ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Roughly 12 hours after embattled Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he’d been given no indication that quarterback Shane Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion, athletic director Dave Brandon revealed in a post-midnight statement that the sophomore did appear to have sustained one.
That capped a bizarre day in which Michigan tried to address questions about the coaching staff’s handling of Morris, who took a violent hit in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to Minnesota.
“In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline. Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes,” Brandon said in a statement released shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday. “I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made.
“We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first.”
Morris took a crunching hit from Theiren Cockran on Saturday and briefly looked as if he was having trouble standing, but he remained in for the next play and threw an incompletion before coming out of the game.
Devin Gardner replaced him, but later on that drive, his helmet came off at the end of a play. While Gardner sat out for a play, as required, Morris went back in and handed the ball off to a running back.
Asked Monday if Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion, Hoke said: “Everything that I know of, no.” Hoke said Morris would have practiced Sunday night if not for a high ankle sprain.
But in his statement, Brandon said: “As of Sunday, Shane was diagnosed with a probable, mild concussion, and a high ankle sprain. That probable concussion diagnosis was not at all clear on the field on Saturday or in the examination that was conducted postgame. Unfortunately, there was inadequate communication between our physicians and medical staff, and Coach Hoke was not provided the updated diagnosis before making a public statement on Monday.”
Brandon said he has had numerous meetings since Sunday to determine what happened with Morris. He said Morris had been treated for a sprained ankle earlier in the game, and medical staff on the sideline believed that was why he stumbled while trying to walk around after being hit by Cockran.
“The team neurologist, watching from further down the field, also did not see the hit. However, the neurologist, with expertise in detecting signs of concussion, saw Shane stumble and determined he needed to head down the sideline to evaluate Shane,” Brandon said.
As for how Morris went back in after Gardner’s helmet came off:
“Shane came off the field after the (incomplete pass) and was reassessed by the head athletic trainer for the ankle injury,” Brandon said. “Since the athletic trainer had not seen the hit to the chin and was not aware that a neurological evaluation was necessary, he cleared Shane for one additional play.”
Brandon said the neurologist and other team physicians were not aware Morris was being asked to return to the field, and Morris left the bench when he heard his name called and went back into the game.
“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 communication processes,” Brandon said.
Brandon said Morris was examined for a concussion after the game and wasn’t diagnosed with one at that point.
Hoke was already facing pressure over Michigan’s performance this season. The Wolverines fell to 2-3 after losing 30-14 at home to Minnesota.
If there was one major point Hoke seemed to stress Monday, it was that he doesn’t have input into whether a player is healthy enough to play. If a player shouldn’t be going back in the game, that is the trainer’s call.
“I knew the kid had an ankle injury,” Hoke said. “That’s what I knew.”