Michigan AD blasts ESPN ‘fool’ Kirk Herbstreit over baseless accusation

Michigan AD blasts ESPN ‘fool’ Kirk Herbstreit over baseless accusation

University of Michigan Director of Athletics Warde Manuel called ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit “a fool” for baselessly suggesting the Wolverines might try to use COVID-19 as an excuse to avoid playing Ohio State next week.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Manuel said Wednesday of the comments from Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback. “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.

“To insinuate that, to say something other than that, is a statement by a fool,” Manuel said.

Manuel’s retort came as Michigan was forced to cancel its game against Maryland on Saturday due to rising COVID-19 cases within the program, further imperiling what is commonly referred to as “The Game” between the Wolverines and Buckeyes.

Tuesday night, Herbstreit said on ESPN that “I still think Michigan waves the white flag and potentially avoids playing Ohio State next week.”

Warde Manuel; Kirk HerbstreitWarde Manuel; Kirk HerbstreitGetty

His reasoning was that by canceling the game, Michigan, which is 2-4 and has nothing to play for, would be able to hurt its biggest rival that has won 15 of the last 16 meetings between the two schools.

Without playing Michigan, Ohio State, having already missed two games this season due to COVID-19 related reasons, would not be able to reach the six games necessary to qualify for the Big Ten Championship game.

And without the conference title game on its résumé, Ohio State’s chances at making the four-team College Football Playoff would take a massive hit.

Accusing a team of using COVID-19 as a disguise to postpone or cancel a game is not unprecedented. Last month, No. 3 Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, without evidence, suggested that Florida State pulled out of their matchup because they were afraid to play a top team. In reality, Florida State and Clemson medical officials did not agree to play after a Clemson player had recently tested positive for the virus.

Herbstreit, whose two sons play at Clemson, apologized on social media shortly after his comments aired, saying that his comments were “unfair” and unsubstantiated.

The mea culpa apparently was not good enough for Manuel.

“I can’t tell you how embarrassed I am for the Big Ten Conference to have one of their representatives who played this game say that about any team in this conference,” Manuel said. “And to say it about college football and these student-athletes around this country who are trying to play games during a pandemic is ridiculous and sad.”