One of the top college football coaches in the country is ready to play ball, coronavirus pandemic or not.
Speaking with reporters via Zoom on Wednesday morning, University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said his players have a right to risk infection to pursue their dreams of playing collegiate football.
“The scenario that they’re playing is the one that you’re hoping and praying for,” he said. “These youngsters have put in a lot of training, really their whole lives, for these moments.”
Harbaugh added that the coronavirus is now “part of our society” and that “no expert” had yet made the case that playing sports would worsen the outbreak.
“COVID is part of our society,” he said. “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.”
Harbaugh also noted that he backs safety measures taken by the University of Michigan to ensure to the best of its ability the health of students living on campus.
“If students are on campus, then my personal belief as a parent of a daughter who would also be on campus is that this is a safe place,” Harbaugh said. “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 share the same opinion as our players. They want to play.”
Commentators on Twitter immediately criticized the Michigan coach for what they viewed as an irresponsible view on the restart of college athletics. However, a widely shared photo from a college football game in 1918 shows a precedent for games being played during a health crisis, as stands were filled with mask-wearing fans during the height of the Spanish flu pandemic.