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Jim Harbaugh: Football didn’t cause COVID-19, ‘no expert view… that sports is going to make that worse’

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I’m thinking Jim Harbaugh may have stepped in it a little bit.  Or tripped over his junk, if that’s your preferred nomenclature.

As recently as a couple of weeks ago, there was cautious optimism that, despite the coronavirus pandemic, the college football season would kick off as planned.  With some tweaks when it came to attendance and the like, of course.  Over the past several days, however, there has been a sharp uptick in positive cases of COVID-19 — especially in states like California, Florida and Texas — that has moved the needle dramatically toward pessimism when it comes to the 2020 college football season.  In fact, there’s a growing line of thinking that the 2020 season could very well be played in the spring of 2021.

And then there’s Jim Harbaugh.  On a Zoom call with the media Wednesday, the Michigan head coach was asked about moving forward with plans for the 2020 football season to be played in the fall.  As scheduled.  Here’s Harbaugh’s response, from Austin Meek of The Athletic:

COVID is part of our society. It wasn’t caused by football or caused by sports. There’s no expert view right now that I’m aware of that sports is going to make that worse.

First, I have no clue if Harbaugh views milk as a potential vaccine.  So don’t ask.

Secondly, it’s one thing for a coach who made $7.5 million in 2019 to take such a stance and be willing to put himself in harm’s way.  But it’s another matter entirely to potentially ask unpaid student-athletes to do the same.

Of course, as has been shown over the past few weeks, the head football coach won’t be the deciding factor if the season goes off as scheduled.

July 3, Kansas was the latest FBS program to pause voluntary workouts after 12 players tested positive for COVID-19.  Earlier in that same week, Arizona announced that it was pausing its phased return of student-athletes to campus.  Prior to that, eight individuals connected to the Boise State football program tested positive, forcing the school to temporarily scuttle workouts.  June 20, K-State announced that it is pausing all voluntary workouts as well.  The reason?  “[A] total of 14 student-athletes have tested positive for active COVID-19 following PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing of more than 130 student-athletes.” The weekend before that, Houston decided to put a halt to voluntary on-campus workouts after six symptomatic UH student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19.

Other programs have seen a high number of players test positive but continue workouts.  Among those are Clemson (37 players tested positive), LSU (30 players quarantined), Texas (13 confirmed positives for football players) and Texas Tech (23 positives for players/staffers).

Jim Harbaugh to take 10% pay cut at Michigan starting Aug. 1

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Go ahead and add the Michigan football coach taking one for the team.  Or school, as the case may be.

In April, it was reported that U-M athletic director Warde Manuel would be taking a five-percent pay cut. Monday, the school confirmed that Manuel will actually be taking a 10-percent cut in pay. Additionally, other senior-level administrators and many head coaches at Michigan, including football coach Jim Harbaugh, will be taking a 10-percent reduction in pay starting Aug. 1 of this year through the end of Fiscal Year 2021.  Men’s basketball coach Juwan Howard will take the same reduction as well.

According to the USA Today coaches salary database, Harbaugh’s $7.5 million in compensation was third nationally.  The reduction will cost Harbaugh somewhere in the neighborhood of $700,000.

Further reductions are in the offing as well.

Full-time staff members earning between $50,000-$100,000 will have salaries reduced by five percent, and employees earning between $100,001-$150,000 will have wages reduced by 7.5 percent during the same period. Staff earning less than $50,000 will not see any reduction in pay.

The reduction in expenses is part of a plan to work through an estimated $26 million in lost revenue.

Below is a partial list of FBS programs that have initiated various cost-cutting measures for athletic department personnel, including coaches:

Additionally, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who reportedly made north of $5 million a year ago, is taking a 20% pay cut.  Scott’s Big 12 counterpart, Bob Bowlsby, announced pay cuts for himself and the conference’s staff.

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history, including photos of a shirtless Jim Harbaugh at a satellite camp making their glorious debut

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The sports world, including college football, has essentially screeched to a halt as countries around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there’s a dearth of college football news as spring practices have all but been canceled at every level of the sport. And there’s even some concern that the health issue could have an impact on the 2020 college football campaign.

