The Wolverine

September 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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6 THE WOLVERINE SEPTEMBER 2020 W arde Manuel stresses unity in the face of an empty Michigan Stadium and 14 decades of tradition on hold. The U-M director of athletics wants ev- eryone to come together in the face of the COVID-19 threat. Good luck with that. The temperature gauge at Schembechler Hall pegs in the red these days. Players there don't believe their voices were heard prior to the Big Ten's uni- lateral shutdown of the football season and all fall sports. Some are too angry, or too judicious, to speak. Others charge their last shot at foot- ball on the biggest collegiate stage of all has been stolen. It's an excruciatingly tough position for Manuel to be in. He didn't make the call to end it all. He's merely charged with putting the best face on a decision he knows won't be popular. Manuel did so, recording a video praising U-M coaches, staff and ath- letes for their efforts in providing a sterling example of staying as safe as possible under the coronavirus threat. He also emphasized there are is- sues bigger than football. "These are games," he said. "They're important. The traditions are important. We love our fans, and I'm going to miss seeing our fans and having all those games and do- ing all the things we do. "But we will get through it to- gether, and we will be stronger in the end because of the fight and the chal- lenges, the things we learned about ourselves, the way we have to come together in a way we've never had to come together before as a society to make sure we get through this as safely and as healthy as we all can." Manuel's unity plea would digest better if the threat loomed as clear- cut as advertised. Michigan football players know enough science to un- derstand the threat they face of a se- rious coronavirus outcome remains statistically minuscule. They know how they dedicated themselves to a self-imposed lock- down, and how well it worked. Jim Harbaugh himself documented the numbers in a pre-Big Ten-announce- ment Hail Mary. They know the dad of one of their brethren, junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, has been hip deep in coronavirus cases for months. For- mer Michigan All-American Dr. Chris Hutchinson works as an emer- gency room physician at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., a loca- tion that dealt with wave after wave of the virus over the past months. Dr. Hutchinson would have made the call to let his son play football this year. Let that sink in. The elder Hutchinson went on 97.1 The Ticket's Morning Show and blasted the vote by Big Ten presi- dents. He cast considerable doubt about it involving an ominous threat toward college-age athletes. "I believe that risk tolerance was the issue — not risk for getting student-athletes sick, but the risk of being sued — let's be honest here," Hutchinson stressed. "There was no additional medical information out. They just got together and realized that they might get sued because somebody might have some long- term complications, and they shied away from it. That's my personal belief. From a medi- cal standpoint, that decision was not ready to be made yet." Hutchinson insists football programs can protect them- selves, like Harbaugh, Ala- bama coach Nick Saban and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney maintain. Michigan's numbers bore out that fact, and others have learned the hard way. "I truly think that if the sea- son were on, the motivation to not ruin the season for your team is a really strong one, because I think we realize … what happened at LSU? They all went to a club and all got ex- posed," Hutchinson said. "That information right there has re- ally taken hold and the kids re- alize that, 'If I want to play, I've got to not go to the frat party.' "The risk is not zero, but the risk is not going to be zero in the dorm room either, and again, [it's] a lot safer in a controlled environment where kids are motivated to play foot- ball. I just think it was a bad decision, and certainly too early of a decision." What about myocarditis, the heart inflammation pushed hard as an- other argument against the season? "If that was what really went into [the Big Ten's] thinking, that's just window dressing because they don't want to get sued," Dr. Hutchinson said. "There's a ton of viral myo- carditis. The vast majority of them, especially in young, healthy people, are minor events. "It would be extremely rare to have a kid get extremely sick and have those complications that they've talked about. In my opinion, not enough to trash the fall football season — and all fall sports, for that matter." Follow the science, they say. But sometimes there's science on both sides, and lawyers on one, tipping the scales. ❑ WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON No United Front On Pulling The Plug Former U-M All-American Dr. Chris Hutchinson, the father of junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and an emergency room physician in Royal Oak, Mich., said of the Big Ten decision's to postpone all fall sports: "I just think it was a bad decision, and certainly too early of a decision." PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETICS Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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