MSU football: Max Bullough, suspended for Rose Bowl – “You don’t want to let them down”

LOS ANGELES — The landing gear from my flight hit the ground at LAX around 12:40 ET, or 9:40 here. Flipped on the phone to call family to let them know the trip went well. Got a few email notifications, too, that I waited to check.

Hung up with my mom and opened my inbox for a two-paragraph bombshell: MSU coach Mark Dantonio released a statement shortly after midnight ET that senior middle linebacker Max Bullough has been suspended for the Rose Bowl.

Details were scant, and the timing (12:18 a.m. ET, a few hours after the Spartans arrived in Los Angeles, late on Christmas night, with reporters either in transit or asleep for early-morning flights) adds some significant layers of complexity to getting those specifics overnight. Here is Dantonio’s statement in its entirety:

“Max Bullough has been suspended for the remainder of the season for a violation of team rules. It is extremely disappointing for all parties involved. We will stay focused and close ranks as we prepare for Stanford on January 1 in the Rose Bowl. Max will forever remain a Spartan and valued member in this team’s achievements.

“We will have no further comment on this issue.”

A neutron bomb delivered down the chimney on the eve of MSU’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 26 years. Dantonio certainly realizes plenty more questions are ahead about the situation and circumstances. The Spartans and Stanford will hold a joint Rose Bowl kickoff press conference at 5 p.m. ET at Disneyland, which will be the coach’s first availability.

Bullough’s absence all of a sudden becomes the biggest story of this Rose Bowl. This is the two-time captain and nerve center of the nation’s best defense we’re talking about. And make no mistake: Missing that Jan. 1 game – which Dantonio has pointed to since arriving after the 2006 season – will tarnish Bullough’s on-the-field legacy, regardless of what his transgression might be.

Earlier this month, Bullough was named a first-team Academic All-American (3.56 GPA in finance), so it’s highly unlikely that it is grade-related. He also took part in MSU’s bowl media day on Dec. 17.

The Rose Bowl folks obviously expected Bullough to be here. His name was listed for Friday’s MSU defense press conference (along with coordinator Pat Narduzzi, Shilique Calhoun, Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis). That email went out at 12:31 a.m. on Christmas Eve and was forwarded along with no changes about 10 hours later by MSU Sports Information.

The Detroit News confirmed early Thursday morning that Bullough did not make the trip to Pasadena with the Spartans. The team’s 269-passenger charter flight arrived early Wednesday evening.

One of the stories I spent last week reporting on for this week was about the positive change and lack of off-field issues surrounding MSU’s program since the Rather Hall fight in 2009. Obviously, this more or less torpedoes that piece. Bullough had one of the rare run-ins with the law since, when he and former tight end Brian Linthicum were arrested in Colorado on spring break in 2011. Bullough eventually pleaded to a lessened charge of underage alcohol possession and received probation. By all accounts, that appeared to be an isolated incident.

On Dec. 17, I asked him about what the change in culture around MSU’s program has been like – never expecting to use these quotes in a piece on Bullough himself. Here’s our conversation:

Q: How much of this team’s character is a result of its success, and how much of the success is a result of what’s happened with the character of this team?

BULLOUGH: “Well, I think any time you have a team that wins a lot of games – a team that wins consecutive years in a row – it comes down to the type of guys you have. We talked about handling adversity last year, handling success two years before that and this year. And those are things that come from the character of the guys. And those are things that allow you to win games, to win consistently. And those are the type of guys that coach D recruits. I think they go hand-in-hand. I think having good guys and having consistent success, they go hand-in-hand. You have to have one to have the other.

Q:  Have you noticed a difference in the moral fiber of the players coming in over time? Has that changed or has it been cultivated?

BULLOUGH: “I think it’s cultivating. We’ve always had a lot of great guys come in. A lot of seniors in high school are the same – they all think they’re gonna play the first year; I was the same way. But it’s been cultivating. It’s been setting the example and then proving the example. The more times you do thing – you get things wrong, you get things right – the better you become. Ultimately, that’s what we’ve done here. And every senior class, I think, has done a better job at it. They’ll do a better job next year than we did this year.

Q: How have you guys held each other accountable to prevent things from happening that may either tear down what you’re building or may reflect negatively on the program?

BULLOUGH: I mean, it’s just about acting as a team, acting as one. It’s about not wanting to let the next guy down. You see how much they do and how much they put in for you, because you’re part of the team. Really, that guy working, he’s doing his thing, but he’s putting it in for the team. And ultimately, you’re part of the team. So you don’t want to disappoint, you don’t want to let them down. You don’t want to do that.

A little more than two hours after the MSU email arrived announcing his suspension this morning, Bullough took to Twitter and sent a message to fellow linebacker Taiwan Jones. Jones was lamenting the time difference between EL and LA and wondering if anyone back east was awake.

Bullough replied: “you kno im not sleepin bru]” (sic)

Take that for what you will. I reached out to Bullough via Twitter and asked if he wanted to talk or had a statement. No response. Didn’t really expect one, either, without knowing what the circumstances might be. He deserves a chance to give his side.

However, when the senior captain takes to social media in the wee hours of the morning after being suspended, he does open himself up for questioning. A stunned fan base is looking for answers, explanations and/or apologies.

After a long and unexpectedly chaotic Christmas night, I’m off to bed (don’t even ask me about the 2-plus hours in the LAX rental car line while this whole Bullough thing played out). Expect plenty on this story from LSJ.com, GreenAndWhite.com and Freep.com throughout the day. I will be heading to the MSU-Stanford press conference at Disneyland and (hopefully) have more then from Dantonio and others.

