Friday, November 08, 2013
(EAST LANSING, MI)---Nearly a week after the Michigan State University (MSU) football team annihilated its rival, the University of Michigan (U-M), 29-6, the institution called a press conference for 4 pm ET on Monday.
"The university has decided to erect a statue in honor of former Michigan running back, Mike Hart," said Joe Smothwick, spokesperson at Michigan State University. "It is not often that a university builds a statue in honor of a student-athlete from another school, let alone a rival athletic program. But, the recent context and the history of the two programs made it overly apparent that we had to appropriately recognize his achievements to this rivalry."
The statue will be erected on the south end of Spartan Stadium, directly in front of Gate A, where the student body enters the stadium. "We want MSU students to see Mr. Hart in perpetuity and make their own judgements about his contributions before they enter the stadium. The decision is as much an honor as it is an educational exercise." The university has requested bids from artists on the style, size, and consistency of the statue. However, a budget was not released.
"We welcome input from the proud Spartan alumni on the material to be used to construct the statue," added Smothwick. A survey will be released to ask for public input on several different substances to be used in the construction: maize, straw, timber, or solidified manure. These materials were considered based on Michigan State University's agricultural history.
The rationale for the decision was stated by Smothwick as he referenced comments from 2007. At that time, Hart called Michigan State University the "little brother" of the University of Michigan; and the stinging response by MSU coach Mark Dantonio, who was in his first year as MSU head coach: "The pride comes before the fall." On the day of Hart's comments, MSU lost to U-M in a heated contest, 28-24. Since that point of time, the Spartans have defeated the Wolverines in five of six meetings, including last Saturday - the largest margin of victory for the Spartans over the Wolverines since 1967.
"President Simon and her cabinet have discussed this periodically in each of the past three years; obviously, those plans were put on hold a year ago" (following U-M's miraculous 12-10 victory without a touchdown in 2012), said Smothwick. "But, after Saturday... well, there's no doubt we need to honor the man for his contribution to Michigan State football."
Smothwick referred to tensions between the rival football powers, which heated up after current U-M running back Mark Touissaant referred again to MSU as "little brother." Touissant was a non-factor in the recent contest, gaining just 20 yards on eight carries as the team rushed for -48 yards, the fewest in the history of the storied program. Noted current MSU linebacker Denicos Allen after the obliteration on Saturday: "You can call us what you want, call us little brother, big brother. But when it is on the field we show who is the big brother is and who is the little brother."
The decision was prompted by recent collaborations among the presidents of the two schools, LouAnna Simon at MSU and Mary Sue Coleman at U-M. For instance, there will be a swap of each president to each other's institution as honorary commencement speakers this fall. The positive dialogue between the presidents has helped to quell the tensions in athletics... leading to this olive branch from Simon to Coleman, but instead in the shape of a statue.
"On Monday, President Simon contacted President Coleman, and both agreed it was the right thing to do to honor Mike Hart. It's unanimous: we Spartans are proud of Mr. Hart's contributions to Michigan State football."