NCAA Football: Rutgers at Michigan

Sep 28, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines fans celebrate during the third quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan won't play football -- or any sport -- in 2020 unless students are on campus this fall, university president Mark Schlissel told The Wall Street Journal.

Schlissel, a physician, said he expects to decide soon whether students will return to campus amid the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. And Schlissel went a step further, saying what happens this fall likely will last throughout the academic year.

"Any decision we make for this coming fall is likely going to be the case for the whole academic year. What's going to be different in January?" he said, citing worries of health officials that the coronavirus could return in a second wave during the winter.

Schlissel's comments stand in contrast to those of his colleagues nationwide. Several schools have said they will start the fall semester early and end it by Thanksgiving, keeping students off campus as the colder winter weather steps in.

And Schlissel was firm in his comments to the Wall Street Journal that Michigan athletes will not partake in sports unless all students can rejoin campus life.

"If there is no on-campus instruction then there won't be intercollegiate athletics, at least for Michigan," Schlissel said, adding he had "some degree of doubt as to whether there will be college athletics [at any campus], at least in the fall."

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh said this week that he'd rather play in front of an empty house than not play at all. While not committing to playing, Schlissel said he didn't see any way that Michigan Stadium, which seats more than 105,000, would be filled.

"I can't imagine a way to do that safely," Schlissel said.

Schlissel said he and other administrators are working to find a way to reduce the risk for students, faculty and staff to the extent they can return this coming academic year. But it won't be business as usual.

"We really have to think about how to reorient our lives to coexist with this pandemic," he said.

--Field Level Media

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