Would Jim Harbaugh be in favor of playing college football in front of an empty stadium?
The answer is easily yes, if the alternative is no football at all.
Harbaugh appeared on ESPN’s morning show “Get Up” on Wednesday, and was asked numerous questions about how he and Michigan have handled the coronavirus outbreak that halted all college athletics.
Harbaugh remains hopeful that a season will be played — and says the Wolverines continue to prepare for all possible scenarios.
“You can definitely test both teams, you can test the officials and everybody,” Harbaugh said. “Can you test 100,000 fans coming into a stadium? Probably not. 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 play in front of no fans or not play, then I would choose to play in front of no fans. And I think probably every guy I’ve talked to on our team, that’s the way they feel about it.”
Harbaugh has not had any in-person contact with his team since mid-March, when the pandemic forced the Big Ten and NCAA to suspend all sporting activities. That canceled Michigan’s spring practices roughly a week before they were to begin and forced the staff to adapt, both with their current team and on the recruiting trail, where a dead period with no in-person recruiting has been instituted and extended through at least June 30.
Harbaugh says the Wolverines stay in contact through virtual workouts, virtual meetings and by phone.
“That’s how we’ve been doing it,” he said. “We’ll see. Hopefully we can get the guys back together and get them working out as soon as the gyms open up, you feel like you can get them back into the facility at least on a voluntary basis. I sure do miss them, I can tell you that.”
Some of the questions he has fielded from his players: “When can they come back? When can they start training? Are we going to play?”
“Those are the big ones right off the bat,” Harbaugh said. “Hopefully we’ll get some better news as the summer goes on here. As far as the season, everybody’s prepared like there’s going to be one, not even thinking in the way that there wouldn’t. Getting ourselves ready, getting prepared.”
Even if football does return, Harbaugh acknowledges that things will look very different.
“I think there’s definitely questions about that; is there going to be testing and what kind of protocols are going to be in place?” Harbaugh said. “That’s to be explained what it’ll be. It’ll be a different — new normal, what everybody says. You’ve got social distancing, you’re working out in smaller groups. That’s kind of the approach. (The players are) concerned about it, and so are the parents. We’re talking to them, not every day, but at least two, three times a week.”
If teams and football personnel (such as officials and trainers) are able to be tested and remain healthy, Harbaugh appears to believe that football could return.
“That’s a good question — how prepared are you?” Harbaugh said. “You’re going through a lot of different scenarios, and learning more all the time, too. People with the practices of staying safe and can you get an entire team together, coaches, players, trainers, strength staff, et cetera, that can not have symptoms or not test positive and then play football?
“Can you have a game where both sides, both teams are tested, coaches, officials, trainers, everybody involved, and if you don’t test positive, you don’t have it, can you still play the game? I think that’s the question that’s on everybody’s mind. And thinking that you could do that. That you could do that. We’ll see.”
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