Michigan’s COVID-19 outbreak cancels game against Ohio State

Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Citing a rising number of COVID-19 cases in its program, Michigan canceled its annual showdown with Ohio State on Tuesday as college football lurches toward the end of the season without one of its cornerstone rivalry games.

The season-ending grudge match known as “The Game” won’t be played for the first time in 102 years.

“The number of positive tests has continued to trend in an upward direction over the last seven days,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said. “We have not been cleared to participate in practice at this time. Unfortunately, we will not be able to field a team due to COVID-19 positives and the associated quarantining required of close contact individuals. This decision is disappointing for our team and coaches but their health and safety is paramount, and it will always come first in our decision-making.”

The third-ranked Buckeyes played through what coach Ryan Day called a “mini outbreak” last Saturday in a 52-12 win at Michigan State after he was relegated to watching the game from home. Day is among the coaches and players in the program who tested positive for the coronavirus, leading to Ohio State canceling a game at Illinois.

While outbreaks have disrupted more than 100 games across major college football since late August — including this weekend’s regular-season finale between No. 7 Cincinnati and No. 18 Tulsa, who will instead look ahead to their matchup in the Dec. 19 American Athletic Conference title game — the problems with the Wolverines were closely watched in part because the undefeated Buckeyes (5-0) have championship goals again this season.

With two games already canceled, the Buckeyes under current conference rules need a sixth game to be eligible to play for a Big Ten championship Dec. 19 in Indianapolis against Northwestern. Day said the conference should consider allowing Ohio State to play even with only five games.

“I think (the rule) is one of those things that was put into place early on, and decisions are made based on the information you have at the time and things change,” Day said shortly before Michigan’s announcement. “If we don’t quite get the games we need to get into the championship game, I think that needs to be looked at hard, just like anybody else in the conference.”

“The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is one of the most important rivalries in all of sports,” the Big Ten said in a statement. “The conference is committed to transparency and will continue to collaborate with its member institution stakeholders to determine Big Ten championship game participation requirements as well as tiebreakers.”

The league could decide Ohio State will still represent the East Division at least in part because the conference doesn’t want to hurt the Buckeyes’ chances of earning a playoff berth. Ohio State entered the day No. 4 in the CFP rankings.

The Wolverines canceled last weekend’s game against Maryland because they had at least 12 positive COVID-19 cases within the football program, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. That number had reached 16 by Tuesday, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the size of the outbreak has not been disclosed by the school.

The cancellation spares Harbaugh and the Wolverines (2-4) what would likely be another lopsided loss.

The Buckeyes beat Michigan 56-27 at the Big House last year, extending their winning streak in the series to a school-record eight straight. Harbaugh fell to 0-5 in the rivalry, continuing a trend that has seen Michigan lose 15 of its last 16 games to Ohio State to knock some luster off one of the greatest rivalries in sports.

Harbaugh’s winless record as a coach in The Game is often scrutinized and is especially true this season with Michgan sputtering to just two wins. Harbaugh has one year left on his contract at the school he led as a quarterback in the mid-1980s.

The Game was first played in 1897 and became an annual contest in 1918. Michigan still leads the series 58-51-6, but the next showdown will have to wait. Ohio State defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said the idea of not being able to play against Michigan made him “sick to my stomach.”

“This game has been a part of my life since I was 5-years-old,” said the 59-year Coombs, who grew up in suburban Cincinnati.

Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis said the team works all year long with the goal of beating Michigan.

“There’s a lot of hatred that goes toward that (Michigan) logo,” he said. “All the stuff we have to do during the offseason, all the sit-ups and push-ups, everything, so there’s a lot of stuff that is definitely geared toward them.”

South Carolina gives AD Tanner raise, two-year extension

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner received a two-year contract extension that ties him to the school through June 2026.

Tanner, 64, is a two-time College World Series champion as the Gamecocks’ baseball coach who moved to leading the athletic department in July 2012.

The new deal was approved by the school’s board of trustees Friday and replaces Tanner’s old agreement that was set to expire in June 2024. Tanner will receive a raise of more than $153,000 per season, increasing his total compensation to $1.175 million.

Tanner has had his ups and downs leading the department. He took over when football coach Steve Spurrier was in the middle of three straight 11-2 seasons with players like defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney and receiver Alshon Jeffrey.

Tanner’s hire to replace Spurrier, Will Muschamp, lasted less than five seasons before he was let go in the middle of 2020. Muschamp’s replacement, current coach Shane Beamer, has had back-to-back winning seasons and been to a bowl game his first two yeas.

Tanner has also overseen the rise of women’s basketball under coach Dawn Staley, who signed a seven-year contract before the 2021-22 season worth $22.4 million. Staley and the Gamecocks won the national title last April and are favorites to repeat this season.

Michigan RB Blake Corum says he’ll be back by fall camp

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan All-America running back Blake Corum said his surgically repaired left knee has gotten strong enough that he’s been cleared to run on an anti-gravity treadmill next week.

Corum said that he is “100%” sure he will play in the season-opening game on Sept. 2 against East Carolina

Corum tore a meniscus and sprained a ligament in his left knee against Illinois on Nov. 19. After playing sparingly against Ohio State, he sat out when the Wolverines won the Big Ten title and advanced to the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Instead of entering the NFL draft, Corum decided to stay in school for his senior year.

“Feeling great all-around mentally, physically spiritually,” Corum told The Associated Press.

The 5-foot-8, 210-pound Corum ran for 1,463 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and had 952 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2021.

“I’ll be back definitely by fall camp,” he said. “I plan on doing everything in the summer workouts, depending on on what doctor says. He told me I shouldn’t be cutting until maybe June. I’m taking my time, but I will be ready by the season.”

Corum will be watching when his teammates face each each other in the Maize and Blue spring game on April 1 at Michigan Stadium.