Michigan's Jim Harbaugh thrilled that Big Ten football is returning: 'Stay positive. Test negative. Let's play football'

SportsPulse: Paul Myerberg breaks down what the Big Ten’s restart means for the college football landscape and why a playoff and title game without the conference involved was always going to be questioned.

USA TODAY

A week and a half ago, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh had a short message for reporters.

“Free the Big Ten,” he said on Sept. 5 as he attended a parent-led protest of the Big Ten’s decision to postpone fall sports. It wasn’t long before Harbaugh got his wish. 

On Wednesday, the Big Ten announced its football season will begin the weekend of Oct. 24 — and Harbaugh’s reaction was immediate.

“Great news today,” Harbaugh said in a statement released by the athletic department. “Over the past month, I could sense the anticipation from our players and coaches, and I’m thrilled on their behalf that they will have a chance to play a 2020 season. Stay positive. Test negative. Let’s play football.”

Harbaugh was adamant this summer that football should be played. He previously released a letter Aug. 10 (one day before the initial postponement) explaining his reasoning, citing his team’s testing results and COVID-19 protocols. During the recent protest on Michigan’s campus, Harbaugh said his hope was that the Wolverines could return to play “as soon as we possibly can.”

“We’re ready to play,” Harbaugh said Sept. 5. “We’d be ready — we’re gonna be ready to play a game in two weeks. Get the pads on and our guys have trained without a pause since June 15. So that’s our position. We’re ready to play as soon as we possibly can play.”

Michigan president Mark Schlissel, who was both part of the initial vote to postpone football and this week’s vote to return to competition, also released a statement Wednesday morning.

“I want to share my support for the Big Ten decision to begin football competition next month,” Schlissel wrote. 

“… Earlier I expressed my concern, shared by my fellow Big Ten presidents and chancellors, that we just didn’t know enough about the health and safety concerns unique to intercollegiate athletics to move forward with practices and competition. As has been so true during this pandemic, we continue to learn more every day and we have adjusted our approach based on the new information that was developed.”

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