It hasn’t been a good season on the field for the Michigan football program, but now it’s become an unfortunate one off it due to COVID-19 infiltrating the program. Michigan had to pause team activities this week, and announced on Wednesday that their game this weekend against Maryland has been cancelled.
Rubbing salt in the wound, ESPN analyst Kirk Hebstreit falsely claimed that Michigan may wind up waving the white flag against Ohio State and opt not to play because they don’t want to get embarrassed.
Herbstreit’s banter received widespread criticism from peers and fans, and he quickly apologized in a Twitter video after his appearance on ESPN. Still, the damage was done, the narrative was out there circulating.
Herbstreit’s comments caught the ire of Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Manuel said. “I have to pause because of my words. I was angered, infuriated by the insinuation that Michigan would do anything other than play a football game. We’ve been playing this game since 1879. 1879. We’re the winningest program for a reason because we play whoever is in front of us. The only way we want to keep anybody from moving on is to beat them on the fields of play. To insinuate that, to say something other than that is a statement by a fool.”
Herbstreit mentioned in his apology that what he said was unfair to head coach Jim Harbaugh, the program, and admitted he wasn’t being fair. Genuine apology or not, words have consequences and Manuel is very much within his lane to defend his institution and the integrity of the football program.
“I can’t tell you how embarrassed I am for the Big Ten conference to have one of their representatives who played this game. To say that about any team in this conference and to say it about college football and the student-athletes around this country who are trying to play games during a pandemic is ridiculous and sad,” Manuel said.