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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Ferris HC Tony Annese suspended vs GV, can still attend game

Courtesy FOX 17

The No. 2 ranked Grand Valley State University Lakers are preparing to face off with the No. 3 Ferris State University Bulldogs for the second time this year and the sixth time in three seasons, but this is no ordinary matchup.

The last time the two met on Oct. 14, GVSU jumped out to a 35-0 lead before ultimately beating Ferris State 49-28. When they meet again on Saturday, Nov. 18, it will be without one of the two head coaches on the sideline.

As previously announced on March 23, 2023, Ferris State head coach Tony Annese will be serving a one-game suspension that was issued by the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Division II Football Committee. 

According to the NCAA, the suspension is for players smoking cigars in the locker room of a Texas high school’s campus and for “damage that occurred at the host stadium after the 2022 championship game.” The penalty also included a $2,500 fine against Annese and “Restitution to the McKinney (Texas) Independent School District for $15,383 in cleaning and repair expenses,” which Ferris State paid.

However, according to Philip Pierce, the NCAA Assistant Director, Championships and Alliances, Annese is allowed to attend the game.

“He (Annese) can coach his team throughout the week and can be involved in game plans,” Pierce said.“If Coach Annese chooses, he may attend the game as a spectator and must purchase a ticket to do so.” 

Although the Bulldogs’ HC is allowed to attend per the suspension, Pierce felt this situation was especially unique and maybe even unprecedented during his career.

What I can say is that over the last eight years that I’ve been working with Division II football, this is new ground and the first time a coach has been suspended for a game,” Pierce said.

It was an unusual decision that neither Pierce nor GVSU Director of Athletics Keri Becker were familiar with. 

Becker believes that the NCAA allowing Annese to attend the game is something novel.

“In terms of the suspension, I am quite surprised that the NCAA allowed someone who’s been suspended in the venue. To me, in my 27 years, that’s never happened,” Becker said.

Becker said she had previously “asked a question” to the NCAA and had gotten “clarification” on the suspension and Annese’s potential presence in the stands during Saturday’s playoff game.

Annese’s punishment is clearly complicated and Pierce stresses that the specifics of such a suspension, is rare if not unheard of.

“I asked around the office today and no one that I spoke with can recall an instance where a Division II coach was suspended from an NCAA tournament game due to misconduct,” Pierce said. “Definitely not saying that it hasn’t happened previously, but the people I spoke with can’t recall.”

Pierce’s unfamiliarity with the ruling as a whole and the practice of allowing Annese into the stadium brought up questions regarding possible concern for violations of the suspension and any additional punishment for doing so.

Ferris State officials have been told that he is not to communicate with the team. They have also been told that should it be discovered that he has been in contact during the game future penalties could be issued,” Pierce said.

The specifics of what a violation would be considered were not mentioned beyond communication, but Becker is not worried about Annese’s possible attendance.

“It’s not a concern. We’re gonna go play the games,” Becker said. “I want all of our fans to have a good experience in the game and so I don’t welcome any distraction from that. It’s a non-issue, and we’re not spending any more energy on it.” 

Courtesy Detroit Free Press

Annese, who cannot physically travel with the team but could stay in their hotel, is still mulling over his attendance as recently as his regularly scheduled media availability (posted on YouTube) on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

“I guess I’ll just check with my two granddaughters to see what they’re doing, and maybe I’ll just hang with them and watch the game from the TV,” Annese said. “I, technically speaking, can be at the game. I just gotta buy my own ticket and stuff like that, so I don’t know if that’s a good idea, so I still haven’t sorted it out.”

Ferris State appealed Annese’s suspension, but it was upheld by a subcommittee for appeals and finalized on March 23, 2023.

The reasoning was because the NCAA determined it “was not an isolated instance given the program has committed multiple cases of misconduct recently.”

Pierce pointed to a previous incident from earlier in the 2022 postseason versus GVSU as one of the “multiple cases” in reference. 

After the playoff game on Dec. 3, 2023,  Bulldogs’ sophomore wide receiver Tyrese Hunt-Thompson struck an individual with his helmet” in a postgame scuffle, which later factored into suspension issued following the national championship in McKinney, Texas. Hunt-Thompson missed the remainder of the postseason for his actions that later contributed to the suspension of his head coach.

As of Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 10:19 p.m. Pierce was unsure of Annese’s intentions, but if he were to go to the game, an individual would likely be assigned to watch him to ensure compliance with the terms of his punishment.

As far as I know, no one has been assigned to coach (Annese) as we have not been told if he will attend the game,” Pierce said.

For the rivalry matchup on Nov. 18,  Annese will be replaced on Ferris State’s sideline by Assistant Head Coach and Quarterbacks coach Brian Rock. Rock is in his fifth season with the Bulldogs and has 27 years of Division I coaching experience, including most recently under Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State University as an offensive analyst in 2018.

Ferris State associate director of athletics Rob Bentley did not have any further comments regarding Annese’s suspension and possibility of attending the game beyond pointing to the YouTube video from the HC’s media availability.

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About the Contributor
Nelson Hubbell
Nelson Hubbell, Sports Editor
Nelson Hubbell is the Sports Editor for the Lanthorn for the 2023-2024 school year. A senior at Grand Valley State University, before his time with the Lanthorn, he was a staff writer for The Collegiate Live, Grand Rapids Community College's student publication where he was a student for two years. He worked for a restaurant for four and a half years in Holland, Mich. called Hops at 84 East, a place he holds close to his heart. During his time there he was a manager for roughly two years. He loves camping, hiking and being outside in general. He is super passionate about football, basketball, baseball and hockey and loves all things sports and competition. Nelson will be pursuing a career in sportscasting as a play-by-play broadcaster and or as an analyst after his time at GVSU. Graduating Winter 2024 Major: Multimedia Journalism