Michigan football: Closed practice makes perfect sense for Jim Harbaugh
During the week, Land of 10 reporters following the Wolverines answer questions on the minds of Michigan fans. Submit a question or suggest a topic by sending a tweet here to Rachel Lenzi or here to Kevin Goheen. Check back Monday through Friday as we answer the Michigan Question of the Day. Go here to see our previous answers.
Why does Jim Harbaugh not open a Michigan practice or two? — Jon Oliver, via Facebook
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has never said why he closes practices to the media. He’s only opened a handful of practices to the public and to the media in his tenure in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines opened a night practice at Michigan Stadium in August 2015 to university students, but it came with a disclaimer: Any use of a cellphone during the practice would result in a student being asked to leave.
Michigan opened a spring practice at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in March 2016. It drew 5,000 spectators, according to the Associated Press. Michigan also opened its three practices to the media and to the public during its trip to Rome in April 2017.
The Wolverines’ bowl game practices are limited to no more than 20 minutes of viewing and photo opportunities for the media.
But that’s all we’ve seen of the Wolverines, outside of games and video footage released by the program. It’s by design, and it’s common for college football coaches to place viewing restrictions on practices.
In 2015, Harbaugh announced that his team entered “submarine mode,” and he closed all access to his first training camp at Michigan, even to former players. About three years later, preseason practices remain closed to the media and to the public. So are regular-season and spring practices.
When Michigan canceled its spring game because of weather, any opportunity to make a real-time evaluation of the 2018 Wolverines disappeared. We’re left with a lot of guesswork and speculation, and fans and media can only take the word of what coaches and players say in terms of any specifics of preparation.
It’s frustrating to some fans, and it’s frustrating to the media, because there is no tangible evidence of what position areas have improved or how certain players have progressed.
A heavy curtain continues to surround the Wolverines, and that’s probably by design. Don’t expect it to change, either.
Read more answers to questions about the Michigan Wolverines here.