The Wolverine


The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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18 THE WOLVERINE MAY 2020 trickled out. The best case, obvi- ously, involves big breakthroughs in combating the COVID-19 scourge, such that a full, uninterrupted sea- son could begin for the Wolverines at Washington Sept. 5. Failing that, other possibilities have been discussed. According to sources close to those ongoing talks, they in- volve versions of the following: • Eliminating the non-conference schedule altogether and playing a nine-game Big Ten slate with no championship game. This could pre- sumably begin Sept. 26, in Michi- gan's case with a home game against Wisconsin. • Eliminating the three non-confer- ence contests and playing a six-game schedule, against division foes only. This could then be followed by a Big Ten championship contest, involving those that emerge atop the East and West Divisions. • Moving the schedule back, per- haps even to a late winter-into-spring format. Such a move would be a rad- ical departure from the norm, but might allow schools to play a full slate, and potentially recover more lost revenue. Herbstreit noted since he made his original wave-making comments about the season, he's spoken to sev- eral "actual decision-makers in the college game." Again, those discussions involve the gamut regarding what might play out over the coming months. "If everything's okay, status quo, show up on campus in July, two-a- days, regular season, here we go," Herbstreit said during the April 19 teleconference. "That's the first con- tingency. Then they build it all the way back … the second, the third, the fourth, all the way back to the willingness to start in late February or March, turning it into a spring sport and playing in March, April and May and playing postseason in June, which would be — I think — a last-ditch effort." It might be last ditch, but not one ditched without strong consider- ation, noted Michigan radio side- line reporter and Detroit talk show host Doug Karsch. He is convinced the hunger for football is such that Michigan fans would line up to see Harbaugh's Wolverines at any point in the calendar year. "Some of the things getting kicked around seem pretty extreme, but obvi- ously we haven't seen anything like this before," Karsch said. "They're try- ing to look at all alternatives and still have a season. We're a very adaptive species. We can make football work. "You're going to play in the snow … are you going to tell me you're not going to a game if there's snow on the ground? We're adaptive, and we're hardy." Karsch, like the others, remains keenly aware of the impact beyond football. "It's not just the pocketbook of the football program," he reminded. "It's every non-revenue sport that wants football to happen. Fans do. What's the downside? I don't see any down- side to manipulating the schedule to make the season work." EFFECTS ALREADY FELT Michigan director of athletics Warde Manuel is feeling the oncom- ing pinch in more ways than one. He announced he's taking a five percent pay cut for the rest of the calendar year, after university president Mark Schlissel let it be known he's cutting his own salary by 10 percent. The university anticipates losing between $400 million and $1 billion by the end of 2020, resulting from the COVID-19 situation. A hiring freeze, postponing construction projects and other cuts will accompany Michi- gan's response to the situation. "I have voluntarily reduced my salary, along with other members of president Schlissel's executive officers group, for the duration of the 2020 cal- endar year," Manuel noted in a state- ment. "I have not yet asked anyone else in our department to consider voluntary reductions of their salary. "Our head coaches have all been supportive of everything I have asked them to do as we deal with our cur- rent situation and an uncertain next 12-18 months. We are examining sev- eral budget models for the next fiscal year and are implementing reduc- tions in our budget to offset projected declines in revenue. Our university, and the world, are navigating diffi- cult and unprecedented times." Even if Michigan and college foot- ball find a way to go forward with a season, they're likely not antici- pating the sort of gate receipts they normally draw. Some have talked of playing games without crowds for the safety of fans involved. Others have projected other forms of spread- ing out the normal jam-packed gath- erings, and protecting them. "Do you test them before they play every week?" Brandstatter mused, regarding the players. "If a kid tests positive prior to a game, is that game canceled? What do you do? "If you test a kid and it comes back positive 15 minutes before the game, do you play the game? Does the other coach want to play the game? Does that kid sit out and get quarantined? In addition to a hiring freeze, postponing construction projects and other cuts, direc- tor of athletics Warde Manuel is among the university leaders who have taken a volun- tary pay reduction to try keeping budgets balanced. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Michigan radio play-by-play announcer Jim Brandstatter on the impact no football would have on athletic departments "It would be devastating, economically. I don't think there's any question about that. It is catastrophic. … Eighty percent of your athletic budget just goes away."

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