Michigan football will officially spend part of its spring practice schedule in Rome.
Yes, the Rome in Italy.
The program announced Monday that it will hold three of its 15 spring practices at the facility of AS Roma, a professional soccer club located in Italy’s capital city. The trip will take place in April “after finals toward the end of winter semester,” Michigan, which called the trip a “a special educational and football experience,” said in a release.
“During the trip to Rome, the Wolverines will be immersed in the culture of Italy. The team will visit historic landmarks, spend time with youth at orphanages, and visit deployed U.S. military in the country amongst other team activities,” the release says. “The experience will culminate with a youth clinic, and the team will play a scrimmage that will be open to the Italian public.”
“Over the past few decades student-athletes in other sports have had the opportunity to participate in international training trips to practice and prepare for the upcoming season,” said Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel. “This is a tremendous opportunity for these young men to learn about and experience another culture, connect with the people of Italy, and showcase American football internationally. The University of Michigan has always encouraged our students to gain knowledge through international experiences, and we are so glad to provide them with this opportunity.”
Added Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh: “We were looking to provide our student-athletes with a great educational, cultural and international football experience. I am excited that our student-athletes will be able to take advantage of this amazing educational opportunity, be exposed to another culture, and be ambassadors for the United States and the University of Michigan during our visit to Rome.”
Michigan players will also “have the chance to explore international internships, study abroad or service opportunities.”
“The study abroad and international internships will better prepare our student-athletes to compete in today’s global economy,” Harbaugh said. “We are committed to offering our students a broad experience that will prepare these young men for life after football.”
TheWolverine.com reported about the trip late last week, saying it had been “in the works since last fall.” Michigan’s announcement comes just three days after the NCAA’s Power Five conference commissioners voted 58-22 Friday to prohibit off-campus practices during a vacation period outside of a team’s championship season. That rule does not go into effect until August, so Michigan’s trip to Italy is within the rules.
The proposal to ban off-campus practices was brought forth after Michigan brought part of its spring practice schedule to IMG Academy in Florida last year. The move caused quite a bit of uproar across college football last year. The Pac-12, which created the proposal, said it would “provide student-athletes with additional opportunities to take advantage of regular academic year vacation periods when they are outside of the regular championship season.”
When opposing coaches and administrators came out in droves last year against Michigan’s trip to Florida, many cried out about student-athlete time demands. But it really just seemed like the discontent centered around recruiting, much like Harbaugh and Michigan’s busy satellite camp schedule.
South Florida and IMG Academy, where the Wolverines practiced, are recruiting hotbeds, so of course the trip connected UM with IMG while giving the program added exposure in one of the more fertile recruiting areas of the country. But this Rome trip feels different. Other sports programs, mainly basketball, take summer trips to Europe for exhibition games quite often. So if the players aren’t missing class time and really get the chance to explore a historic city like Rome beyond just participating in football activities, it seems like it’ll be a pretty cool experience.
And because trips like this will not be allowed moving forward, Harbaugh made sure he would go out with a bang. Let the outrage begin.
For more Michigan news, visit TheWolverine.com.
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