This entry was posted in Bowl Games, Football, Mark Dantonio, Michigan State, Rose Bowl, Sports and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to MSU football: Max Bullough, suspended for Rose Bowl – “You don’t want to let them down”

  1. avatar Jmac says:

    This is heartbreaking news, Max is a great Spartan.

    However, do not underestimate the linebackers available. They can play and Stanford is not trying to play chess out there. This team and this defense can get the job done.

    • avatar CardFan says:

      Actually, Stanford is trying to play chess out there.

      Lots of different run-blocking schemes and a lot of audibles to take advantage of the defensive alignment just before the snap.

      “The Computer” was actually my key concern reading up for the game, being the brain of a very proactive front seven. Watching footage of him counter audibles and direct the defense was definitely spine chilling. I don’t think Stanford has faced any LB who was that aware or analytical this season.

      I am disappointed the Tunnel Workers won’t get to test their prowess against the Spartan D-line at its best.

      • avatar Jmac says:

        Road grading straight ahead with Gaffney and 8 olinemen is pretty much checkers. That is exactly what Stanford wants to do, and it isn’t that complicated.

        Two ways to beat it, be more physical or be quicker. I predict the MSU defense will be the quickest Stanford has faced all year. Very likely to be as physical too.

  2. avatar MGC72 says:

    I predict that Max will prove himself an even better leader than he has been on the field by encouraging his teammates to carry on and to follow (most) of his example.

  3. avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

    Another difference between Dantonio and Hoke. Lewan punches a OSU fans and scUM and Hoke blow it off. Dantonio suspends the leader of the defense. I agree with Jmac also, MSU is very deep and LB and I expect them to play hard, Ed Davis is playing like a machine and will be the leader of next year’s team. Stanford is going to do what they were going to do with Bullough out there: run, run, run

    • avatar Spartan 81 says:

      Hoke would be calling Delaney to delay the suspension Dantonio has clear rules and boundaries and that’s the difference between the two programs.

  4. avatar Tanner says:

    This is some little brother *edited*. Unless he straight up murdered someone he should be playing. He would be at Bama, OSU, Auburn, Oregon or any of the other big boys.

  5. avatar pat says:

    I would rather lose honorably than win dishonorably. I stand with the coaches decision.If Mr Bullough is the man I think he is ,he will stand up admit his error and back his coaches decision.He will apologize to his teammates .and the university. These are life lessons being learned here not just football.

    • avatar Larry says:

      Very we’ll said, and for the future players looking at MSU to learn they are accountable for their actions and decisions on and off the field this speaks volumes. Couldn’t be more proud of Coach “D” & staff.

  6. avatar SpartyOn says:

    How are we supposed to think, feel, or say anything until we know what he did?

  7. avatar SteveL says:

    Integrity is what MD demands from his players. If you don’t measure up you don’t participate, period. More of this is needed in college ( if not pro) sports. I wonder how many brains do you have if you know the rules but still flaunt them. A sad call but necessary one to maintain integrity for the program. Players need to be accountable, even if it hurts.

  8. avatar Green Bay Fan says:

    Hats off to Coach Dantonio – as a long time Wisconsin Badger Fan I have always had the greatest respect for Michigan State’s Football coach and this move reconfirms it all the more. Contrast his action with the Ohio State coach who allowed one of his players to play in the Big 10 Championship game against Michigan State after “flipping” off the Michigan fans just one week earlier. Congratulations MSU fans on a great program and a great coach – good luck next week, beat Stanford, you’ll have earned it.

  9. avatar Travis says:

    LeeBee and a lot of you others have short memories. Saint Mark must not have had a rule against drunk driving and spending 10 days in jail when he let Chris Rucker start the next game just two days after taking the cuffs off.

    • avatar MSU Owns Hoke says:

      hey Travis, Frank Clark committed 2 felonies and he starts on the M D-line, and what about Lewan beating up a dude, but Floyd I mean Hoke swept it under the carpet, you can leave now.

  10. avatar Jim Longwell says:

    I wouldn’t like to be in Max’s shoes when he has to explain to Shane and Hank how he managed to get suspended!

  11. avatar K.T says:

    I respect Mark for what he did if Max broke a rule/rules. I am greatly disappointed that the action needed to be taken. Go Green Go White Go State
    Show Max that the team can win without him.

  12. avatar K.T says:

    I respect Mark for what he did if Max broke rule/rules. I am greatly disappointed that the action needed to be taken. Go Green Go White Go State
    Show Max that the team CAN win without him

  13. avatar Powertrain says:

    I’m thinking Max cheated on his schoolwork (a la ND’s Golson) or bet on games. Hard to imagine suspension “for the rest of the season” for anything else.

    • avatar David C says:

      I would be shocked if it was an academic cheating issue. Max is an Academic All American, moreover, he was not only selected as one of the 171 semi-finalists for the 2013 Campbell Trophy (for college football players, this is the academic version of the Heisman), but he eventually was chosen as one of the 16 finalists (John Urschel of Penn State won the award two weeks ago.)

    • avatar '89 Chemistry says:

      With a one-game season, it was essentially a one-game suspension plus forfeiture of traveling to CA with the team. It has by all accounts been Dantonio’s policy to categorically suspend a player for a game in second-violation cases for over three years now. Since Bullough had a 2011 MIP conviction in Aspen, CO, this unknown action (or inaction) would be Bullough’s second violation of team rules. Whether he killed somebody or got a parking ticket or was a little late for curfew does not matter for Dantonio. Whatever happened, Dantonio had no choice but to bar him from team activities until it is time to turn in equipment.

  14. avatar JustaBum says:

    Wow, this is truly an irresponsible and foolish comment.

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