UM coaches, athletes shocked by two-week shutdown due to pandemic, Manuel says

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said his coaches and athletes were shocked by the decision to shut down the program for two weeks for COVID-19 reasons after receiving a memorandum last Saturday from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

It has not been easy, he said, but all affected by the decision have been resilient.

Manuel, appearing on the “In the Trenches” podcast that posted Saturday, told host Jon Jansen there is a plan in place when the athletes are able to return to competition, but first things first.

Warde Manuel

The MDHHS sent a memorandum to the university on Jan. 23 and recommended a pause “until further notice and up to 14 days” because of five confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, which spreads more easily.

Based on this recommendation, it appears the earliest Michigan sports can return is Feb. 7.

“This was the case where the state felt we needed to take a two-week pause and quarantine to try to stop the spread particularly of this variant which spreads very quickly, and so we’re in the middle of it and getting through it,” Manuel said on the podcast.

“After the two weeks, then the transition will begin. That’s the biggest difference about what we’re doing right now. It hearkens us back to March when this first happened where we shut the facilities down. That’s the big change, that they’re at their homes, in their dorm rooms. They’re allowed to go for walks and or jog by themselves, but that’s different than actually working on each of their sports.”

There will be an opportunity for the teams to get back and train before returning to competition. Manuel said plans have been devised by the medical staff, trainers and coaches for each sport.

“You don’t want to restart practice on Monday and then have a competition on Tuesday because it was scheduled that way before,” he said. “This is going to take a little time to get them back to resocialize into their particular sports.”

Michigan, which has been testing for the COVID-19 variant, has maintained its testing protocols based on the contact level of each sport.

The athletes and staffs in high-contact sports like football, basketball and hockey have been tested six times a week during their weeks of competition, Manuel said, with antigen testing followed up with PCR testing, if necessary. Sports like golf and tennis are tested less often because there’s little to no physical contact among the athletes.

“So, it’s anywhere from three to six days a week depending on schedule and necessary for that particular sports,” Manuel said.