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Jim Harbaugh: ‘No Expert View’ That Sports Will Make COVID-19 Worse in Society

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh wears a headset around his neck, in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. Michigan won 45-14. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

Tony Ding/Associated Press

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday he’s in favor of moving forward with the 2020 college football season amid the coronavirus pandemic since he’s observed “no expert view” that sports will contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in society.

Orion Sang of the Detroit Free Press provided Harbaugh’s complete comments about the situation, including a remark about Wolverines players wanting to compete, even if there are no fans in attendance:

Orion Sang @orion_sang

Here are Jim Harbaugh’s responses to today’s coronavirus-related questions, how they’ve affected the offseason/the potential of a season happening (or not happening), etc. https://t.co/1L2Y2MY1wn

No definitive decisions about the season have been made by the NCAA, with Week 1 play still scheduled to kick off Aug. 29. Michigan’s first game is set for Sept. 5 against Washington.

In May, NCAA president Mark Emmert suggested it would be difficult to move forward with fall sports if the student body hadn’t returned to campus, per ESPN’s Myron Medcalf.

“All of the commissioners and every president that I’ve talked to is in clear agreement: If you don’t have students on campus, you don’t have student-athletes on campus,” he said. “That doesn’t mean [the school] has to be up and running in the full normal model, but you have to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students. … If a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple.”

Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana was on a conference call with sports commissioners and presidents, including Emmert, in June and said the conversation had shifted toward trying to make a season work while giving schools the choice to opt out.

“They’re definitely looking at the challenges that would be posed if some schools won’t play or participate. They’re aware that’s going to be the case with a few schools,” Scalise told reporters. “Hopefully it’s limited. Each school makes their own decision and then the NCAA is going to work within that to put together a season that works for the safety of the players and schools and hopefully as well with fans.”

Being forced to cancel the college football season would create significant financial hardships for athletic departments around the country.

UCF athletic director Danny White provided a blunt assessment of the situation in April.

“There isn’t a model I can run to fix the problem of not having any football,” he told ESPN. “I don’t think there’s anybody in my position with a big football fan base that could make decisions to fix that. I don’t know what happens—there’s not a model, there’s not a solution, there’s not an action I can take that’s going to solve that problem.”

Meanwhile, the United States has seen a recent surge of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, leading some states to slow or halt their reopening plans.

The NCAA hasn’t announced a timetable for a final decision about the 2020 season.

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