The University of Michigan held a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday that involved athletic director Warde Manuel, Senior Associate Athletic Director and Chief Health & Welfare Officer Darryl Conway and head U-M Athletics physician Dr. Sami Rifat to address the protocols for student athletes returning to campus.
There were a handful of tidbits throughout the call, but of interest to most fans might be if there is going to be a season at all. Manuel himself does not currently have an answer to that, but says news on that should be coming soon in late June or early July. He also addressed the possibility of limited or no fans allowed if games are played.
“I can tell you it won’t be normal,” Manuel said. “We won’t have 110,000 people in Michigan stadium this year, that’s a definitive. Will it be 50 percent or 30 percent or 20 percent, or 10, or zero? I’m not sure. It’s going to be a different year, we know that.”
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer — adhering to public health data and CDC guidelines — is already on the record as saying that stadiums in the state will not be full this fall, so this does not come as much of a surprise.
One of the other key items of information on the call with the media was that 221 Michigan athletes have been tested for COVID-19 so far with two of them testing positive. Both of the students were asymptomatic. All staff members have been tested and the results came back as negative.
Manuel stated that the tests that are being provided in conjunction with Michigan Medicine cost about $65-$75 and that they are working on surveillance measures that would include the testing of athletes in different batches throughout the year.
Michigan is not going to require its athletes to sign any waivers but has distributed a list of policies and practices to be followed, including wearing a mask when necessary. Failure to adhere to these practices will result in further education and possible removal from the team activities. There are no plans to isolate students-athletes away from campus, as Manuel said they are not professionals and should still be able to be with their fellow classmates.
Also of note in the call was Manuel opening things up by discussing the state of social unrest in the country, saying: “Many of our black student athletes are hurting. I’m hurting as a black man.” Manuel says that he respects the unique voice that Michigan athletes bring to the table and he is encouraging them to use that voice. He also stated that he is supportive of kneeling during the national anthem by players if they feel it is appropriate to do so.