Michigan shuts down all athletics amid coronavirus pandemic

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan has suspended all athletics activities, including spring football practices, effective immediately, the athletic department announced Thursday. The move was the expected next domino to fall shortly after the Big Ten said all conference and non-conference competitions are canceled through the end of the academic year.

The Big Ten, which earlier in the day canceled the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament shortly before Michigan was to tip off in Indianapolis, also said there is a “moratorium on all on- and off-campus recruiting activities for the foreseeable future,” in response to growing concerns regarding the COVID-19 — coronavirus — pandemic.

Michigan sports fans will not have any games to watch for the foreseeable future.

Among the activities suspended are baseball and softball, which are sports that compete beyond the academic year. Michigan spring football practice was officially set to begin next week. On Wednesday, the Wolverines’ announced the public practice next month at Michigan Stadium was canceled. Michigan football’s Pro Day, which gives players an opportunity to be tested and run drills before NFL coaches and scouts, was scheduled for Friday, but that also was canceled.

Late last month, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh canceled his team's annual spring trip that has taken the players abroad the past three years to Rome, Paris and South Africa last year, because of coronavirus fears.

These announcements Thursday come a day after Michigan said it planned to continue its athletics schedule but with attendance limited to essential personnel, family members and credentialed media.

The Michigan baseball team was set to open its home schedule Friday against Canisius, while the softball team was opening its home schedule Saturday against Ball State.

“Today, we took the unprecedented and proactive decision to suspend intercollegiate activities to protect the health and well-being of our student-athletes, staff and community members,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement Thursday.

“This decision, reached in collaboration with the Big Ten Conference and campus leaders, was reached after thorough discussion and was necessary given the magnitude of this global issue. The hard work and dedication of our student-athletes, coaches and staff is a source of inspiration for so many. So, too, will be our response as we confront the spread of this global pandemic. On behalf of our entire department, I thank the Big Ten Conference, presidents and athletic directors, our head coaches and community partners who have offered input and unwavering support.”

Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins told The Detroit News Wednesday night after the original announcement that games would be held but before limited crowds that coaches and players can only control so much.

“We have to get through it together,” Hutchins said Wednesday. “You deal with the cards you’re dealt. This is the world.

“I know the university is doing everything they can to protect us all. We have to trust that. I trust our leadership. It is what it is. We can’t change it.”

In conjunction with the Big Ten statement, Michigan will not allow coaches to conduct off-campus recruiting activities or host recruits on official or unofficial campus visits during this time period.  

Michigan officials and medical experts are working with state and local public health departments to closely monitor developments, according to the release.

With regard to tickets, the Michigan ticket office will refund all single-game ticket purchases and all spring sport season-ticket purchases. The Ticket Office will be contacting all accounts that purchased tickets once refunds are processed.


Twitter.com: @chengelis