Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel isn't happy about the theory that the Wolverines would use COVID-19 as an excuse not to play Ohio State.
Less than 24 hours after Kirk Herbstreit made that insinuation during ESPN's College Football Playoff rankings broadcast on Tuesday night, and just hours after Michigan canceled its game against Maryland due to an actual increase in positive COVID-19 cases within the program, Manuel adamantly rejected that premise in a video produced by the University of Michigan on Wednesday.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Manuel said. “I have to pause because my words, the anger, I was infuriated by the insinuation that Michigan would do anything other than play a football game. We’ve been playing this game since 1879. We’re the winningest program for a reason. Because we play whoever’s in front of us. And the only way we want to keep anybody from moving on is to beat them on the field of play. And to insinuate that, to say something other than that, is a statement by a fool.
“It is something that just, I can’t tell you how embarrassed I am for the Big Ten Conference to have one of their representatives who played this game to say that about any team in this conference, and to say it about college football and the student-athletes around this country who are trying to play games during a pandemic is ridiculous and sad.”
Athletic Director Warde Manuel, Chief Student-Athlete Health & Welfare Officer Darryl Conway, and Dr. Sami Rifat discuss the medical decision to pause football activities at the University of Michigan amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) December 2, 2020
Herbstreit posted a video apology to his Twitter account on Tuesday night, in which he said he had “no business at all saying that” Michigan didn't want to play Ohio State, shortly after his on-air comments.
Manuel said in a statement released by Michigan on Wednesday that the decision to cancel this week's game against Maryland, and to pause football activities until at least Monday, came after “an increase in the number of student-athletes unavailable to compete due to positive tests and associated contact tracing due to our most recent antigen and PCR testing results.”
He said in his interview on Wednesday night that Jim Harbaugh was “really disappointed” when he learned that the Wolverines would be unable to host Maryland this weekend.
“We want to play,” Manuel said. “Those student-athletes want to play. And this was an opportunity that we have to pause, and we all understand it. But they are disappointed, because they worked so hard to get this far in the season, and nobody wanted this to stop this way.”
Manuel said Michigan is “focused right now on the health and safety of our team,” but the Wolverines are hoping they will be able to make the trip to Columbus to play Ohio State in next weekend's rivalry game, which is scheduled for a noon kickoff at Ohio Stadium on Dec. 12.
“We have over 100 tests that are coming back today to be analyzed by our medical staff,” Manuel said. “We hope to play, as we hope to play every game this year, and any team in our league who has stopped thus far had the goal of playing every game this year, and it is disheartening that we’re not going to be able to play Maryland, and our hope is that we can play Ohio State and finish the season in the final week.”