caught under the Notre Dame bench and Matt Trannon went to his rescue.
Notre Dame head man Charlie Weis claimed he was hit by a Spartan player to try to get off-setting penalties in what would have been a 15 yard late hit penalty against the Irish.
Replays and tape footbage show clearly that Weis was not hit in what John L. Smith later came to call a "cock and bull story." Weis was not penalized by Notre Dame, and since they are not a member of a conference for football, his serious accusations, which appear to be false, went unpunished.
It also appears the Illini should have gotten the more severe penalties in that they intiated the fracas with an attempted flag planting at mid-field. The reason being is that the Big Ten outlawed flag planting last year in October of 2005 after Minnesota planted a flag in Ann Arbor against the Wolverines. The Spartans previously planted a flag at Notre Dame earlier in 2005 and two times were enough for the Big Ten to take action. Therefore the rule was installed to avoid the very skirmish that appeared on the field Saturday. Perhaps Ron Zook didn't get the memo.
GSN was able to obtain some home footage of the incident that showed that the Illini headed to the center of the field led by Illini players EB Halsey and Remond Williams among others to plant the flag. Spartans players fought back, led by Bobby Jones, Reggie Graham, and Brendan Moss, who shared none of the Illini enthusiasm for their victory on the field.
Perhaps John L. Smith should get Jones, Smith, and Moss on the field more if they have that much enthusiasm to defend Spartan pride at all costs, something that has been missing from this team lately.
Sure, perhaps it was not the wisest of things to do in terms of sportsmanship, but you have to think that at least some of the coaches, fans, and alumni were at least inwardly pleased that the Spartans weren't further humiliated by a flag planting after being embarrassed by their play during the game.
Regardless, John L. Smith was contrite and said all the right things in his press release. In fact, he sounded like one of those Big Ten public service announcements for good sportsmanship.
"I'm disappointed by the way some of our players conducted themsleves after last Saturday's game against Illinois," stated Smith. "I apologize for the inappropiate behavior, and I congratulate Illinois on its hard-fought victory."
"It's important that our student athletes conduct themselves with class, before, during, and after competition. It's vital that our team promotes positive sportslike conduct at all times. That message has been delivered to our football team," concluded Smith.
So there you have it, perhaps more inspired play during the game for the Spartans will help avoid any more post-game embarrassments in the future.
Note-The Big Ten Conference and MSU's official press release contributed to this article.