Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh fine with football games in empty stadiums
10:44 AM ET
  • ESPN News Services

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said he would be comfortable playing games in empty stadiums as college football attempts to hold the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Other sports, including Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL, have discussed returning to play games in front of no fans, and Harbaugh was asked about that scenario Wednesday during an interview with ESPN’s Get Up.

“Heck yeah, I’d be comfortable coaching a game without any fans,” Harbaugh said. “If the choice were play in front of no fans or not play, then I would choose to play in front of no fans.

“… Darn near every guy I’ve talked to on our team, that’s the way they feel about it.”

Harbaugh made multiple references to the need for testing for his players and staff.

Michigan Stadium, famously nicknamed “The Big House,” holds over 107,000 fans, and Harbaugh doubts a capacity crowd could be safely tested before a game.

“You can definitely test both teams. You can test the officials and everybody,” Harbaugh said. “Can you test 100,000 fans coming into a stadium? Probably not — probably not without a vaccine, you couldn’t do that.”

The Big Ten Conference has suspended all team activities through June 1, and the NCAA will not mandate or oversee a return to sports.

The college football season is tentatively scheduled to start Aug. 29, and Harbaugh said the Wolverines are preparing as if they’ll be playing games this fall.

“As far as the season, everybody’s preparing like there’s gonna be one,” Harbaugh said. “Not even thinking in the way that there wouldn’t. So, getting ourselves ready, getting prepared.”

In separate interviews, the presidents of the University of Miami and Notre Dame also said they expect the football season to be played, albeit with smaller crowds or no fans at all.

“They will probably play in empty stadiums, like so many other sports,” Miami’s Dr. Julio Frenk told CNN on Wednesday. “But we hope to have a season and we hope to have a winning season.”

Speaking on MSNBC, the Rev. John Jenkins of Notre Dame said he expects to have clarity in the next few weeks on how — or if — the football season can be held.

“The team itself, I feel we can manage that one,” Jenkins said. “Then the question is people in the stands. We have an 85,000-person stadium. Can we get 85,000 people in there? That will be a big challenge to do that. But could we get a smaller number — 10,000, 15,000, 20,000? I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that question. That’s something we’ll have to think through.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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