Jim Harbaugh is not alone among his Big Ten coaching brethren.
Three other prominent coaches — Nebraska’s Scott Frost, Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Penn State’s James Franklin — all joined with Michigan’s coach Monday to publicly voice their support for the players getting a chance to play college football this fall.
The Big Ten is expected to call off the season for the fall because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The players want to play, the coaches want to coach,” Frost told reporters via video conference call according to the Lincoln Journal Star. “We want to represent the University of Nebraska.”
Day — whose Buckeye players have been pushing publicly to play — tweeted that the coaches plan to “#FIGHT” for them to not have their season canceled.
“Swinging as hard as we possibly can right now for these players!!” Day wrote. “This isn’t over!”
Tweeted Franklin, “I love our players & believe it is my responsibility to help them chase their dreams, both collectively & individually. I am willing to fight WITH them & for our program!”
Harbaugh issued a long statement spelling out ways to safely return to the field this fall, with the Big Ten presidents expected to cancel the season early Monday evening.
“This isn’t easy,” Harbaugh wrote. “This is hard. It is proven that the conduct, discipline and structure within our program have led to these stellar results. We respect the challenge that the virus has presented however we will not cower from it.”
However, his university president, Mark Schlissel, and Michigan State’s president Samuel Stanley — both medical doctors with specializations in immunology and, in Stanley’s case, infectious diseases — were in favor of halting all fall sports with COVID-19 cases rising nationally.
At the farthest west point of the Big Ten, Nebraska’s Frost took an even more defiant tone. He seemingly threatened to defy any conference dictum to not play football this fall, according to reports, saying the Cornhuskers — who joined the league in 2011 — would look for other options “if the Big Ten wasn't playing, and there were only a few Big Ten teams wanting to play.”
“We're a proud member of the Big Ten. I think it's the best conference in the country. We want to play a Big Ten schedule,” Frost said. “I think our university is committed to playing football any way we possibly can, regardless of what anybody else does. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to get our guys on the field and let them show the progress they’ve made in a safe environment. …
“Our university is committed to playing no matter what. No matter what that looks like. We want to play no matter who it is or where it is. So we’ll see how those chips fall. We certainly hope it's in the Big Ten, but if it isn't we're prepared to look for other options."
At Iowa, coach Kirk Ferentz canceled a scheduled morning practice. At Purdue, all media availabilities for football were suspended, though the Boilermakers did go through their scheduled practice.
MSU coach Mel Tucker moved his players’ off day, originally scheduled for Tuesday, up a day. Though the Spartans did gather for walkthroughs at a practice field on campus, Tucker — typically active on social media — remained silent throughout the morning and afternoon on Twitter.
His last post, from Sunday morning, showed he is an avid bird watcher in his time away from football and delivered a message much more harmonious than his counterparts a day later.
“Find some peace people,” he wrote, adding a 12-second video of a cardinal eating some birdseed at a feeder.