Ann Arbor, MI (SportsNetwork.com) – Devin Gardner will return to the starting
quarterback position for Michigan when the struggling Wolverines take the
field Saturday at Rutgers following a tumultous week for the program.
Head coach Brady Hoke confirmed Gardner’s re-insertion atop the depth chart
after the fifth-year senior was benched in favor of sophomore Shane Morris for
last week’s game against Minnesota.
Morris sustained a mild concussion during the Wolverines’ 30-14 loss but was
allowed to return to the game despite not being cleared by the team
neurologist, a decision that has drawn heavy criticism upon Hoke and athletic
director Dave Brandon from the media as well as Michigan students and
supporters of the program.
Brandon released a statement Tuesday in response to the controversy,
acknowledging that there had been a “serious lack of communication” between
the medical staff and the coaches in regards to Morris’ injury.
Morris, who had suffered an ankle injury earlier in the game, stumbled and
appeared dazed after taking a hit from Minnesota’s Theiren Cockran in the
fourth quarter. He stayed on the field for one more play before being pulled
to the sidelines, but later returned for another play on the same drive.
Brandon said the training staff did not see the hit Morris took and believed
the stumble was a result of the previous ankle injury. According to the
statement, the neurologist was in the process of making his way to evaluate
Morris when he went back in the game.
“The neurologist and other team physicians were not aware that Shane was being
asked to return to the field, and Shane left the bench when he heard his name
called and went back into the game,” Brandon said. “Under these circumstances,
a player should not be allowed to re-enter the game before being cleared by
the team physician. This clearly identifies the need for improvements in our
sideline and communications processes.”
The athletic department’s handling of the situation prompted several students
and fans to form a protest on the lawn of university president Mark
Schlissel’s residence Tuesday, calling for Brandon’s resignation.
During his press conference on Wednesday, Hoke supported Brandon’s remarks
while reaffirming that he and his coaches do not have final say on whether an
injured player should be put on the field.
“I take responsibility for our student-athletes and I would take it for their
health and welfare, but I also made clear that I don’t make decisions on
injuries and that shouldn’t be a coaches’ decision,” said Hoke. “That’s why we
have some of the best trainers, some of the best doctors in the country. They
will, unchallenged, have the full authority to make those decisions.”
Hoke told reporters on Monday that he had not been informed that Morris may
have been dealing with a concussion during the game. He said Morris has been
ruled out for Saturday’s tilt.
Gardner had started 16 straight regular-season games at quarterback prior to
last week’s loss, but threw six interceptions as the Wolverines split their
first four contests of 2014. Two of those picks came in a 26-10 home loss to
Utah on Sept. 20 that led to Morris being named the starter against Minnesota.