Jim Harbaugh ready to prepare team during pandemic

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — July 24 is the day Jim Harbaugh has circled on his calendar — The day he can start running team meetings and walk-through practices in person again.

Despite COVID-19 concerns, the University of Michigan football coach wants his team together.

“I would want the responsibility of keeping our players safe and educating them. I would not want to come off that guard toward of educating them and keeping them safe,” Harbaugh said.

In a Zoom video call with media, Harbaugh touched on a wide range of topics.

But it was this response to a COVID-19 question that is grabbing most of the headlines.

“COVID(-19) is part of our society. It wasn’t caused by football or sports. And there’s no expert view I am aware of that sports is going to make it worse.  It’s part of our society and we’re going to have to deal with it,” he said.

You might hear a different point of view if 100,000 fans packed into the Big House stadium. But Harbaugh said his team would be willing to play in front of an empty stadium if it meant getting to play. And they’ll prepare as if they’re going to play.

“Providence will favor the prepared. And even the question of ‘will we have a season?’ — Better to have prepared and not have the opportunity than to have the opportunity and not be prepared,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh was also asked about his contract since he’s down to the final two years of his current deal.

“Last February, it was being discussed, then the pandemic hit. Not as high on the priority list,” Harbaugh said.

Michigan sent four offensive linemen to the NFL last season. So, one of the biggest question marks in 2020 will be the offensive line.

But one player has stood out — junior Jalen Mayfield.

“Expectations will be really high. He looks great. Since Jalen Mayfield has been here, every time I watch film of practice, I like watching (number) 73. That is a thing. I like watching him play. I like the way he plays football. I think he’ll be even better,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh was also asked about Robert Anderson, a former U of M doctor, who’s accused of sexually assaulting student athletes while he served the university from the 1960s to 2003.

“Dr. Anderson was our family doctor for us as kids and also when I played here at Michigan. Dr. Anderson was the team doctor. I took physicals for every youth sport I played. I never saw anything inappropriate,” Harbaugh said.