Jim Harbaugh discusses idea of playing through COVID-19 pandemic
The burning question in the world of college athletics right now is whether or not a football season will played. And, if it is played, will there be a delay in the season? Will it be moved to the spring? Will it be a full 12-games schedule or will there be a decrease in the number of games?
Right now, there are no answers. And it’s unlikely that there’s much more clarity on the situation until late July. But Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is pretty insistent that the 2020 college football season should be played, at least in some capacity.
“COVID is part of our society. It wasn’t caused by football or caused by sports. And there’s no expert view right now that I’m aware of that sports is going to make it worse,” Harbaugh said, according to Orion Sang of the Detroit Free Press. “It’s part of our society, we’re going to have to deal with it. These kids are going to have to do the same thing. They’ve got to go to school.”
While that might appear to be a relatively cavalier approach to the situation, Harbaugh did say that if schools aren’t deemed safe, or there is a change in information, then not having the season would be a reasonable solution.
“Now, if it comes to a point in time where you say that we can’t play, it’s obvious, it’s clear, then everybody would be reasonable and know know that was the right thing to do,” he said.
Currently, officials at the FBS level are weighing many contingency plans. While there have been no decisions made at this time, delaying the start of the season, erasing nonconference games from the schedule and moving kickoff from fall to spring have all been discussed.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey recently told ESPN’s Heather Dinich that a decision is expected in late July.
Right now, Harbaugh believes playing is still an option. And for the guys on his team, he says they’re also eager to get back on the field this fall.
“I share the same opinion as our players. They want to play,” Harbaugh said. “As I said, they’ve been training their whole lives for this and these opportunities. Put the question to them, which I have, they would rather play than not play. And they would rather play in front of no fans than to not play.”
Playing in front of empty stadiums has also been a legitimate option. Due to current social distancing guidelines, many schools are planning to have stadiums somewhere between 20-50 percent capacity for the 2020 season, unless recommendations from health officials change.
Michigan is scheduled to open the 2020 season against Washington in Seattle on Sept. 5. The Wolverines ended the 2019 season with a 9-4 record.