An ugly tunnel fight broke out following Michigan's win over Michigan State on Saturday.

Michigan’s football handily defeated Michigan State on Saturday. Usually, you’re not going to get much controversy from a 29-7 final. And in terms of what happened on the field, this game was no different. An incident that happened off of the field, though, will be talked about for a while.

When the game was over, video from the tunnel leading to the locker rooms emerged. It showed several Spartans engaged in a fight with one Michigan player, who appeared to be Ja’Den McBurrows.

There are two ways of looking at this. One is to criticize the fight itself. And given that it’s several Spartans against one Wolverine, the Michigan State players deserve plenty of criticism — which is exactly what they got.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel also weighed in, saying “What happened after the game was completely unacceptable,” adding that the Big 10 commissioner, as well as the police, are “looking into it.”

But as valid as those criticisms all are, there’s another point that can’t be missed.

This is not an isolated incident. In Michigan’s last game, there was an issue in the tunnel between the Wolverines and Penn State. That led to a war of words between coaches Jim Harbaugh and James Franklin. Another incident occurred in 2021, when Michigan hosted Ohio State. That issue involved essentially the entirety of both teams. And even that was essentially a replay of what happened between the two teams in 2013.

There are several talking points, here.

None of the previous issues in the tunnels at Michigan Stadium exonerate what happened on Saturday. Fights on the field are bad enough. Fights in the tunnel are worse. But when those fights are several players from one team against one from the other, there’s no defense. The Wolverines not handling the tunnel enough doesn’t do anything to let the Spartans off of the hook for what happened.

That said, if an issue comes up once, it can be treated as isolated. If it comes up twice in as many games, it’s a little harder to do that. But now three times in less than a year? There’s an issue that needs to be fixed there, as well.

It could come in the form of a renovation, similar to what Notre Dame Stadium did recently. For years, the Fighting Irish and their opponents entered and exited the field through the same tunnel. That’s no longer the case. Or, short of that, there needs to be better monitoring of the teams as they enter and exit the field. None of that means that the Michigan State players are let off the hook here. But moments like this are preventable with better monitoring.

[Matt Charboneau, Sam Webb]

About Michael Dixon

Michael is a writer and editor for The Comeback Media. Fan of most sports, nerd when it comes to sports history. Bay Area based for now. Likely leaving sometime early in 2023.

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