The Wolverine

August 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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58 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2020 T he curve has been flattened, at least in the Big Ten states. COVID-19 deaths and hospi- talizations in Michigan were way down from April peaks, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) — as of July 21, U-M had 12 positive tests among 559 student- athletes back on campus, and one positive among 170 staff members. This was generally viewed as good news for those hoping for a college football season this fall. Coaches started leading workouts July 24, and it was full steam ahead in Ann Arbor with optimism that there would be some form of a foot- ball season this fall. Sixty or so miles down the road, Michigan State paused workouts af- ter one staff member — one — tested positive. When a second staffer and a player also contracted the virus, the MSU administration announced it would suspend workouts alto- gether and quarantine the team for 14 days. If that raised an eyebrow or two, it should have. Without knowing the extent of the illnesses, which ath- letes at U-M were infected, etc., it's impossible to say which approach seems more appropriate. At the same time, one thing seems very clear: There's no uniformity in the decision-making process in the Power Five conferences. And without it, this season is going to be one giant cluster of cancellations, suspensions and asterisks. Some parents, including Michigan sophomore defensive tackle Chris Hinton's, have taken notice, and — understandably — they aren't happy. "We were looking for more pro- tocol to be put in place so everyone is doing the same thing," Hinton's mother, Mya, a Notre Dame Law School graduate, told The Chicago Tribune. "What we're seeing from school to school, everyone is doing it differently." Therein lies the rub. Without someone at the top calling the shots, every conference commissioner, Board of Trustees or group of Presi- dents will suggest a different blue- print on how to proceed. In the SEC and Deep South, where football is a religion (as former Michigan play- by-play legend the great Bob Ufer used to say, "and Saturday is a holy day of obligation"), they started making their case in mid-July. "I don't think we can take this away from our players, take this away from our state and our coun- try," LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said. "We need football. Football is the lifeblood of our country." This in a state in which COVID cases were surging. Meanwhile, Michigan President Mark Schlissel, in a state whose outlook was much more optimistic, went on record (again) to say he remained wary, cautioning that no students on campus meant no ath- letics, period. And NCAA President Mark Em- mert? He did what he usually does in an uncomfortable situation: He punted. If that continues, we're going to have a season in which some confer- ences play, some don't, and perhaps some league teams decide to opt out on their own. In short … chaos. "It's pretty general," Chris Hin- ton Sr., Chris' father, said of the NCAA's deference to conferences and individual schools. "There's nothing to it. It's frustrating because the NCAA, if there's an issue with whether athletes are getting an extra lunch or extra meal, they can whip up something and mandate some- thing on rules about meals, but not about COVID-19 protocol. "Mya and I are huge football fans. We want to see a season, but we want it done safely and only if it makes sense." They sent an open letter to Em- mert in June outlining requests for a universal standard of coronavirus testing and safety protocols for all schools to follow. The Tribune reported that the Hintons created the advocacy group College Foot- ball Parents 24/7, a group of 2,000 parents of athletes, with the goal of forcing the NCAA to make clear and uniform rules. Hinton Sr. also made it clear that he wasn't alone, and that he and the other parents held the power. In addition to Chris, the Hintons also have a younger son, Myles, playing at Stanford. "If guidelines that are going to be put in place, if we don't feel com- fortable [with them], they will not play," Hinton Sr. said, noting they aren't going away. "It's on us as parents. Do we put our sons back in harm's way?" Don't expect the decision to get any easier. Though Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh reached out to all parents via a survey, Zoom calls with doctors and more — and the Hintons were pleased with U-M's response — they're looking for more from Emmert and Co. Given what we've seen over the last several years, they might be waiting a lot longer — long enough that the nightmare that is 2020 in- cludes no college football at all. ❑ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS A Call For Leadership NCAA President Mark Emmert's failure to institute a universal standard of coronavirus testing and safety protocols for all schools to follow could lead to a season filled with cancellations, suspensions and asterisks. PHOTO COURTESY NCAA.ORG

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