As they left Schembechler Hall on Tuesday afternoon, Trente Jones and the rest of his teammates faced a new, uncertain reality.
Although they would return to Michigan football's facilities to continue voluntary workouts, their athletic futures were murkier than ever following the Big Ten's decision to cancel sports this fall.
“Right now I’m feeling a little conflicted, because there’s been a lot of work put in," said Jones, a redshirt freshman offensive lineman. "It’s a lot of time for us to get right over the summer and (the season) getting canceled has put a toll on our team. Right now, I’m just reflective.”
It had already been a long, confusing day for the Wolverines. They were informed of the Big Ten's decision, saw their practice canceled and then resumed working out, after the athletic department clarified that voluntary workouts could continue, per the NCAA's rules.
As a result, the season's postponement had yet to sink in.
“We followed all the right protocols, and coach Harbaugh was kind of the pioneer for all the teams and all the coaches," said defensive lineman Jess Speight. "He did everything right. We were doing everything right, so we’re all pretty upset that this was the decision that was made.”
In the moment, the team had more questions than answers. While the Big Ten stated its intent to restart fall sports in the spring, there were no available details, and players had yet to learn of the specifics, either. According to Jones, many of the team's upperclassmen "are worried" because of the uncertainty surrounding the NCAA's eligibility rules. Speight, meanwhile, said he didn't know whether any teammates would be transferring to other programs whose conferences were continuing to play.
Jones said he preferred the season be postponed but added that he thought games could've been played in the fall under the proper protocols.
"I do feel like we could’ve still played and played every 21 days and maybe had less games," he said. "If you were in quarantine for the 14 days, you wouldn’t affect the rest of the team if you were quarantined for those 14 days and played that next week. I feel like that could work.”
For now, both Jones and Speight plan to stay on campus and train for their next game — whenever that may be. Jones added that he believes "the majority of the team" will do the same, and says he feels it's "safer here in general" on Michigan's campus. Regardless of their individual plans, Speight acknowledge the team's future remains uncertain.
“In the coming months?" Speight said. "I’m not quite sure. It’s above my pay grade. I know that all we’re trying to do, whether it’s guys that are thinking about going to the league or guys anticipating a spring season, all anyone is going to try to do is get better, and that’s what coach Harbaugh wants us to do.
"With whatever he provides, he’s going to do whatever he can to make sure that we’ll be able to improve on our craft and on our strength. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what the Big Ten will allow.”