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The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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16 THE WOLVERINE MAY 2020 BY JOHN BORTON I magine a year in which The Big House sits silent, empty, only the ghosts of autumns past surg- ing down the tunnel and out onto the massive expanse of green. Imagine no "BAAAAAAND, take the field!" No thunderous playing of "The Victors," 115,000 multiplying the sound. Imagine no hoisting of the M-Club banner, no flood of winged helmets donned by warriors leaping to touch it. Imagine no tailgates, filling the acreage around the 93-year-old sta- dium like a fall festival with easy, comfortable, time-honed rhythms. Imagine all of it swept away, by a stealthy, insidious virus that passes over some and claims others. Many can't imagine it. They won't allow themselves to do so. That is not merely the football diehards. It is safe to say that the entire University of Michigan athletic world, all 29 var- sity sports and hundreds of student- athletes, await the gridiron games in some form. They all harbor varying degrees of football fever, many taking in the pageantry of a football Saturday. But they're all football fans in this respect — if the big dog does not eat, every- body goes hungry. Michigan football revenue pays an overwhelming portion of what has become a near $200-million athletic budget — gate receipts, preferred seating, stadium suites, television money, apparel licensing, etc. If foot- ball goes away for a year, it takes everybody with it. "It would be devastating, eco- nomically," Michigan radio play- by-play announcer Jim Brandstatter observed. "I don't think there's any question about that. "It is catastrophic. What do you do with the rest of your athletic budget? You have no money to pay scholar- ships to students in track and field, or women's basketball, lacrosse, wrestling, gymnastics, all of the 'non- revenue' sports people talk about. "Where do they go? What do they do? What do athletic departments do? Eighty percent of your athletic budget just goes away. Goodbye. See ya. It's no longer there." Brandstatter completely under- stands the priorities, like anyone who has followed the COVID-19 devas- tation in many areas of the United States and a host of other nations. He's quick to point out that keeping people safe, and making sure fans, players, coaches, etc., are protected is paramount. That's what casts such a shadow over any plans for what's ahead — or what's not — in the coming months. From individual schools, to the Big Ten and other leagues, to the NCAA, everyone is trying to make contin- gency plans, and that involves at- tempting to predict the unpredictable. "We're all assuming that we're go- ing to have this coronavirus thing fig- ured out," Brandstatter observed. "I know at some point we will. But un- til we get a vaccine or an absolutely guaranteed treatment of correcting whatever the coronavirus would cause for someone, it's all wishful thinking. That trumps everything." Yet Michigan and everyone else in big-time college football must ar- range the cards dealt in such a way as to be ready for the season ahead. "Hope, and going to prepare," head football coach Jim Harbaugh said on a podcast with National Review. "I'm not going to give it one thought that it's not going to happen, because it's like being a backup quarterback. "I learned this, that it's better to be prepared and not have the oppor- tunity than to not prepare and your chance comes and you're not pre- pared to do it. You've got to … not one thought that it won't happen." RUNNING THE OPTIONS ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit threw thoughts that it won't happen into overtime on March 24, when he said he'd be "shocked" if a college football season went forward. He re- HEAVY COST No Football Would Be 'Devastating' For U-M

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