Does Big 10 Football Have a Visitors’ Locker Room Crisis on Its Hands?
18 Oct, 2017By: Michael Popke
Purdue University officials fired back at University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh after he criticized the visitors’ locker room at Ross-Ade Stadium on Sept. 25.
“We had to open the doors to get ventilation going in a small area and people are walking by [outside] watching you dress,” Harbaugh said in a press conference two days after his Wolverines dismantled the Boilermakers, 28-10, on Sept. 23. “The number of urinals or bathrooms for the players and staff, I think there [were] two. Not even a private door around it. And, mainly, the health and safety of the players. Very small space for a training room.”
Apparently, Harbaugh was most frustrated with the lack of medical technology available after Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight left the game in the first quarter following a vicious sack.
In a four-paragraph statement issued later that day, Purdue officials said they would “fully support a conversation regarding a conference-wide set of guidelines for visiting football team accommodations because we have experienced less-than-ideal conditions on the road. There is no place for gamesmanship when it comes to player care and safety.
“The after-the-fact concerns expressed by Michigan are somewhat surprising because a member of its football staff conducted a walk-thru of our facilities with our athletics department staff at Ross-Ade Stadium on July 18,” the statement continued.
“Furthermore, to help teams prepare in advance, our visiting team manual highlights in bold type, ‘There is no air conditioning in the (visiting) locker room,’ with accompanying Purdue athletics staff contact information about how to request preferred temporary accommodations. We did not receive any such request.
“Basic x-ray is available within our athletic footprint and more-sophisticated capabilities are located two blocks away, similar to the arrangements at many other schools,” the statement concluded. “Our sports medicine staff members, in fact, have received numerous compliments from their Michigan counterparts regarding the care they received at Purdue.”
Ross-Ade Stadium, built in 1924, is one of the Big Ten’s oldest football stadiums. Purdue recently opened a $65 million football facility that did not include upgrades for the visitors’ locker room, according to The Washington Post. For a video of the visitors’ locker room at Ross-Ade Stadium, click here.
Harbaugh was quick to not point his finger at Purdue only. “This is league-wide,” he told the Big Ten Network. “It needs to be addressed by the league. It needs to be addressed by the commissioner, and we’re going to lead the way.”
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer chimed in, telling the university’s daily newspaper, The Lantern, that “[t]hese players do a lot for us and do a lot for our conference. They should be treated right and that’s very clean environment, obviously the proper heat, proper air conditioner, air conditioning and a sanitary environment. And I would imagine that from this point forward that their people will look at that very closely.”
The Big Ten responded to an inquiry from ESPN about making visitors’ locker rooms more appealing: “Big Ten member institutions have direct access to conference governance and policy development, so if any institutions have game management procedures that warrant discussion at the conference level — including those related to student welfare, health and safety, film exchange, media services or any other game-related procedures — there are processes and opportunities to do so. While current conference policy does not set minimum specifications for team locker rooms, most, if not all, of our sports and game management procedures come from recommendations based on the experience of our schools and are supported by a vote of the majority of our members.”
But not every Big Ten coach is troubled by the condition of visiting team locker room facilities: “I have other things to work about or think about, “ Maryland’s second-year head coach D.J. Durkin told Lafayette, Ind.’s Journal & Courier. “As long as there’s a place you can use the restroom, take a shower and change your clothes, beyond that it’s whatever.”