The Wolverine

February 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE FEBRUARY 2021 J uwan Howard constructed a potential Big Ten champion and Final Four squad. Michigan fans wonder if they'll ever get to prove it. The Wolverines are off to one of their best starts ever — 13-1 overall and 8-1 in the Big Ten, ranked No. 4 nationally by both the Associated Press (AP) and the coaches. They're not alone in grabbing basketball headlines in Ann Arbor, either. Kim Barnes Arico's women's team stands 10-1 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten, lurking just outside the top 10 at No. 12 per the AP. They boast junior forward Naz Hillmon, who just ac- complished what no other Michigan basketball player in history ever has. Hillmon scored 50 points in, ironically, Michigan's first loss of the season. But now Hillmon and U-M's other athletes have suffered an even bigger loss. Sorry. For now, your season has ceased. Same for you, hockey, and swim- ming, and gymnastics, and every- body else. Michigan pulled the plug for up to two weeks on what turns out to be a recommendation by the state of Michigan regarding a new strain of COVID. U-M didn't interpret it that way, considering it a mandate. But report- ing by The Detroit News underscores the optional nature of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) communication. The News noted an unnamed ath- letic department official indicated the "strongly worded letter" from the state forced the school to shut down all sports. Uh-uh, says the state. "MDHHS sent University of Michigan officials a memo explain- ing our recommendations, but has not issued any orders for the univer- sity to take any actions," MDHHS public information officer Lynn Sut- fin told The News. The penalty for ignoring the rec- ommendation? Zero, Sutfin insisted in a follow-up email. That has to be incredibly frustrat- ing to anyone involved in one of Michigan's winter sports teams. Come on, scold the many who are inclined toward shutting down now and asking questions later. We're talking about lives here. You're talking about GAMES. Don't you understand the serious nature of this illness? Don't you understand the sci- ence? The answer for many is, yes, we understand both the seriousness and the science. We understand that among young, healthy athletes, the percentage chance for dire conse- quences from this disease are ex- tremely small. We also understand the diligence employed in testing athletes and sticking to COVID protocols. We understand there have been, for instance, no positive COVID test among those two extremely success- ful basketball teams thus far. Further, we believe those athletes are intelligent enough, disciplined enough and dedicated enough to remain vigilant in protecting them- selves. They've got seasons to play, and lives to live. Keep them safe, absolutely. But don't look for the first opportunity to pack away the gear. *** Michigan's football season ended when it became reasonable to call it. The numbers warranted a cessation, while the half-year results didn't have anyone begging for more. Now, Jim Harbaugh confirmed he's back via a contract extension, and signaled a different direction through massive coaching changes. Defensive coordinator Don Brown is gone, supplanted by Mike Mac- donald, in a brother-to-brother exchange. Macdonald is only 33 — young, hungry and fresh off several strong defensive seasons with John Harbaugh's Baltimore Ravens. Macdonald gets a co-DC in Mau- rice Linguist, coming off a year with the Dallas Cowboys. Linguist is 36 and similarly on the upward climb. Throw former Maryland assistant George Helow into the mix, and there's a major defensive makeover. Skeptics worry about the fact that Macdonald and Linguist haven't thrown the game-day levers in call- ing defenses. That's a legitimate point to ponder, despite their extensive in- volvement in high-level stop troops. Then there's early homecoming. Former U-M standout Mike Hart is back to coach running backs. The idea of Hart once again helping dominate (and infuriate) Michigan State is obviously appealing. So is the notion of him getting more cracks at a breakthrough against OSU. There's also Ron Bellamy, the former U-M wideout who found incredible success coaching in the prep ranks at West Bloomfield. He should add even more recruiting juice and coaching skill to the mix. The changes are major. Now the results — versus the Spartans, the Buckeyes, and a college football world that values the playoffs above all — need to be. *** Tom Brady remains the finest foot- ball player in the long and storied history of the galaxy. The Wolverine wishes him well in securing an other-worldly seventh Super Bowl championship ring. That is all. ❏ WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON A Buffet Of Triumph And Trouble Head coach Kim Barnes Arico and her wom- en's basketball team got off to a stellar 10-1 start, but must now deal with a two-week pause in activities following a recommenda- tion by the state of Michigan regarding a new strain of COVID. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

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