Harbaugh Wants Football This Fall: 'COVID Is Part Of Our Society'

And he doesn't believe sports will make it worse.

Will Burchfield
July 08, 2020 - 1:35 pm
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Assuming students are back on campus, and assuming his players remain safe, Jim Harbaugh is in favor of playing football this fall -- not delaying the season until the spring due to the coronavirus. 

"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, or agreeing expert views, that sports is going to make that worse," Harbaugh said in a Zoom press conference Wednesday. "It’s part of our society, we’re going to have to deal with it. These kids have to do the same thing. They have to go to school. They’ve been training their whole lives for the opportunity to play their sport.

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"That is my view with the knowledge that we have and time to learn more about it. It would be my responsibility, our responsibility and the players’ responsibility to keep themselves safe and also get the schooling and the training that they need." 

It remains unclear whether the college football season will start on time, or start at all. The Ivy League is expected to announce Wednesday that it's pushing football back to the spring. That would help protect the players and, in theory, allow fans to attend the games. There's also been talk about reducing the schedule to a regional slate of games, which would cut down on travel.

Harbaugh said he supports any scenario that includes a season, but would prefer to play in the fall. 

"I share the same opinion as our players: they want to play. They’ve been training their whole lives for this opportunity," he said. "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."

Either way, Harbaugh said he is hopeful for an announcement before the end of this month. 

Michigan welcomed back student-athletes for voluntary workouts in June, in keeping with local health guidelines. Harbaugh said that of the 530 student-athletes that have since been tested for the virus, including the 'entire football team,' only two have tested positive. Those athletes were immediately quarantined and no one has tested positive since. 

"So far, so good," said Harbaugh. "I really believe and trust in the protocols that we’ve put in place as an athletic department."

Thus his thoughts on the season. 

"It’s a different conversation if there’s no students on campus," he said. "If students are on campus, then my personal belief as a parent of a daughter who would also be on campus, is that this is a safe place, as safe as possible within our university. Even in our athletic complexes, the safety precautions that have been put into place, I would feel good with the medical oversight for student athletes and students in general.

"So I would want the responsibility of keeping our players safe and also educating them. Would not want to come off of that guard tower of educating and keeping our players safe. Now, if it comes to a point in time where you say that we can’t play, it’s obvious and clear, then everybody would be reasonable and know that it was the right thing to do."