Questions Remain, But Michigan Not In 'Crisis Mode' Over Simpson Incident

"It’s that dreaded call that you can get very late at night."

Jamie and Stoney
February 07, 2020 - 1:41 pm

A murky situation for Michigan grew messy on Thursday when the reason behind Zavier Simpson's recent suspension came to light. 

Not only did Simpson drive a car into a street pole in downtown Ann Arbor in the middle of the night, but the car belonged to the family of Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, per a police report obtained by MLive. The incident occurred at about 3 a.m. on Jan. 26, several hours after Michigan's loss to Illinois. 

Juwan Howard announced a one-game suspension for Simpson, a senior co-captain, the next day. 

While some questions remain about the incident, assistant coach Phil Martelli said Friday the team is putting it behind them. 

"We went through a process with X, we are continuing to move it forward," Martelli told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket. "And with our guys, it became a learning opportunity. A learning opportunity for Juwan, a learning opportunity for the players.

"It’s that dreaded call that you can get very late at night and you think, 'Okay, now what?' The timing of the information being out now, we really as a group have taken this and squeezed it and tried to use it as an educational opportunity for everyone in the program."

The car was registered to Warde Manuel's wife, and they had handed it down to their son, Evan Manuel, a student manager for the basketball team. Evan let Simpson borrow it the night of the crash. 

The cloudier details of the case revolve around the fact that Simpson twice lied to police -- first denying that he was the driver, then giving a fake name -- and that he stumbled as he entered the car to retrieve ownership papers. It's not yet clear exactly which team rule Simpson violated. He was ticketed for driving too fast for conditions. 

Asked if the entire story has been reported, Martelli said, "I don’t know anything more than what we have been doing day to day in the program. Is there a meeting today? No, there’s nothing that I’ve been informed of that we’re in crisis mode here. It’s a situation that occurred, it’s a situation that shouldn’t have occurred and we can move forward." 

As for why Michigan withheld the details of the incident until they came to light, Martelli said, "I think the challenge really is with everybody’s rights. I’m not a guy that hides behind things, but I am certain that whether it’s the league counsel, or whomever (it would be) in how this would be presented, was involved.

"I don’t know want to pass the buck, but it’s way above my paygrade here to say how information would come out. And there’s no one that was naive in thinking, 'Well, this will never get out,' and any kind of cover-up went on."

Michigan beat Nebraska in Simpson's absence, and he was reinstated for the team's win over Rutgers last weekend.