In that vein, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives that stretch back to 2009 and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on June 5, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this college football hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2019

THE HEADLINE: Rape accusation preceded Brian Snead’s departure from Ohio State
THE SYNOPSIS: The running back has never been charged.  The alleged victim has declined to talk to the police.

2018

THE HEADLINE: Maryland’s Jordan McNair in critical condition after collapsing during workout
THE SYNOPSIS: One of the saddest stories of any offseason.  Ever.  McNair died a week later of what was later determined to be heatstroke.  A toxic culture that contributed to McNair’s death led to head coach D.J. Durkin‘s firing.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Another report has Al Pacino playing film version of Joe Paterno
THE SYNOPSIS: Pacino did indeed play the former Penn State head coach.  And he was brilliant.

2016

THE HEADLINE: Five-star QB, ex-A&M commit Tate Martell’s Final 5 features Ohio State, UCLA, USC
THE SYNOPSIS: How the mighty have fallen.

2015

THE HEADLINE: PHOTOS: Jim Harbaugh, shirtless, at Michigan’s satellite camp
THE SYNOPSIS: This will never get old.  Ever.

2013

THE HEADLINE: Four-star Miami QB signee hit with charges in single-car crash
THE SYNOPSIS: This was far from Kevin Olsen‘s most serious legal issueBy a longshot.

Face-masked Jim Harbaugh joins Ann Arbor march protesting police brutality

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As you will see, even Ohio State fans are applauding Jim Harbaugh on this one.

Organized by former Michigan football player Mahmoud Issa, hundreds of individuals gathered in Ann Arbor Tuesday to peacefully protest against police brutality.  Among those individuals?  Jim Harbaugh, of course.  Joining him, mlive.com reported, were Ann Arbor Police Chief Michael Cox,  Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton and Mayor Christopher Taylor.  And several unnamed U-M football players participated as well.

Jim Harbaugh even got a pat on the back from the most Buckeye-centric website on the planet.

Last week, the Michigan head football coach spoke out about the “horrendous… outrageous” killing of George Floyd, whose murder at the knee of a white police officer has sparked peaceful protests as well as riots and looting.

“Today I’ll tell you what. I’m really very upset about the George Floyd death,” Harbaugh said on the Rich Eisen Show. “That’s got me preoccupied today. Horrendous. I’m just watching right now and looking forward to there being an investigation and waiting for charges. That’s completely outrageous.”

Tuesday, Issa explained his reasoning for the march.

“We all know there’s unrest going on in the community,” he said. “Everyone wants to do something, but they just don’t know where to start. By starting this, it gave everyone an easy way to help out, make a difference and get the message out.”

Jim Harbaugh open to creative ideas for return of college football

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As the leaders of the sport figure out the hows, Jim Harbaugh is open to any and all ideas to safely get college football back.

The Michigan head coach appeared on NBC SportsLunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico Wednesday afternoon.  As a growing number of administrators have started to acknowledge, Jim Harbaugh is fully aware that, even when it does return, games won’t be played in front of capacity crowds.

Harbaugh also stated that, to a man, his players would choose to play football games with no fans at all as opposed to not playing at all.

During the course of the interview, Harbaugh also applauded his university’s creativity when it comes to allowing students, including his football players, back onto campus.  And allowing them back on safely.

During a previous interview, Harbaugh broached the very same subject.

“Heck yeah, I’d be comfortable coaching a game without any fans,” Harbaugh said. “If the choice were play in front of no fans or not play, then I would choose to play in front of no fans.”

It’s expected that the NCAA will vote to lift the ban on on-campus workouts.  That would begin clearing the way for football players to return.  Once the NCAA makes that official — it’s already being reported, but the NCAA hasn’t yet announced it — it will be up to the individual conferences to reopen its doors for college football players to return to campus.  In accordance with local and state guidelines, obviously.

It’s already been confirmed that the SEC will vote this Friday on whether to bring student-athletes, including college football players, back to campus June 1 or June 15.  Of the 14 athletic directors in the conference, just one, Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer, is not in favor of the June 1 date for a return.  The Big Ten is also expected to allow players back to campus early this month, with schools such as Ohio State targeting June 8.

The Big 12, meanwhile, is eyeing a mid- to late-June return date for student-athletes.  The Pac-12 will make a determination next week.  The ACC is expected to do the same.