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Jim Harbaugh: Relationship with UM president Mark Schlissel is fine

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says he and Michigan president Mark Schlissel are getting along fine and indicated the president has been supportive of the football program.

Harbaugh, appearing Tuesday morning on the “Stoney and Jansen” show on 97.1 The Ticket, was asked about the relationship with Schlissel in light of his comments in early September during a “#WeWantToPlay” parent-led protest that began outside Michigan Stadium as the Big Ten faced pressure for postponing the football season.

Harbaugh said at the time that although he shared the program’s test results and how vigilant the players had been, he and Schlissel had not had any conversations. Players also expressed disappointment that Schlissel never met with them and explained his reasons for being on board with the Big Ten’s decision to postpone.

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, left, and Michigan president Mark Schlissel

Schlissel, a physician-scientist, had not been in support of playing sports this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Big Ten postponed the season Aug. 11. Then on Sept. 16, confident with the availability of daily rapid testing, the conference presidents and chancellors decided to reinstate the season, which kicks off this weekend. Michigan opens at Minnesota on Saturday night, the first of eight games followed by a seeded crossover game.

Harbaugh was asked Tuesday if he has spoken to Schlissel lately.

"We do, we always have," Harbaugh said on the "Stoney and Jansen" show. "Our president, Mark Schlissel, one, I know that he’s our president. He’s also a doctor and I can tell you his first and foremost has been the health and safety of all the students on campus, everybody who works at the University of Michigan, and that includes the football players. Everything he has done has been toward that goal. He’s been very supportive in so many ways and we’re happy that we have a president like that.”

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Harbaugh told reporters Monday and reiterated on the show that the 74 players he is planning to travel to Minnesota have not tested positive for COVID-19. Players must be tested daily.

"Fortunate to have a president that’s a doctor,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got some tremendous doctors at the University of Michigan who have been incredibly helpful at every step of the way, all the procedures and protocols, and care for all the students here at Michigan and faculty and staff, including football players. In all those regards, it’s been A-plus.”

Schlissel, in an interview published Oct. 1 in the Michigan Daily student newspaper, said Harbaugh communicates with him “from time to time.”

“But in the instance of how to keep our student-athletes safe, that’s much more of a medical decision and it’s much more of a university responsibility than it is a football coach’s decision,” Schlissel told the paper. “I didn’t play professional football and coach a college team and coach a pro team, and Jim didn’t go to medical school and do a residency and become a licensed physician. So we come at things in really different ways.

“I’m respectful of his thoughts and ideas, but ultimately I have the responsibility for the health and safety of all our students and student-athletes. When we didn’t think it was safe, we pulled back, and when we found a way to allow the student-athletes to compete with an acceptable level of safety, then we opened things back up again.”

Twitter: @chengelis