Michigan plans for fans in the fall; details still in planning stages

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said the department is preparing to have fans beginning in the fall, but how many will be allowed is still in the planning stages.

Manuel spoke on a wide range of topics with reporters on Tuesday, including football coach Jim Harbaugh’s contract extension and what is expected of the program, Juwan Howard winning Big Ten Coach of the Year and the athletic department’s budget, among others, but having fans return to campus in the fall signals an emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Warde Manuel

It has been nearly a year since Michigan and campuses across the country shut down at the start of the pandemic that has gripped the country and world. The Big Ten eventually opted to play a shortened, conference-only football season last fall but fans, with the exception of parents, were not allowed to attend.

That appears to be changing.

“We are planning for fans to be in attendance in the fall, although that has not been finalized in terms of the capacity in our facility,” Manuel said Tuesday. “That will be a combination of a decision by the Big Ten presidents and then, obviously, our state and county health officials. We’re trying to look at different models there to be prepared if fans are allowed at our competitions.”

Aidan Hutchinson, a returning football starter, told The News last December when he announced he would return to Michigan for this season, that not having fans for games proved challenging.

“I need a few fans there next year. I need that in my life,” Hutchinson said. “This whole season was weird in the fact that there were no fans. It was almost like you had to create your own energy on the sidelines, and that’s tough. it's not easy, especially when you're at home, you're at the Big House, and you run out there and there's nobody there. It's like practice. It's definitely a little weird.  So that's another benefit of coming back, too. Maybe we’ll have some fans next year to give us a little juice.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis