Under fire for a disappointing 2-3 record Brady Hoke added to his problems with a convoluted explanation of how the team handled multiple injuries to quarterback Shane Morris during Michigan’s 30-14 loss to Minnesota.
Just as Michigan appears to be a program living on past glory, its coach appeared to be a relic from the days when players got their bell rung and just went back for more.
Hoke fielded a number of questions about Morris' injury but dodged giving direct answers when pressed for specifics. He sounded like a curmudgeon, angry that people would question his judgement.
Hoke would never let an athlete play after a possible concussion—but didn’t see the actual play. He assumes that someone checked on Shane Morris before he returned—but couldn’t say for sure.
Hoke defended the team’s actions during Monday’s press conference even as criticism continues to mount as a video clip of a dazed Morris circulates on the web.
It shows Morris on the receiving end of a vicious hit to the helmet which left him leaning on offensive lineman Ben Braden before staggering back to the team’s huddle. It's hard to watch the clip and not understand why somebody didn't step in.
A national television audience saw it. People in the crowd at Michigan Stadium saw it. Journalists in the press box saw it.
But Brady Hoke missed it, and nobody on the sideline intervened to pull Morris off the field.
Even after seeing the video he refused to admit that Morris should have been pulled from the game. When given an opportunity to re-evaluate his decision, he sounded more like a lawyer than a football coach concerned about his players.
"Again, you're being hypothetical, and we’re not going to work in [hypotheticals],” said Hoke on whether seeing the play on Saturday would have changed his decision.
After viewing the tape he did send it to Big Ten for possible sanctions against the defender who Hoke believes illegally targeted Morris.
But he placed the responsibility on players to decide if they should take themselves out, even though a head injury would impair their judgement to make such a decision.
"[Players] love to compete and they love to play. So if you’re asking about that mentality I think that’s what they all have," said Hoke "That’s what they’ve done since whenever they started playing the game. I think they also know if the injury is one where you don’t think you can continue to go to go down."
This statement reflects an attitude that is out of step with what medical professionals know about the danger of concussions. Practically no player at any level of football would pull themselves out of a game and certainly not a player the caliber of Shane Morris. You don't get a scholarship at Michigan without being hyper-competitive.
Dealing with concussions is a huge problem for football at all levels. Hoke could have addressed Michigan’s protocol for dealing with injuries while admitting that teams—all teams—need better ways of evaluating head injuries.
When a Michigan wrestler died while cutting weight in 1998 athletic director Tom Goss instituted a number of safety protocols to make the sport safer spurring the NCAA to do the same. That tragedy caused Michigan to take the lead for the safety of it student-athletes but today that leadership was nowhere to be found.
Athletic director David Brandon, himself a former backup quarterback, could have showed up and discussed the pressure for players to perform but he was no where to be seen. Later after Hoke's performance was ripped in the media, Brandon tried to distance himself from the mess by releasing a statement detailing how the athletic department treated Morris. It revealed that after further evaluation he was "...diagnosed with a probable, mild concussion."
This disclosure would have been welcome at Hoke's press conference. Instead he gave no clear answer on what he had learned from Saturday’s potential injury to Morris.
And his performance reminded everyone why his time at Michigan is nearly over.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted all quotations obtained firsthand.