For weeks, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has been advocating for football season to be reinstated. The Big Ten’s decision earlier this month to cancel the season, Harbaugh says, was hastily made and did not take players’ voices into consideration.
Now, he has public support from his brother John, the Baltimore Ravens’ head coach.
“Free the Big Ten,” John Harbaugh told reporters Wednesday. “Let’s go. Let’s go play some football.”
John Harbaugh’s message came from Ravens’ training camp amid an air of normalcy foreign to college football in 2020. While Baltimore prepares for its season opener against the Cleveland Browns next Sunday, Jim’s Wolverines are limited to a 20-hour-a-week schedule with no set start to the season on the horizon.
The NFL and college football, though, operate in opposite spheres. While the NFL exists as a single entity, college football lacks a singular organizing body that operates in the way conferences do, making it difficult for cohesive rules to be established between conferences. Additionally, the NFL has placed heavy restrictions on what its players can and cannot do in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. College football conferences lack the ability to do the same due to the continued presence of in-person classes at many schools as well as the limitations on rules that can be enforced on amateur athletes.
Still, though, the ACC, Big 12 and SEC are forging on with altered seasons. And John Harbaugh believes the Big Ten should be following suit.
“Let’s get Michigan and Ohio State and all those great teams playing some football out there,” John Harbaugh said. “Michigan had zero positive tests in August, they’re doing a great job with protocols and those guys want to play.”
His message echoes that of the Wolverine Football Parents group, which is organizing a protest Saturday afternoon to express its frustration with the Big Ten. The parents’ group, led by Melissa Hutchinson, mother of Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, has been advocating for increased transparency and the reinstatement of football since Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren canceled the fall season on Aug. 11.
The group tweeted confirmation of its protest Tuesday.
“#LetThemPlayNOW UM Protest Kickoff at the Big House Tunnel 1pm Sat. Sept.5th,” a tweet on the account Wolverine Football Parents read. “Players, Parents, Coaches, Students, Fans: Come One Come ALL! Deck out in Game Day attire, wear Masks, and get LOUD! It's GREAT to be a Michigan Wolverine! Let Them Play NOW!!”
Unfortunately for the Harbaughs and Michigan’s parents, there remains no scheduled start date for the 2020 season. And come Saturday afternoon, when the Wolverines would have been kicking off their season against Washington, Michigan Stadium will be sitting empty, with only the scattered dots of maize-and-blue clad protestors at its gates.