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Mark Schlissel: No athletics at Michigan unless there are on-campus classes

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

While a return to college football this fall appeared to have gained steam last week, University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel says there won’t be a football season at UM unless students are able to take on-campus classes.

Schlissel, in remarks appearing in a Wall Street Journal story published Sunday, said he will make the decision soon on how the upcoming school year will look. The University suspended on-campus activities in mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel

"If there is no on-campus instruction then there won't be intercollegiate athletics, at least for Michigan," Schlissel said to the WSJ. He later added he has "some degree of doubt as to whether there will be college athletics (anywhere), at least in the fall."

How Michigan proceeds with classes, online or in-person, for the fall will be in place for the entire school year, he said.

“What’s going to be different in January?” Schlissel told the paper.

This comes on the heels of decisions made last week that strongly suggested a return to college football this fall. The NCAA Division I Council voted to approve voluntary athletic activities in football and men’s and women’s basketball to begin June 1 through June 30. The Southeastern Conference said football players can return for voluntary workouts on June 8, while Ohio State football also made a similar announcement last week, saying the Buckeyes can return for voluntary workouts on June 8, and Illinois said its football players can return June 3 for workouts. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, however, on Friday extended the stay-at-home order through June 12.

Last month, Schlissel said he hoped to have on-campus classes this fall.

“We’re hoping to have a fall semester,” he said in a story that appeared in The Detroit News. “What I am calling it is a public-health-informed fall semester.”

Notre Dame plans to start the fall session early and send students home at Thanksgiving. Several schools across the country are considering that type of schedule, while others have said they will maintain online classes.

“I don’t want to set false expectations,” Schlissel told the WSJ. “They’re really not as declarative as they appear.”

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said recently on “The Rich Eisen Show” the school is moving toward playing football this fall.

“I don’t have the definitive 100% (answer), but things are trending that way, we’re moving in that direction,” Kelly said. “We want to play in the fall. At the end of the day, those decisions will be made by our president and board of trustees, let’s get that straight. But we’re moving in that direction and preparing for those eventualities.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, appearing on ESPN’s “Get Up!” program last week, said he would be just fine playing games in an empty stadium.

“Heck yeah I’d be comfortable coaching a game without any fans,” he said. “If the choice were play in front of no fans or not play, then I would choose to play in front of no fans. And darn near every guy I’ve talked to on our team, that’s the way they feel about it.”

Harbaugh said players, coaches and officials would have to be tested before games.

“As it relates to football. If we can get the gyms back open then we can get the guys back in the weight room working out in small groups, social distancing, washing their hands, taking temperatures,” Harbaugh said on Mike Tirico’s NBC show last week. “Eventually you look at playing games. Is that possible? That’s the No. 1 question that our players have and we have, but you can see the path that you could play with players being tested, coaches being tested, referees, and if you test negative, you can participate in the game.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis