Locker rooms the hot topic in Big Ten football

1:55 p.m Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 Journal-News Sports
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer waits to lead the team onto the field before a game against UNLV on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

Big Ten football coaches gave new meaning to the phrase “locker-room talk” this week. In this instance, the visiting locker rooms were literally the topic thanks to Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.

The Wolverines won 28-10 at Purdue on Saturday. Then on Monday, Harbaugh complained about the accommodations for his team at Purdue’s Ross-Ade Stadium, criticizing the “tight, cramped environment.” Teams across the conference have made a conscious effort, he said, to provide their opponents with locker rooms lacking air conditioning or, in the case of late-season-games, proper heating.

“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. “The number of urinals or bathrooms for the players and staff, I think there was two. Not even a private door around it.”

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Purdue took issue with Harbaugh’s criticism. In a statement posted to Twitter, the school said it 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.

“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.”

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Not long after Harbaugh’s comments, Ohio State Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer was asked about his opinion. It seems Harbaugh is not alone in thinking the Big Ten can do better.

“I’ve shared it with our athletic director, and the commissioner should handle that,” Meyer said. “All due respect, this is the Big Ten Conference.”

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio faced the same question about visiting locker rooms. He didn’t want to discuss his thoughts in detail but said, “I can tell you that our locker room in the past was not very good. We put stalls up. But our locker room right now is a $29 million locker room. I think it will fit the bill.”

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Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano didn’t want to tell his stories about bad locker room experiences. He said he doesn’t need anything more out of a locker room than an area to get dressed.

“This is my belief,” Schiano said. “Whatever’s dealt to you, you find a way to either ignore it or make it an advantage, so if you can’t make it an advantage it’s not going to be a disadvantage. You don’t talk about it. You don’t acknowledge it. It’s not just with the players. You don’t do it with anybody. You just go about your business.”

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