Detroit Free Press
Many decisions in the college football landscape must be resolved amid the coronavirus pandemic, starting with a complex question: will there be a football season?
Michigan sports director Warde Manuel is rooted in conversations with other Big Ten leaders for an answer, and he hopes the verdict will come in late June or early July.
Assuming that football can be played, another uncertainty arises with attendance at the stadium. Earlier in June, Michigan State sporting director Bill Beekman said he expected 20% to 30% capacity in the 75,000-seat Spartan stadium.
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Manuel is unsure of Michigan Stadium, which holds more than 100,000 people, but he knows that the Big House “will not be normal.”
“Will it be 50% or 30% or 20% or 10 or zero?” I’m not sure, ”said Manuel. “It will be a combination of listening to public health officials (and) to know what the capacity of our stadium can handle given the direction given by the governor’s office and the university. Everything depends. “
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On May 15, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the stadiums will not be filled until a vaccine is developed.
“We need a vaccine and we need massive amounts available to be able to test and recognize that we have some immunity,” she said at her weekly press conference. “We are not there yet. Until that happens, I think all of the organizers of these leagues understand how important it is that we act responsibly here. “
For this reason, Beekman is ready to prioritize seats for MSU undergraduates and graduate students, followed by subscription holders and major donors. MSU is installing contactless taps and is even targeting a contactless payment system for concession stands.
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Manuel is still trying to find out what is the right decision for Michigan, where he has just authorized the football, men’s and women’s basketball players to return for voluntary training starting Monday. Two of the 221 COVID-19 tests administered returned positive.
In May, soccer coach U-M Jim Harbaugh was asked about fans in the stands, or their absence, during an appearance at the Rich Eisen Show. His players were initially shocked at the idea of playing in an empty stadium.
“I’m going, here’s a question:” Do you prefer to play in front of no fan or not to play? “They prefer to play,” said Harbaugh. “This is part of the feedback. “
To make matters even more confusing, the President of Michigan, Dr. Mark Schlissel, is still waiting to see if the university can open its doors to all students. The state of Michigan, however, has already started planning in-person classes this fall.
In case the students don’t come back, the sporting events won’t either, said Schlissel.
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“I stand by the statement (from Schlissel) and I think he stands by his statement,” said Manuel. “If it is stated that our students cannot come back to campus for classes, why ask a student-athlete to come back to play sports?” It’s against the way I think about our student athletes. It’s the students first. “
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.