Miscommunication leads to stake plant at Spartan Stadium

Miscommunication leads to stake plant at Spartan Stadium

Updated Mar. 4, 2020 1:58 p.m. ET

When you think of Michigan football tradition, the first things that spring to mind are the winged helmets and the Big House.

In the past few years, though, there has become a new entry on the list: miscommunication. 

This weekend in East Lansing, it happened again when linebacker Joe Bolden jammed a giant spike into the Spartan Stadium turf as his teammates taunted the Michigan State bench. The bizarre gesture angered Mark Dantonio and eventually led to MSU going for a final touchdown in the final minute.

"Throwing the stake down in our backyard out here and coming out here like they're all that -- that's disrespectful," Dantonio said after his team posted an easy 35-11 win. "It just felt like we needed to put a stake in them at that point."


On Sunday, Brady Hoke issued apologized for the spike and said it was caused by, of course, miscommunication.

"I want to publicly apologize to Coach Dantonio as well as the players and supporters of Michigan State for our act of poor sportsmanship displayed pre-game yesterday," the statement said. "I spoke with Mark earlier today and expressed to him that we meant no disrespect to his team. During our regular Friday night team meeting, one of the topics presented to motivate our team was a history lesson addressing commitment and teamwork in a tough environment. A tent stake was presented to the team as a symbol of this concept. The stake was brought into our locker room as a visual reminder, and one of our team leaders chose to take it out on the field.

"As the leader of our football program, I take full responsibility for the actions of our team. We believe in displaying a high level of respect at the University of Michigan and unfortunately that was not reflected by this action prior to kickoff."

Bolden not checking with his coach before his ill-fated attempt to goad the Spartans is just the latest in a long list of communication problems inside Michigan's football program. It started with Rich Rodriguez's staff not understanding the responsibilities given to them by the university's athletic-compliance-department, leading to extra workout time and the first major NCAA violations in program history.

Since Dave Brandon and Hoke took over, though, misunderstandings seem to be the order of the day. There was the rogue macaroni noodle that had fans worried about advertising in Michigan Stadium, a skywriter who wasn't supposed to be putting "Go Blue" into the skies over Spartan Stadium and tickets being given away with bottles of Coke.

More recently, and more seriously, there was the lack of communication about Shane Morris's brain injury. Not only was he allowed to go back into the game despite concern from the medical staff, Hoke was hung out to try when he wasn't informed of Morris's diagnosis before his Monday press conference.

If the team was winning, these things would be forgotten. But at 3-5 on the day after a second-straight blowout loss to the Spartans, they just add to the impression that the nation's winningest program is careening out of control.