ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh revealed a long list of reasons he believes his team should be able to play this fall, saying, “we will not cower” from the virus and that it “can be controlled and handled” with strict rule following and protocols.
Harbaugh’s statement comes within hours of reports that Big Ten schools voted 12-2 to cancel the fall football season. Iowa and Nebraska were the only two members to vote in favor of having a season.
“I would like to address the rumors that are swirling today,” Harbaugh said in his statement. “I’m not advocating for football this fall because of my passion or our players desire to play, but because of the facts accumulated over the last eight weeks since our players returned to campus on June 13.”
Harbaugh said Michigan’s handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic since players returned to campus demonstrates it can be handled.
Harbaugh said the program has had 11 positive tests out of 893, including two of the last 417 and none of the last 353 administered.
None of the coaches or staff members have tested positive for the entire eight weeks, Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh said there haven’t been any COVID-19 cases traced back to the program’s fields, weight room, locker room or facilities. There haven’t been any pauses in training, he said.
“We have complied with all CDC guidelines and self‐implemented stricter standards for contacting tracing in quarantining to prevent spread,” Harbaugh said. “We have followed all health and safety guidelines and welcome and encourage any health department, university administrators or other sports programs to visit and see how we practice and execute these protocols.”
Harbaugh quoted Chief Medical Officer Darryl Conway of the Big Ten’s Medical Advisory Group as saying, “I wish that others could see this model.”
“This isn’t easy,” Harbaugh said. “This is hard. It is proven that the conduct, discipline and structure within our program have led to these stellar results. We respect the challenge that the virus has presented, however we will not cower from it.”
Harbaugh said Michigan has developed a prototype to make COVID-19 prevention work. He said the university can provide a safe opportunity for the players to play.
“If you are transparent and follow the rules, this is how it can be done,” Harbaugh said. “I am forever proud of our players, parents, coaches and staff for being leaders and role models in our sport, at our institution and in society. We will continue to follow all health and safety guidelines, teach, train and coach those young men and their families that have put their trust in us, while advocating for a football season in the fall.”
At the end of his statement, Harbaugh quoted Theodore Roosevelt, saying, “We do this ‘so that our place will not be among the cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.’”
Harbaugh signed off with the hashtags “#WEWANTTOPLAY” and “#WEWANTTOCOACH,” which have been circulating among players and coaches on Twitter.