Updated: Big Ten investigating Mark Ortmann incident
The Big Ten is investigating whether Michigan offensive tackle Mark Ortmann punched an opponent in last week's 38-13 loss to Illinois, assistant commissioner for communications Scott Chipman said Monday.
"The conference has been made aware of a potential sportslike conduct issue and has contacted Michigan to begin the review process," Chipman said in an e-mail.
Ortmann appeared to strike Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget in the midsection as Liuget celebrated over him after recovering a Tate Forcier fumble with 14:47 left in the fourth quarter.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said he met with Ortmann Monday morning, and the senior left tackle said he didn't punch Liuget, he pushed him away.
“He was upset that a lot of folks were telling him that it was a cheap shot or what have you," Rodriguez said. "He explained to me, ‘Coach, I had an open hand, he was leaning up against me, their players were even telling him to get off me.' And he said, ‘I just kind of shoved him away real quick.”
Replays did not show where or if a punch landed - Ortmann’s helmet was in the way - but Liuget complained to an official after the play and walked hunched over to the Illinois sideline.
Rodriguez said he watched every angle of the Ortmann incident Sunday “and you couldn’t see anything on the" coaches' film. He also said he watched the TV replay and doesn't "think that should be an issue."
“Mark, he’s a great young man and I’m sure when a guy was leaning on him he just wanted him to get off him," Rodriguez said.
Earlier this year, the Big Ten suspended Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton one game for violating the league’s sportsmanlike conduct policy after he struck Notre Dame center Eric Olsen under the helmet.
Rodriguez said then he “didn’t see anybody throw a punch or anything like that” on film.
The Big Ten also suspended Purdue offensive lineman Zach Reckman for one game earlier this year for striking a Northern Illinois player in a non-football manner. Ortmann has made 17 straight starts for Michigan, which hosts the Boilermakers on Satuday. The Wolverines (5-4, 1-4) need one win to become bowl eligible.
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.