The Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes were set to play a game this weekend in Columbus, but it was officially canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Ann Arbor. Both athletic director Warde Manuel and head coach Jim Harbaugh addressed the situation during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon that also had U-M medical officials on the call. However, the elephant in the room was still brought up.
Manuel was asked to address the rumors about a three-year, incentive-laden contract extension that has reportedly been submitted to Harbaugh, but mostly punted on the situation saying that the two mean will meet when the season is over.
“So, this is a time where we’re going to focus on this pandemic,” Manuel said. “Jim and I will meet, as we have said, at the end of the year to discuss the program and where we’re going to go and all those different things. How rumors get started about things before both before Jim and I sit down and have a conversation, I’m not going to get into. That’s not for me to try to track down but that’s where that is. And that’s where we’ll be at the end of the season.”
Harbaugh stood with Manuel in not addressing much about the situation until the 2020 campaign was over.
“As Warde said, this isn’t the forum to discuss that,” Harbaugh said. “Warde and I have for months long agreed that we’ll talk about the extension at the end of the season.”
But what does the end of the season mean for Michigan? They have had their last two games wiped out due to the outbreak in the program and there seems to be a better than zero chance that next week’s crossover game with the Big Ten West is a casualty as well.
“We have one last game, actually, that we have scheduled to play,” Manuel said on Tuesday. “We’re hopeful we can play as scheduled. We’ll get through the next few days, and continue to monitor the situation with COVID on our team and quarantines and all the things that we’re dealing with now that has led us to this point. And so, what I mean by the end of the season is the end of our season. And that is we have one more game currently scheduled in. That’s when the conversation, at some point shortly after the season ends, will begin. And just to clarify, Jim and I have always talked at the end of the season. Always.
“You know we sit down we talk, you know, sometimes we’ll talk in November and and just in general to get a sense. We’ve had a lot of conversation in between. It’s not like we don’t talk, almost on a sometimes daily basis depending on the issues, sometimes weekly. It just... I don’t want to make anybody feel or think that Jim and I have been sitting around just waiting and not talking to each other about things we have had a lot to talk about.”
“Jim has been a leader and phenomenal in his efforts with his team (during the pandemic). He has led that, been there, committed to the team, the department, the university. From my standpoint, he has been doing everything at a high level including his efforts with the team. From that perspective, I don’t want people to think we’re sitting around and not talking, or waiting. That is the furthest thing from the truth. We have a lot to do and a lot to talk about.”
But, there is the issue of the early signing period for 2021 recruits beginning on Wednesday — three days before the season is scheduled to come to an end — that creates the most uncertainty around the situation. Manuel is not worried about his program being negatively recruited because of that.
“You know what’s not unique in college athletics? Negative recruiting,” Manuel said. “It occurs all the time. All the time. I’ll leave it at that.”