Schlissel casts doubt on possibility of football if classes are online this fall

Sunday, May 24, 2020 - 11:35am

University president Mark Schlissel cast doubt on a football season if there are no students on campus.

University president Mark Schlissel cast doubt on a football season if there are no students on campus. Buy this photo
Allison Engkvist/Daily

As colleges and conferences across the country move closer to resuming athletic activities, Michigan President Mark Schlissel is taking a much more measured approach.

“If there is no on-campus instruction then there won’t be intercollegiate athletics, at least for Michigan,” Schlissel said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

These remarks come days after the NCAA voted to allow voluntary football and basketball workouts to resume starting on June 1 and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer relaxed her stay at home order slightly, allowing groups of less than 10 people to congregate in one location as long as they practice social distancing.

Recently, football coaches Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown have spoken about the possibility of playing in front of empty stadiums, but both seemed certain about there being a season this coming fall.

The ramifications go beyond football, as Schlissel also noted any decision made about the fall would be extended to the winter semester also. Meaning that there may also be no basketball, should classes be online.

Schools across the country are making moves to adjust to COVID-19, with Notre Dame, Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina adopting a schedule for the fall that sends students home on Thanksgiving, extending its winter break and starting early. The SEC voted to allow use of athletic facilities on campus beginning June 8 and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott believing there might be fans in stadiums to start the football season.

The Big Ten has chosen to leave decisions about athletic programs largely up to the schools, leading to the possibility of a season with some schools participating and some not. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, for instance, is allowing voluntary workouts to begin June 8, pending university approval.

Football makes up 43 percent of Michigan’s athletic revenue through the season, and while playing without fans will put a significant dent in that revenue, a season without football entirely will be incredibly costly to the University. The athletic department’s budget last year was $185 million, but it seems that won’t play much into a decision.

“So although trouble in a $185 million unit is a big deal, it isn’t of the scale that it threatens the University,” Schlissel said.