Originally, the plan was for Saturday’s protest to go from the tunnel entrance of the Big House to South University Avenue, where University President Mark Schlissel resides. Organizers scrapped that due to construction.
If they hadn’t, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh would have been protesting outside his president’s house.
Schlissel, according to documents obtained in a lawsuit by frustrated players from Nebraska, was among the Big Ten presidents who voted to postpone the season by an 11-3 margin. His only public comment on the situation has been a statement on the day of the season’s postponement supporting the decision. The Daily requested to speak with him this week and was denied. He hasn’t spoken with Harbaugh — or anyone else with the football program — either.
“I have had none,” Harbaugh said when asked about his conversations with Schlissel. “We’ve texted and (athletic director) Warde Manuel’s done all the conversations with President Schlissel.”
Players said Schlissel hasn’t been to the practice facility and hasn’t explained his reasoning to them either. Harbaugh said he’s sent texts and emails, but when asked whether Schlissel has responded to any of them, he only said, “Talk to Warde. Warde talks directly to President Schlissel.”
Showing up at Saturday’s protest, organized by Michigan football parents to rally in favor of a fall football season, isn’t the first time Harbaugh has publicly contradicted Schlissel on the issue. The day before the season’s postponement was made official, Harbaugh sent a lengthy statement outlining why he believed it was safe to play. Chief among the reasons was Michigan’s lack of positive COVID-19 tests.
According to an update sent Saturday morning, Michigan athletics had four new positive tests in the last week among players and coaches from all teams. The football program went the entire month of August without a positive test.
“You think maybe I’ve got some inside information or something. I really don’t,” Harbaugh said. “I can tell you how practice was, I can tell you how the workouts have been. I can tell you we just had another 120 tests that were all negative. That's close to 1,000 tests in a row completely negative. I can tell you how the guys’ grades are right now. That’s really the things I’m focused on is just training and coaching our guys.”
In other words, without publicly saying he’s upset at the University president, Harbaugh explained why he would feel that way. All the coaches in the Big Ten want to play, he said. High school football in Michigan is back on. The team feels it can be ready soon, and Harbaugh has told them playing in October is a possibility despite conflicting reports on the matter.
“You give me a couple weeks in pads, two weeks, I’m ready to go,” junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson said. “We haven’t stopped practicing.”
“I don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the world,” Harbaugh said. “I know what we’re doing.”
Walking as thin a line as he could with recorders in front of him, Harbaugh didn’t leave much about his position to the imagination.
“Well I mean, would have rather been coming to a game than a rally,” he said. “But (that) definitely hits you. We should've been playing a game today.”