The Wolverine

October 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 49 of 51

50 THE WOLVERINE OCTOBER 2020 T wo hours after it started — a protest of the Big Ten's original decision to postpone football by a hundred or so people in the shadow of Michi- gan Stadium — Chris Hutchinson packed up his tailgate tent alone. The former U-M All- American defensive tackle had given out a few bags of the remain- ing chicken tenders, grabbed a water bottle and packed the rest of his SUV to head home. A minute later, a single surgical mask blew across the empty lot like a tumbleweed. Only a few reporters writing in their cars remained to see it; everyone else had marched a mile or so down State Street to the Diag in the middle of campus before qui- etly dispersing. This was Sept. 5, a day the Michi- gan football team was first supposed to be in Washington and a week be- fore Purdue was scheduled to play the Wolverines in The Big House on what would have been a beautiful fall football Saturday in Ann Arbor. A dozen or so football players were in attendance, and for a pro- gram that takes pride in its 'The Team, The Team, The Team' mantra, it probably should have been more. "The Hutchinsons, Kemps and McCaffreys were the main ones who organized this, because we felt the need to get the parent voice out there with the 'Big Ten Parents United,'" Hutchinson said while addressing the small crowd, referring to his son, junior defensive end Aidan Hutchin- son, fifth-year senior defensive tackle Carlo Kemp and redshirt junior quarterback Dylan McCaffrey. They'd been vocal on behalf of their kids, all of whom had dedicated years of time to their passion for the sport and program. McCaffrey noted some of them, himself included, had waited four years for their opportu- nity, only to have it stripped away by people who wouldn't even commu- nicate with them. Head coach Jim Harbaugh was there, as well, as he has been since the summer in advocating for a season. There's no safer place on campus than the football building, he insisted, pointing out the safety protocols and how seriously his players had taken it. "Everybody's realized how impor- tant it is," Harbaugh said. "Collec- tively and individually, everybody's taken it upon themselves. They want to be healthy, and they want to be able to play. That's the driving factor … you want to play. You discipline yourself more. Football has a ten- dency to do that, and all sports do." And for those who would argue it's "just football," he had a reply for them, too, when he joined ESPN's GameDay Sept. 19, checking in via Facetime from the practice field. "I'm happy for the guys that are playing — the coaches and play- ers, the guys that trained so hard to put them in a position to play," Harbaugh said. "Some have trained their whole lives. It's not 'just a game' to some people … especially those that are playing." It's a way of life to others, from the people who cover the team for a liv- ing to retailers like Scott Hirth and The M Den, whose livelihood de- pends on U-M football. Several local restaurants have already closed their doors, some permanently, while oth- ers are struggling to make their fall plans without football Saturdays. In a year filled with protests and un- rest, #LetThemPlay barely registered nationally (and rightfully so, given the effect CO- VID-19 has directly had in ending many lives). Regardless, Harbaugh went to bat for his players and coaches as he always does. All but one or two would play in a heartbeat. They'd been voluntarily practicing four days a week, following safety protocols and doing ev- erything they could to get back on the field. "I don't know how much it will help," Aidan Hutchinson said of the gathering outside the Michi- gan Stadium tunnel before the walk, resignation in his voice. "I'm just glad we're all here and all support- ing it. We're all fighting the fight." Only now, one in that fight won't even suit up this fall. McCaffrey, once the favorite to be the starting quarterback, opted to transfer after sitting out this season, though he'll graduate in December. Redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield will return after initially declaring for the draft, but se- nior cornerback Ambry Thomas and senior wideout Nico Collins are gone, leaving huge voids at their position. This team will enter the season with much lower expectations as a result. And the odds of the Big Ten teams getting through a season unscathed by COVID-19 postponements? Prob- ably not good, given how many games in the MLB and NCAA we've seen postponed already this year. There's no margin for error, ei- ther, given the eight-week window before the Big Ten title game and champions week. There's football, however, and for the players who have spent so much time on their craft, it's something. So buckle up, folks — football's back, but it could be a bumpy ride. ❑ 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 Step Forward, But Far From Normal Several Michigan players — including (from left to right) quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, punter Brad Robbins, offensive linemen Andrew Stueber and Joel Honigford and quarterback Cade McNamara — and head coach Jim Harbaugh were among those that participated in a Sept. 5 protest of the Big Ten's origi- nal decision to postpone football until the spring. Those cries were answered with a fall season 11 days later. PHOTO BY AUSTIN FOX

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - October 2020