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).