There will be no football this fall at the University of Michigan if students are unable to return to campus, a statement from the university’s president that could put the college football season in peril, stated.
UM President Mark Schlissel said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that there will be no intercollegiate athletics at the university if there can’t be on-campus instruction. The university had its on-campus canceled classes amid the outbreak of the coronavirus, and it is not yet clear when the campus would be able to reopen and students return for instruction.
Schlissel is the first physician-scientist to lead the university and has expressed some concern about having students return to campus while the virus is still spreading across the United States. He said in the interview published on Sunday that if the university can’t open the campus to classes in the fall, it will likely be the same for the entire academic year.
“What’s going to be different in January?” he said of the coronavirus outbreak.
Schlissel went on to say that even if students return to campus and the football team is able to move forward with its season, it would likely look very different. He said that the Wolverines may be playing at a smaller stadium, abandoning Michigan Stadium and its 107,601 capacity in order to play at a smaller and more controlled atmosphere.
“I can’t imagine a way to do that safely,” Schlissel said.
If the University of Michigan were not able to play football this season, it could put the entire college football season in peril. The NCAA announced the cancellation of the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in March after several high-profile colleges and universities — including Duke University — announced that they would not be allowing teams to compete.
But there could be a financial incentive for the NCAA to push for a college football season in the fall. A report from ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and Paula Lavigne claimed that college athletic programs across the country would lose a collective $4 billion if the entire season were to be scrapped.
“If there’s no football season, or if football season is interrupted or shortened, there will be a massive fallout,” TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati told ESPN.
“There would have to be massive cutbacks. Could the department go on? Sure. It would probably look smaller. There would potentially be fewer sports and much less programming.”