Michigan Wolverines cancel football game vs. Maryland, pause activities

Michigan has canceled its game against Maryland this weekend, it was announced Wednesday, after the Wolverines made all football activities virtual earlier this week due to a rise in COVID-19 cases within the program.

The decision to cancel the game as well as pause practices was made in consultation with medical professionals, who will ultimately determine when practices will resume.

The earliest Michigan will be able to get back on the practice field is Monday.

"The decision by our medical professionals to stop practices and cancel this Saturday's game against Maryland was made with the health, safety and welfare of the student-athletes, coaches and staff as our utmost priority," Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a news release. "We have seen an increase in the number of student-athletes unavailable to compete due to positive tests and associated contact tracing due to our most recent antigen and PCR testing results."

The game against Maryland was Michigan's last scheduled home game. With losses in all three home games played this season, this is the first time in program history Michigan (2-4) has not had at least one home win.

Manuel said he does not know yet if the game the following week against Ohio State will be played as the program is still waiting to get test results back from over 100 tests taken this week.

"We hope to play as we hope to play every game this year," Manuel said. "Any time in our league that has stopped thus far had the goal of playing every game this year. It is disheartening that we are not going to be able to play Maryland. Our hope is that we can play Ohio State and finish the season in the final week."

If The Game is canceled next weekend as well, it would put Ohio State under the minimum six games required by the Big Ten to participate in the conference championship game. The exception is if the average number of games played by each team within the conference falls below six, in which case the Buckeyes would qualify.

Before this announcement was made, ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said on the College Football Playoff rankings show he would not be surprised if Michigan waived the white flag and did not play against Ohio State, insinuating the Wolverines would purposely not play the game. Herbstreit has since apologized for that statement, but Manuel says any assertion that Michigan would opt out of a game on purpose for any other reason than the health and safety of the student-athletes is ridiculous.

Manuel said he was infuriated by the statement and said the Wolverines have become the winningest program in college football because they have always played whoever is in front of them.

"To insinuate that, to say something other than that is a statement by a fool," Manuel said. "It is something that I can't tell you how embarrassed I am for the Big Ten conference to have one of their representatives who played this game to say that about any team in this conference. And to say it about college football and the student-athletes around this country who are trying to play games during a pandemic is ridiculous and sad."

Any change to the Big Ten policy on minimum games or division tiebreakers would have to be generated by the 14 athletic directors, who would ultimately have to agree on the changes.

Manuel said he has spoken to head coach Jim Harbaugh about the decision and that Harbaugh was disappointed but understands why the cancellation happened.

"Those student-athletes want to play. This was an opportunity that we have to pause and we all understand it," Manuel said. "But they are disappointed because they've worked so hard to get this far in the season. And nobody wanted to stop this way. Talking to my colleagues around the conference and around the nation who have had to do this, it's a similar thing.

"You really can't blame the student-athletes or the staff or those affected. This is just something that everybody is dealing with in our country, and it just so happens to be this week, and we have to deal with it."

Maryland is still practicing this week and is now preparing for its game against Rutgers on Dec. 12.

ESPN's Adam Rittenberg contributed to this report.