Flag-planting incidents draw ire of Big Ten office

David McCoy

Followed by several players, Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney stormed onto the field after upsetting then-No. 21 Michigan 23-20 Saturday and attempted to plant the Minnesota flag in the center of Michigan’s M logo at midfield of Michigan Stadium.

Because the field was made of turf, it didn’t stick. But it did stick with the Big Ten commissioner’s office.

Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi said Wednesday that he received a memo from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany saying those types of actions won’t be tolerated.

“It was just like, ‘We don’t need this in college football,’ and he’s right,” Maturi said. It seems to be an issue that maybe is becoming more prevalent, and we don’t want that to happen. Let’s play the game, shake hands when it’s over and go on with the next one.”

Maturi said the memo did not contain any specific questions or requests for a course of action.

“That’s not Commissioner Delany’s style,” Maturi said. “We are not immune to having issues or incidents that we don’t want to have happen. We do all we can to educate and to teach our young people what is appropriate and what is not, but on occasion, something inappropriate happens. This is one of those.”

Attempts to reach Delany by phone were unsuccessful. Assistant commissioner Scott Chipman said Delany was out of the office and declined to discuss the memo.

“As far as the flag-planting incident goes, that is something we are working out with the teams and at this point we have no further comment,” Chipman said.

When asked about the incident after the game, Maroney said he regretted his actions.

“Because somebody told me what it meant,” Maroney said Saturday. “I’m not like that. I don’t mean no disrespect to nobody’s team. I never knew what it meant and no disrespect to them, because they played their hearts out.

“I don’t know man, some of the defense was like, Let’s put the flag in the middle. And, you know, I don’t know nothing about it, I don’t know what it means, so I just ran out there with them and put the flag in the middle.”

Maturi said he didn’t see the incident occur, and he believes coach Glen Mason did not see it either.

Maturi also said Mason “appropriately” spoke with Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, Maroney and the other players.

“Obviously, it is not appropriate for anyone in college athletics to respond that way, whether it’s the excitement of the moment or not,” Maturi said. “It’s my understanding that it’s not the first time it happened this year and I think that’s why the memo came out.”

This is the second such incident the Big Ten has experienced this season. After beating Notre Dame 44-41 in overtime Sept. 17 in South Bend, Ind., Michigan State planted its flag on the field of Notre Dame Stadium.

Marching Madness

Maturi said he has received a number of e-mails criticizing him for allowing Wisconsin’s marching band to play at Saturday’s 11 a.m. game between the Gophers and Badgers at the Metrodome.

“I try to politely respond and say, ‘This is college football. This is very common,’ ” Maturi said. “I guarantee you at Notre Dame this week, Southern (California) will have their band there. It’s part of the pageantry.”

Fans have been critical in the past, saying Wisconsin’s band has been rude and played out of turn.

When the ticket office closed at 6 p.m. Wednesday, about 1,200 tickets were still available, but only about 300 of those seats are without an obstructed view, said Dan Teschke, athletics ticket office manager.

“Let’s hope there’s going to be a significant number of Gophers fans there,” Maturi said. “Because there’s going to be a significant number of Badgers fans and it should be one heck of a game.”