Michigan's Jim Harbaugh 'comfortable' playing games without fans if necessary

There won’t be much that is normal when the college football season is eventually played during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Getting students, coaches and staff members back on campus is one thing. But the next question most have is whether or not fans will be allowed in the stands. The massive crowds are part of what makes college football special, especially at places like Michigan. 

The Big House in Ann Arbor is one of several college football stadiums that holds more than 100,000 fans, but holding games without fans in the stands could be part of a path toward football returning. Jim Harbaugh, entering his sixth season as UM’s head coach, would be OK with no fans in the stands if it came down to that. 

Professional sports leagues like the NBA and Major League Baseball are mulling playing games without fans in the stands and Harbaugh said without the ability to test on a large scale, it would be hard to fill up the stadiums. 

“You could test both teams. You could test the officials. Can you test 100,000 fans coming into a stadium? Probably not,” Harbaugh said on ESPN’s Get Up. “Without a vaccine, you probably couldn’t do that. So to answer your question, heck yeah I’d be comfortable coaching a game without any fans.

“If the choice were to play in front of no fans or not play, then I would choose to play in front of no fans. And I think darn near every guy I’ve talked to on our team, that’s the way they feel about it.”

Michigan Stadium holds more than 107,000 fans, but Jim Harbaugh said he would be OK playing with it empty in order to play football. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

NCAA to vote on allowing players on campus soon

The Big Ten suspended all organized team activities back in March, a ruling that canceled Michigan’s spring football practice and was recently extended through June 1. On a national scale, the NCAA Division I Council’s moratorium on on-campus summer activities goes through May 31 and a vote is expected Wednesday on whether or not to extend it. 

Harbaugh said he and his coaching staff stay in constant contact with the Michigan players and he hopes they can get them back on campus for workouts soon. 

“Hopefully we can get the guys back together and get them working out as soon as the gyms open up, you feel like you can get them back into the facility at least on a voluntary basis,” Harbaugh said. “I sure do miss them, I can tell you that.”

Harbaugh stressed the importance of testing in order to get football players back on campus and operating safely. 

"You’re going through a lot of different scenarios, and learning more all the time, too,” Harbaugh said. “People with the practices of staying safe and can you get an entire team together — coaches, players, trainers, strength staff, etc. — that can not have symptoms and not test positive and then play football? 

“Can you have a game where both sides, both teams are tested, coaches, officials, trainers, everybody involved, and if you don’t test positive and you don’t have it, can you still play the game? I think that’s the question that’s on everybody’s mind.”


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