Michigan's Jim Harbaugh: 'Heck Yeah' Comfortable Playing Games Without Fans

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 20, 2020

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 30: Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh before a college football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Ann Arbor, MI. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)
Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday he'd be comfortable moving forward with the 2020 college football season without fans in attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic.   

Harbaugh explained during an appearance on ESPN's Get Up he's confident the necessary testing could be acquired to handle both teams, but the same can't be said for the over 107,000 people typically in the stands when the Wolverines have a home game at The Big House:

"You definitely can test both teams, you can test the officials and everybody. Can you test 100,000 fans coming into a stadium? Probably not. You probably couldn't do that. So to answer your question, heck yeah, I'd be comfortable coaching a game without any fans. If the choice were play in front of no fans or not play, then I would choose to play in front of no fans, and I think most of the—darn near every guy I talk to on our team, that's the way they feel about it."

NCAA president Mark Emmert said May 8 the governing body of college sports likely won't have much wiggle room to decide the fate of fall sports, including football. It comes down to the status of the schools, which for the FBS level includes 130 programs ranging from the Northeast to Hawaii.

"All of the commissioners and every president that I've talked to is in clear agreement: If you don't have students on campus, you don't have student-athletes on campus," Emmert said. "... If a school doesn't reopen, then they're not going to be playing sports. It's really that simple."

He added a final decision will probably be made in June or the Fourth of July at the latest. 

In April, UCF athletic director Danny White told ESPN there isn't an easy solution to make up the lost revenue from football.

"There isn't a model I can run to fix the problem of not having any football," he said. "I don't think there's anybody in my position with a big football fanbase that could make decisions to fix that. I don't know what happens—there's not a model, there's not a solution, there's not an action I can take that's going to solve that problem."

If the games do move forward, they'll likely happen without fans. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in April it will be difficult to hold large-scale events without the risk of spreading COVID-19.

"Unless we completely knock this out with a vaccine—which I hope we will, but that's not going to be for a while—I think you’re going to see some form of a tension to the possibility of transmissibility of a respiratory agent," he told James Wagner and Ken Belson of the New York Times.

For now, the college football season is scheduled to kick off Aug. 29.

Bleacher Report's David Gardner interviews athletes and other sports figures for the podcast How to Survive Without Sports.