Dienhart: Rough end to Bullough's college career

It was shocking to see the news release from Michigan State. It was so pragmatic, so succinct, so short, so to the point and so disappointing. “Max Bullough has been suspended for the remainder of the season for a violation team rules.”

Just like that, the career of one of the greatest Spartans ever is over in the grim, black-and-white reality of a cold email release late on Christmas Day.

No explanation.

No reason why.

No nothing.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this for Bullough. The senior was Mr. Spartan, Michigan State royalty with Green and White blood coursing through his veins. Bullough’s dad Shane was a Spartan captain in 1986. Two uncles laid it on the line for Michigan State, too. Little brother, Riley, is on this glory-dripped Spartans club that already has a special place in the heart of MSU fans.

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What must Riley be thinking? What all of us are thinking: What?

Spartans Defense (FBS Rank)
Yards: 5778 (100)
Passing Yards: 2915 (75)
Rushing Yards: 2863 (108)
Points per game: 35.4 (95)
Yards per game: 481.5 (102)
Touchdowns: 54 (97)
Field Goals: 13 (51)

Again, it wasn’t supposed to end like this for Bullough. The script to his career was supposed to be punctuated with a multi-tackle effort in sun-splashed Rose Bowl victory over Stanford on Jan. 1.

The thick-necked 6-3, 245-pound Bullough arrived in East Lansing from St. Francis High in Traverse City, Mich., as a man on a mission in 2010: To return the Spartans to greatness. And that meant returning the Spartans to the Rose Bowl, a destination the program hadn’t been to since the 1987 season.

Mission accomplished.

But, the Pasadena experience won’t be the same without No. 40 prowling the middle of Mark Dantonio’s Michigan State defense.

Bullough was more than a tackling machine for a program that has gone 41-12 the last four seasons with two Big Ten titles. He was a leader. He was a heart. He was a soul. Now, that leader, heart and soul has been gutted from a Michigan State defense that was the lifeblood a 12-1 Spartans team that dominated the Big Ten in 2013 like few other schools have in the history of the conference.

The Spartans still will have plenty of talent on the field for their defense when MSU faces Stanford. There’s cornerback Darqueze Dennard, end Shilique Calhoun, safety Isaiah Lewis and linebacker Denicos Allen, among others.

But none are Bullough, a two-time team captain and first-team All-Big Ten choice.

Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will turn to guys like senior Kyler Elsworth and sophomore Pat Rhomberg to fill Bullough’s void. Of course, they can’t. No one can.

So, instead of leaving campus a triumphant hero, Bullough has left amid a cloak of shame with what is for now an inexplicable suspension. The team’s most selfless player has apparently committed a selfish act that has resulted in a dubious conclusion to one of the greatest careers in school annals. We are left with no explanation. Just the statement by the school:

“It is extremely disappointing for all parties involved. We will stay focused and close ranks as we prepare for Stanford on Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl. Max will forever remain a Spartan and valued member in this team’s achievements.

“We will have no further comment on this issue.”


About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (7 Comments)
bob jones on 12/26/2013 @ 11:30am EDT Said:

Sad news, hope Max goes on to a great NFL career. Hate when no explanation or straight answers are given as to why players are suspended. Always leads to a lot of unnecessary speculation. Best of luck to Max and the Spartans.

Ray on 12/26/2013 @ 11:37am EDT Said:

Give coach Dantonio credit for taking action when it’s deemed required. I’m sure the whole staff and the administration was involved. If your GREEN you support this for it shows how clean this program is, comparativly speaking, to other programs South of our border!

Marilynn Slade on 12/26/2013 @ 2:22pm EDT Said:

It’s a very sad day for Spartans. But I trust Coach Dantonio and Narduzzi’s judgment in the matter and know that they made a tough but correct decision. I hope Max is able to continue his career in the NFL and that he learns a lesson from this experience.

Cheryl Huddleston on 12/26/2013 @ 5:36pm EDT Said:

And Dienhart – let’s not memorialize a player who obviously was not a selfless player.

Rae on 12/26/2013 @ 9:49pm EDT Said:

My initial guess would be illegal benefits from a sports agent. It would have to be something that would vacate a win if he played. This is just a guess.

Jim Myers on 12/27/2013 @ 11:59am EDT Said:

This tough LOVE and in the long run will make Max stronger. The coaching staff and of Spartan Nation loves Max and the Bullough family. The Spartans will move forward and upward. GO GREEN

Marilyn Fairman on 12/27/2013 @ 2:27pm EDT Said:

My husband and I were at MSU when Max’s grandfather, Hank, played. We have long admired the Bullough family and are grateful for their loyalty to MSU. It must have been agonizing for Coach D to suspend Max but it is right thing to do if strong, stated rules were violated. We love you, Spartans. GO GREEN/GO WHITE.