Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports

December 27, 2013

MSU suspends Max Bullough on eve of Rose Bowl trip

TRAVERSE CITY — Local fans expressed shock and disappointment over ex-St. Francis star Max Bullough’s mysterious suspension from the Michigan State football team on the eve of the Spartans trip to the Rose Bowl.

“I’m disappointed,” said former Spartan quarterback and local attorney Pat Wilson. “I have no idea what the circumstances are. I haven’t heard anything. But it must have been a serious misjudgment.

“I’m so sorry for Max and his family. This is the last person I would expect — on the eve of the Rose Bowl trip — to be in this circumstance.”

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio announced the suspension in a statement early Thursday, but did not specify what team rule Bullough violated. A check of Grand Traverse area court records Thursday gave no indication Bullough ran afoul of the law here.

Bullough, who led St. Francis to state titles in 2008 and 2009, was a first-team all-Big Ten linebacker and academic All-American this fall for the 12-1 Spartans. Bullough’s grandfather, Hank, played for Michigan State in the early 1950s, and his father Shane followed in the mid-1980s. His younger brother Riley is a redshirt freshman linebacker. Another brother, Byron, is a senior at St. Francis, who has committed to Michigan State for 2014.

Jim Teahen, a 1968 Michigan State graduate, said Bullough’s suspension caught him by surprise.

“Disbelief at first,” he said. “But I’ve not heard anything to tell me why. It surprises me because I think he’s a pretty quality individual.

“It’s disappointing certainly. He’s (Bullough) a key player. I give Dantonio a lot of credit for being willing to bench somebody if they don’t follow team rules.”

Dantonio remained steadfast Thursday in refusing to specify why he suspended Bullough. Instead, he stuck to his statement.

“It is extremely disappointing for all parties involved,” Dantonio said in that statement. “We will stay focused and close ranks as we prepare for Stanford. Max will forever remain a Spartan and valued member in this team’s achievements.

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

In 2011, Bullough, then 19, pleaded guilty to a charge of minor in possession of alcohol during a spring break trip to Colorado. He received nine months of probation.

Tom Hardy, St. Francis athletic director, said he “got a lot of inquiries from a lot of people” Thursday.

“But honestly I don’t know anything about it other than what I read in the press release,” he said.

“I’m disappointed for Max. I know how much this game, his career, has meant to him. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family — and for the Spartans, coach Dantonio and for everybody that’s involved. It’s obviously a very tough situation.”

Wilson has ties to the Bulloughs. He played with Hank Bullough in the 1950s. The two have stayed in touch and remain good friends.

“His (Max’s) grandfather is special in my life,” Wilson said. “Shane (Max’s father) is certainly special in my life, as all the kids have been.

“I think we all are in shock. We know Max as an exceptional young man. Whatever circumstances that developed, that got him off track, I’m very sorry about. But I have faith in coach Dantonio and his staff. They must have felt justified in this suspension. I regret the circumstances and only hope for the best for the Spartans and for Max, who I have high regard for. Max is going to survive this.”

Bullough, a team captain, has been a three-year starter at Michigan State. He had 76 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss this season, earning him third-team All-America honors.

Joel Gaff, who is on the local Michigan State alumni board, called the suspension a “shame.”

“The team has high standards,” he said. “It’s good they are not going to make an exception if he apparently broke a team rule.

“But what it (violation) is we don’t know yet.

“This has happened before (in college sports). Players break the rules and coaches stand by the rules and even if it’s a big game, the biggest of their careers, it’s, ‘Hey, you broke the rules so you have to live with the consequences.’”

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