UM's Harbaugh: No football players tested positive for COVID-19 in August

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

A week away from what would have been the Michigan football season opener, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh endorsed a post on Twitter revealing there have been no positive COVID-19 results among his players the past month, while making clear he wants to play.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren announced Aug. 11, six days after unveiling a 10-game conference-only schedule, that fall sports, including football, were postponed in response to lingering health and safety questions regarding COVID-19. Harbaugh, in a statement following that announcement, expressed “disappointment” he shared with his players.

Sean Magee, UM associate athletic director for football, posted Saturday on Twitter that during August, 822 COVID-19 tests were administered to Michigan football players and there were “ZERO positive results,” he wrote.

Harbaugh later tweeted, “Stay Positive! Test Negative! Play Football!’ above Magee's post sharing the testing data.

Michigan football continues to hold voluntary practices four days a week. Meanwhile, three of the Power 5 conferences, the Southeastern, ACC and Big 12, are still planning to play.

There is growing unrest from the parents of Big Ten football players who, like the group of 90-plus Michigan families, are demanding the Big Ten reverse its decision and, at the very least, produce documentation that informed the decision.

Several Nebraska players have filed suit against the Big Ten, and noted attorney Tom Mars, working with the families, has blanketed the 13 public universities in the conference with Freedom of Information Act requests to discover specifics why Warren and the presidents/chancellors made the decision to postpone. FOIA requests cannot be filed with Northwestern, a private school, and the Big Ten.

Further complicating the issue for many in the Big Ten who want to see football played this fall, is the fact Warren’s son, Powers, is a redshirt junior receiver at Mississippi State, of the SEC. .

That is an issue that Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson finds difficult to overlook.

“It does bother me a lot. I think it’s very unfair,” Hutchinson said Thursday in a Zoom call with reporters. “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.

“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.”

Warren last Wednesday released an “open letter” about the decision, but the letter, as far as the parents are concerned, didn’t tie any loose ends. Ohio State parents on Saturday held a protest of the decision Saturday at Ohio State, eight days after Randy Wade, the father of OSU cornerback Shaun Wade, led a group of about two dozen parents, including Melissa Hutchinson, Aidan's mother, in a protest outside of Big Ten headquarters in suburban Chicago.

Along with the Big Ten, the Pac-12 also announced it will not play this fall but made available the lengthy medical document the president and commissioner used to make their decision.

Several reports Friday, however, indicated some Big Ten coaches met Friday to discuss starting the season just after Thanksgiving. Harbaugh, who was not on that call -- all the Big Ten coaches meeting regularly each Thursday -- reportedly is among coaches in favor of playing a season as early as possible.

Two sources told The Detroit News on Friday that several schedule options are being discussed, including starting the season in early January. But while coaches and athletic directors can shape plans to play, the ultimate decision still rests with the commissioner and presidents.

The tweets from Harbaugh and Magee followed the Michigan athletic department’s weekly release of its COVID-19 testing data. Michigan combines the student-athletes, so they haven’t been broken down by sport.

In Michigan’s latest COVID-19 tests of student-athletes, coaches and staff, there were 616 administered with three positive results, according to the release Saturday morning.. Those tests occurred between Aug. 22 and Friday.

Of the 2,200 COVID-19 tests administered to Michigan student-athletes since June, there have been 39 positive results and of the 350 tests of staff members, three positives. In total, there have been 2,550 tests with 42 positives.

Classes are scheduled to resume Monday in Ann Arbor.

"Our student-athletes and coaches want to compete," Harbaugh said in a statement after the Big Ten announced the postponement. "They have committed, trained and prepared their entire lives for this opportunity, and I know how much they’re disappointed at this time. I share in their disappointment.

"We have shown over the weeks since returning to campus that we could meet the challenge and provide our student-athletes the opportunity of a fall football season. Our football team, our coaching staff, our support staff in Schembechler Hall have all stepped up, followed every rule, and done everything in their power magnificently to give all the opportunity to compete. I am extremely proud, thankful and appreciative of our team and how they have conducted and represented our program and university."

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