Defensive lineman Ondre Pipkins says that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, associate athletic director Jim Minick and head trainer Paul Schmidt all pressured him to sign a medical scholarship form that would have prematurely ended his Wolverine football career.
According to an ESPN.com story by Joe Schad, Pipkins says he was approached about ten times over a two-month period by various members of the Michigan staff who asked him to sign the form.
A medical scholarship allows a player who retires for medical reasons to complete his/her education on scholarship, but opens up an athletic scholarship for another player. As of now, according to Harbaugh, “He (Pipkins) remains on full scholarship and counts toward the 85-scholarship limit in pursuit of graduation from the University of Michigan.”
In the past, scholarships were renewed on a yearly basis, but many are now guaranteed for four years.
Pipkins, who was cleared to play last season after returning from a torn knee ligament, said, “I feel I’m healthy and ready to play. I don’t want to sign the form. I wanted to play for my seniors and for the team. Coach Harbaugh said, ‘I recommend you take the medical.’
“College football is a business. New coaches have to win games. They want to go with guys they think can win. If I’m a victim of making room, so be it. But if there is no concrete reason to disqualify a player, he should have the right to keep playing.”
Pipkins, who also suffered a concussion during spring practice but has since been cleared, said that he was initially told by his doctors that he has some arthritis in his knee, but that he shouldn’t be disqualified from competing.
However, as pressure to sign the medical form continued to mount, Pipkins says Michigan sent him back to his knee surgeon who then recommended he rest his body for six months.
In a statement on Friday, Harbaugh said, “After consulting with our medical team, we do not think it is in Ondre’s best interest as it relates to his health and welfare to play football, short or long term.”
Pipkins says the scholarship he signed in 2012 was guaranteed for four years, meaning the Wolverines could not cut him for performance-related issues. He says that Harbaugh told him that he wanted “to make sure you graduate from Michigan,” but that he was not being invited to fall camp due, in part, to medical reasons. Pipkins also says that he felt unwelcome at spring workouts and was told by Schmidt, “Call it quits. Hang it up. You’ve had a good run.” He says he was told he could work out, but not with teammates. After Pipkins showed up to work at a children’s camp with his teammates and coaches, he says Minick confronted him and told him he needed to meet with Harbaugh. In that meeting, according to Pipkins, Harbaugh said, “I need you to sign this (medical form). It’s not fair to your teammates. Let’s get it done.”
Pipkins also claims that he knows of at least one other Wolverine player who has been told to “get healthy by a July 1 deadline or sign a medical to retire.”
Pipkins, who has decided to transfer for his senior year, said, “All I want to do is play football. I tried to finish my career at Michigan, but I wasn’t given the chance.”
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports