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It’s time Michigan State put an ugly incident behind it after 7 players were prosecuted

Seven Michigan State football players were charged Wednesday by the Washtenaw County, Michigan Attorney’s Office for their role in two post-game attacks on Michigan players last month in the Michigan Stadium tunnel.

Six were hit by administrative offenses. Only one, Khary Crump, security sophomore, was charged with assault. He was seen on video swinging his helmet at a Michigan player.

Die-hard Spartans fans weep over prosecutorial misconduct — Washtenaw County is based in Ann Arbor, which, of course, is home to the University of Michigan. Others still blame poor game management protocols that allowed two Wolverines to enter the tunnel when MSU left the field. Calling it Jim Harbaugh’s fault is also popular.

However.

Aside from Crump, the legal challenges should be easy to deal with. A Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving news isn’t exactly a sign that a prosecutor is trying to make too big of a deal out of it.

For the sane Michigan State supporters, there can only be one hope that this is officially the nadir for a nightmare season on and off the field. That may be wishful thinking, as State visits No. 11 Penn State on Saturday as an 18.5-point underdog.

When things get worse in state college, there’s always next year. Or rather, because that wasn’t acceptable or excusable—or shouldn’t be.

That’s the job ahead of Spartans head coach Mel Tucker, it’s clear, that very ship…and fast.

Things have not gone well for Michigan State soccer coach Mel Tucker and his program on or off the field.  (Photo by Aaron J Thornton/Getty Images)

Things have not gone well for Michigan State soccer coach Mel Tucker and his program on or off the field. (Photo by Aaron J Thornton/Getty Images)

He has a 10-year, $95 million contract based on the belief he could take MSU to Big Ten and national competitiveness.

It was made during a dream season that saw State start 8-0 and climb to No. 3 in the polls after beating rival Michigan for the second time in as many years. The team boasted star tailback Kenneth Walker III as a Heisman candidate and played with passion and purpose. It ended 11-2 and there were signs and T-shirts across the state that read “Tuck’s Comin'”.

Hopes were high. Recruitment looked strong. Exuding a great presence and personality, Tucker chewed cigars and brought luxury cars to recruit visits for photo shoots. The state seemed to have an identity, which is crucial when surrounded by three national powers and brands – Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

But then everything unraveled. State has been a mess this season and the tunnel fight was just an ugly punctuation of that. Tucker subsequently suspended eight players and had seemingly made a turn on the field by winning two games after the Michigan debacle and was on his way to bowl eligibility, which at least was something.

Then last week, State blew a 31-14 lead midway through the third quarter against modest Indiana, who were on a seven-game losing streak and were likely on the verge of firing their coach. The Hoosiers won anyway, 39-31 in double overtime. That dropped MSU to 5-6 with a win over Penn State this weekend, which was needed for bowl eligibility.

Making a bowl game at 6-6 isn’t much, but it would be better for State than the alternative. The extra practice and chance for young players to step up could allow for an early restart next season.

The program is desperate for something positive, which is why the charges certainly didn’t help.

Michigan and Ohio State also play out Saturday in another titanic matchup of their legendary rivalry, the biggest game in the Midwest, which because of its hype and lore has drawn generations of recruits eager to take part.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame, which currently has verbal commitments from Michigan’s top two recruits from the Class of 2024, will play USC in a showcase game of its own.

MSU is making headlines about class lawsuits.

State traditionally finishes with Penn State, an attempt by the Big Ten to give those programs a big matchup to even “The Game” in Columbus or Ann Arbor. MSU’s victory a year ago in East Lansing served as a celebratory conclusion to the season.

That was then. Well, who knows?

Winning at state college is rarely easy. It’s even harder to do with eight banned players.

Tucker is the same guy, the same trainer, as he was a year ago. The 50-year-old should be able to do that better. His program should be better than this.

Why it all got out of hand this year will require a massive analysis. With his big contract, his job is secure but it’s likely there will be personnel changes and further heavy pressure on the transfer portal to get things going. Saving, if not adding, to a top-heavy recruiting class is paramount.

The big order is a boon for him personally, but these things can also be a bit of an albatross. It’s a punchline, something that competing recruiters can poke fun at.

Of course, the veteran Wisconsin defender never backed down, and that’s not going to change this week or next year. Tucker is coming. It’s just that he’d better be right here, and fast.

Maybe Saturday at Penn State. Definitely next season, because that’s better the end point.

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