Michigan quarterback Shane Morris suffered a concussion after all. In a statement released early Tuesday morning, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon apologized for a "serious lack of communication" that allowed Morris to be reinserted without proper neurological testing.
"We now understand that, despite having the right people on the sidelines assessing our student-athletes' well being, the systems we had in place were inadequate to handle this unique and complex situation properly," Brandon said in his statement.
Morris took a hit to the head Saturday during Michigan’s 30-14 loss to Minnesota. After the hit, he wobbled around and stayed on his feet by leaning on a teammate. Morris stayed in the game for one play and later returned for one more play when the new quarterback, Devin Gardner, had to leave the game by rule after his helmet came off.
Brandon confirmed that Morris was diagnosed Sunday with a "probable, mild concussion" and a high ankle sprain. That contradicted a statement Monday by Michigan coach Brady Hoke, who said his impression was Morris had not been diagnosed with a concussion, and reflects a high level of dysfunction within a major college football program.
Hoke had said Monday that Morris would have practiced Sunday if not for a high ankle sprain.
"We would never, ever put a guy on the field when there's a possibility of head trauma," Hoke said. "We won't do that."
Now Michigan says that's exactly what it did. Hoke had said Monday that a statement would be forthcoming from Michigan's medical department. Instead, the athletic director described his version of the sequence of events.
"That probable concussion diagnosis was not at all clear on the field on Saturday or in the examination that was conducted post-game," Brandon said. "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. This is another mistake that cannot occur again."
According to Brandon, Michigan's medical and coaching staffs did not see the hit to Morris' chin and thus believed he stumbled because of his ankle injury. Team neurologist Jeffrey Kutcher, a leading expert in the concussion field, was watching further down the field and also did not see the hit, Brandon said.
"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. "Shane came off the field after the following play and was reassessed by the head athletic trainer for the ankle injury. 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."
The neurologist and other team physicians were unaware that Morris was being asked to return to the field, and Morris returned to the game when he heard his name called, Brandon said.
"Under these circumstances, a player should not be allowed to re-enter the game before being cleared by the team physician," Brandon said. "This clearly identifies the need for improvements in our sideline and communication processes."
Brandon identified two procedural changes Michigan will implement immediately:
• Putting an athletic medicine professional in the press box or video booth to have view up high of the field action. The person will have TV replay available and the ability to communicate with medical personnel on the sidelines.
• Reinforce Michigan's sideline communication processes and how decisions will be made so information about player availability is communicated between medical officials and coaches.
"I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made," Brandon said. "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."
The NCAA is considering the possibility of creating a process to enforce concussion rules, as opposed to issuing guidelines. NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline said Tuesday he has "full confidence" Michigan will correct its mistakes without formal requirements by the NCAA.
"I just know they have the capabilities to address this and get it right," Hainline said. "I think it brings up the whole other issue of having a more formal review in place. Say we did. We'd go back to the school and say what's your emergency plan and communication plan?
"You could have the most brilliant people on the sideline, but if the plan isn't rehearsed, it doesn't matter. That, to me, is the essence of where things begin and end. Michigan rightfully saw there was a breakdown."