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'We will not cower from it': Jim Harbaugh uses data to support claim that football should be played

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh advocated Monday for college football to be played because the COVID-19 virus “can be controlled and handled.” He cited a number of facts in a statement released by the athletic department.

Harbaugh’s letter came on the heels of multiple reports, including in The Detroit News, that the Big Ten has postponed the college football season until the spring.

Jim Harbaugh

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren unveiled a 10-game conference-only composite football schedule for the fall last Wednesday, but as he said that day, announcing a schedule did not mean a season would be played. Michigan and Michigan State opened preseason camps, as did the rest of the conference teams, on Friday.

“I’m not advocating for football this fall because of my passion or our players desire to play but because of the facts accumulated over the last eight weeks since our players returned to campus on June 13,” Harbaugh wrote. “I am advocating on August 10 that this virus can be controlled and handled because of these facts:

►The Michigan football program has had 11 positive tests out of 893 administered, including three upon initial return to campus.

►We have had two positive tests out of the last 417 administered.

►We have had zero positive tests out of the last 353 administered.

►There have been zero positives tests among the coaches or staff over the entire eight weeks of testing.

►There has been no contract tracing to our fields, weight room, locker room or facility.

►We have had zero pauses in our training.

►We have complied with all CDC guidelines and self‐implemented stricter standards for contacting tracing in quarantining to prevent spread.

►We have followed all health and safety guidelines and welcome and encourage any health department, University administrators or other sports programs to visit and see how we practice and execute these protocols.”

Last Friday on the “In the Trenches” podcast with Jon Jansen, Harbaugh said he was pleased how vigilant his players had been wearing masks and social distancing. He said that more than 100 players tested all returned negatives test results last Wednesday, two days before camps was to begin.

“This isn’t easy. This is hard,” Harbaugh wrote. “It is proven that the conduct, discipline and structure within our program have led to these stellar results. We respect the challenge that the virus has presented, however, we will not cower from it.  We have developed a great prototype for how we can make this work and provide the opportunity for players to play.

More: Wojo: Big Ten football shouldn’t pull the plug, just yet

“If you are transparent and follow the rules, this is how it can be done. I am forever proud of our players, parents, coaches and staff for being leaders and role models in our sport, at our institution and in society. We will continue to follow all health and safety guidelines, teach, train, and coach those young men and their families that have put their trust in us, while advocating for a football season in the fall. In quoting President Theodore Roosevelt, we do this “so that our place will not be among the cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Harbaugh concluded the letter with two hashtags that have gained steam since late Sunday as college football players across the country began to mobilize on social media with the #WEWANTTOPLAY hashtag.

Coaches, like Michigan offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, began using the #WEWANTTOCOACH hashtag. Gattis wrote on Twitter Monday morning that Michigan’s “medical protocol is the standard. The environment we provide is the safest environment physically, mentally, and emotionally for our players!”