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Wolverines focus on 'Michigan Combine,' possible January start after 'very unfair' decision

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson referred to the last couple weeks since the Big Ten decided to postpone the football season as “tough” and “weird.”

Hutchinson, a junior, worked hard in the offseason to transform his body and game and, like his teammates, was looking forward to the season this fall.

That won't happen, as the season was postponed to the spring -- a decision that was announced by Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren after consulting with university presidents in conference schools.

Ben Mason

Hutchinson's parents have been instrumental in organizing the Michigan parents who have written a letter, as many of the Big Ten parents groups have done, to Warren seeking a reversal of the decision and, at the very least, transparency as to the decision-making process.

Warren, who announced the decision just more than two weeks ago, less than a week after releasing a conference-only 10-game schedule, said it was made for the health and safety of the fall athletes because of COVID-19.

Still, Warren’s son, Powers, a redshirt junior receiver at Mississippi State, continues to prepare for the season, as the SEC, along with the ACC and Big 12 of the Power Five, are still planning to play this fall.

This irks Hutchinson.

“It does bother me a lot. I think it’s very unfair,” Hutchinson said Thursday in a Zoom call with reporters, referring to Warren's son playing. “I heard his rebuttal in terms of that statement. I heard he got to sit down with his son and have a really hard conversation with him about it.

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“I wish I could have had that same conversation with my parents, but he made that decision for me. I think it’s a little unfair his family got to talk about it, and I couldn’t even ask (my family), because he made that decision for me.”

Senior fullback Ben Mason also met with media on Thursday and described hearing the news of the postponed season from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

“He brought us out on the field and told us the news and a lot of guys had different emotions,” Mason said. “Basically right there, we started practice. He gave us a couple days off. Right after that, we pretty much started moving on to fight from there.”

Mason was asked if he wished the players could have had a voice in the decision-making process.

“Yeah, I do,” Mason said. “I think a lot of guys on the team wanted to play, and it was heartbreaking for us to hear the news that we couldn’t. But at the same, you have to trust the experts who decided not to play. They had to know something that we’re not aware of and maybe they will come out and share what that information is. I don’t know why they would just cancel the season without having any information as to why not.”

Aidan Hutchinson

Hutchinson said the players and coaches were powerless in this situation.

“As much as we want to make change, as much we want to play, it won’t come down to us, sadly,” Hutchinson said. “It’s going to come down to the commissioner and the presidents. It’s all out of our hands, so whatever we say has such little impact on the decisions that will be made by the commissioner and the presidents.”

Two Michigan players, right tackle Jalen Mayfield and cornerback Ambry Thomas, have already decided to leave college football and prepare for the NFL Draft. Hutchinson doesn’t know what he will do but continues to go through voluntary practices with his teammates.

Harbaugh has designed the practices to prepare the team for the NFL combine. The Wolverienes will host a "Michigan Combine" on Oct. 24, the day UM was to play Ohio State in the revised Big Ten schedule this fall. NFL scouts are expected to be present at the event at Michigan Stadium.

“So some of those new aspirations are kind of focusing on those combine drills and trying to excel at the highest level,” Hutchinson said.

The Big Ten reportedly is working toward a football season that could be played as early as January, likely at a number of domed facilities, such as Ford Field in Detroit.

Mason said they’ll be ready.

“Give us the date, and we’ll be there,” Mason said.

Having a winter/spring season could potentially lure some of the players considering leaving early to remain at Michigan and play. Any type of season at this point appeals to them.

“I’d be thrilled to play football in January, or in April or May; I don’t care when we play football,” Hutchinson said. “I was so excited for this year, I made so many improvements in my game, I made a total body transformation and I was so ready for this season. It was sad it got taken from me and all my teammates. I just really want to play football.”