Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media on Wednesday afternoon to check in on the record with the local beat for the first time since January. As is usually the case, some of his comments were taken out of context.
This time, it came in the form of the coronavirus pandemic and his thoughts on getting his team back on the field potentially this fall. Below are his full comments from Wednesday on the subject and we have gone ahead and highlighted the part that a lot of media outlets decided to run with as a talking point.
On players returning to school and football:
“If students are on campus, then my personal belief as a parent of a daughter who would also be on campus that this is a safe place. As safe as possible, would be within the university, in our athletic buildings and complexes. The safety precautions that have been put into place. I would feel good with the medical oversight of the students, student-athletes. I would want the responsibility. I would want the responsibility of keeping our players safe and educating them. (I) would not want to come off the guard tower of educating them and keeping them safe. Now, if it comes to a point in time where you say that we can’t play, it’s obvious, it’s clear, then everybody would be reasonable and know that was the right thing to do. COVID is part of our society. Wasn’t caused by football or caused by sports. And there’s no expert view right now that I’m aware of that sports is going to make that worse. It’s part of our society, we’re going to have to deal with it. These kids are going to have to do the same thing. They’ve got to go to school. They’ve trained their whole lives for the opportunity to play their sport. That is my view with the knowledge that we have and time to learn more about it. It would be my responsibility, our responsibility and the players’ responsibility also, to keep themselves safe and get the schooling and training that they need.”
“I share the same opinion as our players. They want to play. As I said, they’ve been training their whole lives for this and these opportunities. Put the question to them, which I have, they would rather play than not play. And they would rather play in front of no fans than to not play.”
On players responding to the restrictions in place:
“Originally, back in the spring, that was the big question. Are we going to play? And I’d say the biggest question I’m really getting from our players is how they can be part of the solution. A lot of the feedback has been that their peers, other people in their age group, are somewhat or very cavalier about the virus. How it affects that age group. Their response has been that they want to be a part of the solution. They want to be a force for good, an example when they’re here, there’s protocols that have been put into place. They’ve been terrific. They’ve been really great about following those. I thinl they really understand there’s great value to keeping their own personal health, but that of their teammates (as well). They’ve taken it to the extra level where they’re out in public to wear a mask, to socially distance, cooking their own food, shopping. Everything they’re doing, they’ve been a really great example and a force for good.”
On current decision making process:
“The scenario that they’re playing is the one that you’re hoping and praying for. These youngsters have put in a lot of training, really their whole lives, for these moments. But...is that possible, we support that? Yes. Those different scenarios. And I think our athletic directors and administration and Big Ten commissioner and coaches have all had those conversations and continue to have those conversations. Hopefully there’s an announcement made in the coming weeks.”