Michigan vs. MSU: Everything that has happened since Mike Hart's 'little brother' comment

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

As soon as Mike Hart uttered "little brother," in reference to his enemy, we knew it would take off as a rallying cry.

Here we are, 14 years later, and we weren't wrong, for once.

As Michigan and Michigan State football get set to meet Saturday in East Lansing as unbeaten 7-0 teams for the first time ever in the 114-game clash, here's a quick history lesson on the comment heard 'round college football and the fallout:

THE QB: Named after 'Sweetness,' MSU's Payton Thorne was born for big moments

THE CLIMB BACK: One year after its downfall began, Michigan football should appreciate its revival

Setting the scene

Nov. 3, 2007 in East Lansing: Michigan had just won its sixth consecutive game against Michigan State, 28-24, to complete a fourth-quarter comeback for the second time in four years.

Mike Hart fights for yardage in the third quarter vs. MSU on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007 at Spartan Stadium.
Mike Hart fights for yardage in the third quarter vs. MSU on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007 at Spartan Stadium.

After the game, the Wolverines held a "moment of silence" for the Spartans on the field, a planned gesture in response to first-year MSU coach Mark Dantonio's comment earlier in the season. After winning his debut against UAB, he was asked on the Spartan Radio Network’s postgame show about Michigan's monumental upset loss to Appalachian State earlier in the day and quipped: “Should we have a moment of silence?”

The quote

"I was just laughing. I thought it was funny. (The Spartans) got excited, it's good. Sometimes you get your little brother excited when you're playing basketball and let him get the lead. Then you just come back and take it back." — Hart, after the Wolverines rallied from a 10-point deficit.

Then-Michigan beat writer for the Free Press, Mark Snyder, describes the scene:

"With five straight wins in the series over MSU, the No. 15 Wolverines were confident entering the game against the unranked Spartans in East Lansing. Hart battled an ankle sprain all game, and with the Wolverines trailing at one point, 24-14, with a little more than 7 minutes remaining, U-M backup quarterback Ryan Mallett entered and fumbled. Hart grabbed the ball and ran for 19 yards, fueling U-M's comeback drive on the way to the 28-24 win. After the game, Hart grinned when making what he thought was a throwaway comment. It became a taunt for the U-M fan base and a personal attack for the MSU alums and fans. It still digs deep on both sides."

[ Want more Michigan or Michigan State football news? Download our free, easy to use mobile app on iPhone & Android! ]

The aftermath

Nov. 5, 2007 in East Lansing: After his first taste of the rivalry as MSU head coach, Dantonio responded two days later with fire: "I find a lot of the things they do amusing. They need to check themselves sometimes. Let’s just remember, pride comes before the fall. ... They want to mock us, I’m telling them, it’s not over. They want to print that crap all over their locker room, it’s not over and it’ll never be over here. It’s just starting. ... I’m very proud of our football team, and I’m very proud of the way our football team handled themselves after the game as well. You don’t have to disrespect people. If they want to make a mockery of it, so be it. Their time will come."

WOLVERINES: College Football Playoff implications will test mental toughness

SPARTANS: How Mel Tucker became a distraction during MSU's biggest week yet

The stake

Oct. 25, 2014 in East Lansing: As Michigan players gathered on the field prior to the game, linebacker Joe Bolden drove a stake into the Spartan Stadium turf.

After getting dominated all day, the Wolverines scored a touchdown for the first time in three years vs. MSU with 3:40 remaining, then converted the two-point attempt to get within 28-11. The Spartans promptly marched down and Jeremy Langford ran for a 5-yard touchdown on third down with 28 seconds to go to end the 35-11 beatdown.

Postgame, Dantonio wasn't pleased about the pregame incident and provided another prophetic quote.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke, left, and MSU coach Mark Dantonio shake hands following the game Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, in East Lansing.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke, left, and MSU coach Mark Dantonio shake hands following the game Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, in East Lansing.

"So you might as well come out and say what you're feeling at some point and time because you can only be diplomatic for so long. Okay? The 'Little Brother' stuff, all the disrespect, doesn't have to go in that direction. We've tried to handle ourselves with composure. That doesn't come from the coach, it comes from the program. Throwing the stake down in our backyard out here, and coming out there like they're all that. You know, it got shoved up ... it got shoved the last minute-and-a-half. We were not not gonna pull off of that. Was gonna line up and kick a field goal, that wasn't the MO. But if our guys could get it in, we were gonna get it in."

Little sister

July 26, 2018: During Big Ten media days in Chicago, MSU senior running back LJ Scott fielded questions about his dealings with the Wolverines.

"It's just like we get no respect from them," Scott said of the rivalry. "And I pretty much learned that freshman year."

After recalling the 2015 trip to Ann Arbor — you know, the game that ended with Jalen Watts-Jackson's fumbled-snap touchdown — he was asked why he thinks there's a lack of respect from the U-M program and their fans.

"I don't know, probably because they're our little sisters, I guess, I don't know," Scott said.

Today

Hart, 35, is in his first year as Michigan running backs coach, and will be a major part of the game for the first time since his comments.

After a short career in the NFL as a sixth-round draft choice by the Indianapolis Colts, Michigan's all-time leading rusher joined the coaching ranks in 2011 at Eastern Michigan. He coached running backs at Western Michigan, Syracuse and Indiana before Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh — despite an odd history which included Hart saying Harbaugh was "not a Michigan man" and "I wish he had never played here" — hired him in January as running backs coach.

[ Why all the pressure is on Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh vs. MSU ]

New Michigan football running backs coach Mike Hart speaks to reporters Aug. 19, 2021 for the first time since taking the job.
New Michigan football running backs coach Mike Hart speaks to reporters Aug. 19, 2021 for the first time since taking the job.

So far this week, there has been nothing inflammatory from either program. But remember, it's just Tuesday as of this writing.

And as we all know, anything can happen in the days leading up to — and during — the game in this rivalry. It's never this quiet, right?

Stay informed on what's happening across Michigan: Subscribe to our news alert emails here.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan vs. MSU football: Mike Hart's 'Little brother' history

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting