Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a video on Wednesday that he's furious about comments from Kirk Herbstreit, who implied the Wolverines could use the coronavirus as an excuse to get out of playing rival Ohio State.
“I still think,” the ESPN analyst said on Tuesday, "Michigan waves the white flag and doesn't play Ohio State next week.”
While he did apologize and gave clarification later in the evening, that didn't stop the fallout that would come for both programs.
When asked if there was a "covert agenda" to not play games, Manuel said that "it's ridiculous."
"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," the athletic director said. "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 fields of play."
Manuel went on, stating that "to insinuate that, to say something other than that, is a statement by a fool."
Michigan is currently dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak within the football program, pushing all football activities to virtual this week. On Wednesday, the Wolverines were forced to cancel this weekend's matchup against Maryland.
"I talked to Jim [Harbaugh] earlier, and he was really disappointed by the decision," Manuel said in a video. "Understands the decision, supports the decision. But we want to play. This is an opportunity we have to pause, and we all understand it, but they are disappointed."
With Michigan being unable to be on the practice field until Monday at the earliest, there are concerns about whether “The Game," aka the Michigan–Ohio State annual rivalry game, will be played. If it is canceled, it will be the first time since 1917.
If the Wolverines are unable to play No. 4 Ohio State, the Buckeyes would likely not be eligible to compete in the Big Ten Championship Game. The conference rule states that teams must play at least six games in order to be eligible, and Ohio State is currently 4–0 with Michigan State coming up this weekend.
Whether this game happens or not, Manuel stands by Michigan not using the coronavirus as an excuse to not play games.
"I can't tell you how embarrassed I am for the Big Ten conference," Manuel said, "to have one of their representatives who played this game say that about any team in this conference."