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University Of Michigan Coach Under Fire For Playing Injured Quarterback

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The coach of the University of Michigan football team is under fire for putting his quarterback back in a game this past Saturday after he took a tough hit and suffered what turned out to be a concussion. The QB, Shane Morris, got up after the tackle but was visibly shaken and unstable.

Here's how the ESPN announcers calling the game saw it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ESPN BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: I've got to tell you right now that number seven is still in this game is appalling. It is appalling that he was left in on that play to throw the ball again.

MARTIN: Coach Brady Hoke pulled Morris after two more plays, but when the other quarterback had to go off the field, Hoke put Shane Morris back in the game. It took more than two days for Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon to release a statement confirming that Morris had suffered a quote "probable mild concussion" and the Michigan president said in a statement yesterday, we did not get this right.

Now students at the school are holding protests, calling for both the coach and athletic director to be fired. For more, we're joined by Alejandro Zuniga. He is the sports editor for the student paper The Michigan Daily.

Thanks so much for being with us.

ALEJANDRO ZUNIGA: Great to be here.

MARTIN: So Coach Brady Hoke said earlier this week that he never would've done this; he never would've put a player back in the game if there was a possibility that the player had suffered some kind of head trauma. So he says that he couldn't have known. What's been the response on campus to his statements?

ZUNIGA: The response has been absolutely overwhelming. From the student section it was very clear that Shane Morris had suffered a hard hit to the head. It was obvious that he was stumbling around the field so the fact that Brady Hoke came out afterward and said, hey, if there was even a chance that Shane Morrison had a head injury, we would not have put him back out there - it was disappointing, it angered a lot of people and it really led to the protests that happened yesterday afternoon.

MARTIN: There's been so much more focus in the general public about head injuries in football. Is this the first time this issue has come up at Michigan?

ZUNIGA: You know, in recent memory, yes. The fact that this was broadcast on national television, the fact that this was so obvious really fueled the fire. I'd probably say that the fact that the football team is performing so poorly had a little bit to do with it as well. Before the incident occurred on Saturday, early in the third quarter, the students were chanting to fire Dave Brandon, which, you know, you don't hear very often during a football game.

MARTIN: Coach Hoke has said that Shane Morris, the quarterback in question, indicated that he was fine and that he wanted to stay on the field. Do players bear some responsibility to step away from the field when they're hurt?

ZUNIGA: The comments Brady Hoke made about Shane Morris's behavior after getting hit in the head - perhaps those were the ones that angered fans the most. If you're looking at a kid who's in his late teens, early twenties, who has suffered head trauma and you are putting some of the blame on him for wanting to stay in a football game, when football culture says, hey, if you're hurt you fight through it. No pain, no gain. You know, there are medical staff on the sidelines. There are coaches on the sidelines and no, I don't think that blaming Shane Morris for wanting to stay in the game absolves Hoke of any responsibility.

MARTIN: So what is the upshot of all this? Students are calling for both Coach Hoke and the athletic director to be fired. Do you expect that that would happen?

ZUNIGA: Yes, I do. From a football standpoint, you have a Michigan football team that was shut out for the first time in decades that has three losses entering October for the first time ever. Fans are upset with Hoke. They have been upset with Dave Brandon for many, many years and this could be the straw that broke the camel's back. But it's not a straw, this is a major incident and standing alone, it could be cause for firings.

MARTIN: Alejandro Zuniga, he's a sportswriter for the student-run paper, The Michigan Daily. Thanks so much, Alejandro.

ZUNIGA: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.