Ohio State University reportedly faced an unsurprising foe in its bid to salvage a college football season in the age of coronavirus: Michigan Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Whitmer is reportedly "vehemently opposed to football being played" at both the college and high school level in Michigan and is blocking the University of Michigan from signing on to be part of a pared-down six-team league put together by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith. The Michigan Wolverines' head coach Jim Harbaugh has voiced support for a fall football season, but the decision to join in rests with the school president, who may be hesitant to cross Whitmer.
"I was also told that one roadblock to the new plan is the fact that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been vehemently opposed to football being played—at the high school and college level—in the state this fall," explained veteran college football writer Jeff Snook.
After the Big Ten Conference postponed its football season on August 11, Ohio State's Smith recruited the University of Iowa, University of Nebraska, and Penn State University to be part of a six-team season. To move forward with the season, Smith needed to get two more programs on board and was hopeful Harbaugh's Wolverines would be one of them.
Whitmer previously said during a May press conference that fans would not be able to attend fall sporting events, telling reporters that while sports are "not over," the "way we observe them might look different for a while." The Democrat did not respond to a request for comment on her current stance.
The Big Ten's decision to postpone the season was met with opposition by players and coaches. Harbaugh has said he would not "cower" from the pandemic and argued "the virus can be controlled and handled" within college football programs.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields also criticized the conference's decision. After creating a petition to "immediately reinstate" the fall season, Fields addressed Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren during a Wednesday Good Morning America appearance.
"We want to play football," Fields said. "I feel like a lot of players feel safer around the facility, around our protocols, rather than just being on campus like a regular student."
In an open letter released Wednesday evening, the Big Ten said its decision to postpone "will not be revisited."