While many college football programs across the country are preparing to bring players back to campus in the coming weeks, the president of one major university has a far more cautious and much less optimistic view of the situation.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Michigan president Dr. Mark Schlissel expressed his doubts about whether fall sports will be able to take place amid the coronavirus pandemic. Echoing a belief held by many other collegiate administrators, Schlissel also said that there would not be any sports taking place at Michigan is “there is no on-campus instruction.”
“If there is no on-campus instruction, then there won’t be intercollegiate athletics, at least for Michigan,” Schlissel told the Wall Street Journal. He also expressed “some degree of doubt as to whether there will be college athletics (anywhere), at least in the fall.”
The comments from Schlissel, an immunologist by training, come on the heels of the NCAA’s decision to lift the moratorium on athletic activities effective May 31. From there, several conferences have followed suit, leaving it up to individual institutions to make their own return-to-campus decisions.
Conferences like the SEC (June 8) and Big 12 (June 15) have decided on specific dates for athletic activities to resume, but the Big Ten is reportedly letting schools return at their own pace. As of now, athletic activities in the conference are suspended through June 1.
Big Ten schools like Ohio State (June 8) and Illinois (June 3) already have chosen dates to have their football players return to campus, but Michigan will wait a bit longer. The state’s stay-at-home order was recently extended by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer through June 12 — a move that keeps venues like theaters, gyms and casinos closed.
Schlissel also told the WSJ that he “can’t imagine” a way to “safely” fill Michigan Stadium. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh told ESPN last week that he would be comfortable playing games in an empty stadium if necessary.
“You could test both teams. You could test the officials. Can you test 100,000 fans coming into a stadium? Probably not,” Harbaugh said. “Without a vaccine, you probably couldn’t do that. So to answer your question, heck yeah I’d be comfortable coaching a game without any fans. If the choice were to play in front of no fans or not play, then I would choose to play in front of no fans. And I think darn near every guy I’ve talked to on our team, that’s the way they feel about it.”
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