The lawsuits also refer to a November 2012 game against the Cincinnati Bengals when, the lawsuits allege, [Jovan] Belcher "suffered what should have been recognized as an acute concussion." However, the lawsuit continues, "despite exhibiting obvious symptoms, Decedent was never removed from play for evaluation and recovery."
More than a year after his shot his girlfriend to death, then drove to a football stadium and killed himself, Jovan Belcher was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive brain disease that destroys the mind and is linked to concussions. There is no way to diagnose CTE while someone is still alive, at least not yet, but we know what causes is: Repeated blows to the head, the kind of hits that happen in contact sports.
As football fans, we've learned to deal with this over the last several years. Some of us tell ourselves that these players choose to play football, others support efforts to make the game as safe as it can be, and other just ignore the noise about brain injuries as best they can. As long as someone is willing to suit up and take the occasional blow to the head, we're going to watch.
But with the new knowledge about concussions and CTE, with the news of cases like Belcher's and that of Dave Duerson, who by all appearances intentionally shot himself in the chest so that his brain could be studied -- with all that evidence accumulating, there's also a degree of responsibility incumbent upon football coaches and upon us, as fans, to call them out if they fail on player safety.
Brady Hoke failed. He should be fired immediately.
This is not something that is confined to the Michigan fan base or even the Big Ten. Coaches who flagrantly or incompetently ignore the warning signs of a head injury and allow players to remain in the game are endangering the future of the sport and, far more importantly, the lives of young men who have been entrusted to the program. Everyone has a responsibility to speak out until Michigan does the responsible thing and puts the lives of its players first.
For those who aren't familiar with the story, Michigan quarterback Shane Morris took a hard hit to the head in Saturday's game against Minnesota and was allowed to remain in the game for a short time, then put back in the game later. Back to one of the things we think we know about CTE: One of the ways to make the brain damage from a concussion even worse is to have a second case of head trauma quickly follow the first case. Concussions are bad enough; repeated concussions over a short period of time are a dire risk to the mind.
Hoke has tried twice since the game -- first in a statement released over the weekend that said nothing, and then in a press conference on Monday -- to defend his actions as it relates to Morris. One of his lines of defense has been that he doesn't know of a concussion diagnosis for Morris now and certainly wasn't aware of one at the time.
That's not enough. Morris showed symptoms that are consistent with a concussion. He should have been immediately removed from the game and undergone a screening at least as rigorous as the one used by the NFL, which "takes about 8-12 minutes." There is no margin for error when you're talking about someone's mind, which holds their memories, their judgment and their sense of self. You do the responsible thing before you know whether the player has a concussion. Only after you know that a player doesn't have a concussion do you put him back on the field. Anything else is not just grossly irresponsible, it's inhumane.
There's also another dangerous notion floating around out there: Brady Hoke is going to be fired at Michigan sooner or later, so why don't we just let that process play out? But that's unacceptable. Hoke has outsized influence on the safety of dozens of players on Michigan's football team. He is in a position that demands he do everything possible to avoid allowing one more player to face the same fate as Jovan Belcher.
Hoke failed to do that Saturday in a mistake that reflects poorly on himself, Michigan and college football. He shouldn't get another chance.