When Michigan State University makes its first Rose Bowl appearance since 1988 Wednesday, it will be without senior linebacker Max Bullough.
The bombshell announcement that Bullough has been suspended for violating team rules came just after midnight Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reports.
MSU Coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement that “it is extremely disappointing for all parties involved” and that the team will “close ranks” in preparation for Wednesday’s game against Stanford.
Dantonio didn’t specify what rules Bullough violated. Free Press sports writer Joe Rexrode said that while he wouldn’t speculate on the reason for Bullough’s suspension before the biggest game of his college career, it probably wasn't "for something like a curfew violation.” A news conference is planned for later today in Pasadena.
Rexrode said that while one person can’t change the fortunes of an entire team, “One person doesn’t make a team or a program, Bullough’s suspension is “a crushing disappointment.”
“This defense relies heavily on Bullough, as a playmaker but more than that as a pre-snap quarterback,” he said.
Bullough is two-time team captain and was named to the All-America third team and All-Big Ten first team. He was also a first-team academic All-American, was recognized as a scholar athlete for the William Campbell Trophy – known as the “Academic Heisman.”
He “will forever remain a Spartan and a valued member in this team’s achievements,” Dantonio said in the statement
Last week, Bullough told The Detroit News that playing in the Rose Bowl and being part of the team that won the Big Ten title was beyond his dreams.
“It’s been everything we thought it was going to be and more,” he said. “It’s been a crazy experience and to be able to do it with the guys we did it with, the team we have, struggles we had early on, and then come back from that and come back in the game, it’s been a season of a lot of ups and downs and it’s been fun. Like I said, we need to finish the Rose Bowl the way we’ve played all year to make it a positive ending.”
In 2011, he and another teammate, then-senior tight end Brian Lithicum, were arrested after a spring break altercation in an Aspen, Colo., bar. Bullough, 19 at the time, was charged with an underage alcohol misdemeanor violation and received nine months’ probation.
His family has a storied history with the Spartans. His grandfather, Hank, and his father, Shane, both played for MSU, and his younger brother, riley, is a redshirt freshman on this year’s squad.
His family members were equally excited about seeing him play in the Rose Bowl.
“They’re just as excited as I am,” he said. “I think anytime you have a kid playing on a team — my dad has two of them — and you played before, you’re kind of living through them again. You live and die with what they do, what the team does.
“Not only is it playing, but it’s playing at the same school so that means something to him. They’re excited, they’re proud, not only of last week and going to the Rose Bowl, but for me and what I’ve done over the past four years and what my brother’s been able to do the past couple. You’re sitting at this point at the end of your senior year and you’ve gone through a lot. You’ve done a lot of hard work, done a lot of good things.”