Pipkins To Transfer, Says He Was Pressured To Sign Medical Hardship Papers Comment Count

Brian June 26th, 2015 at 1:55 PM


Pipkins got on the field late in the opener last year [Bryan Fuller]

Ondre Pipkins will attempt to use his last year(s) of eligibility elsewhere and he is not happy about it:

"I feel I'm healthy and ready to play," said Pipkins, who played last season after he was cleared to return from a torn knee ligament. "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.'"

Pipkins said he felt constant pressure to retire. …

Harbaugh told him that he wanted "to make sure you graduate from Michigan" and that the coach did not plan to invite him to fall camp due in part to medical concerns. The lineman added that Harbaugh told him that he did not believe he would be drafted into the NFL for medical reasons.

"I feel bad I wasn't able to complete this journey with my classmates," Pipkins told ESPN. "I feel I am healthy and without pain. I believe Michigan wanted to free up the scholarship. I felt I was practicing well and could compete at a high level at the nose tackle and tackle positions."

First off, good for Pipkins for saying something about it—and apparently painting Harbaugh in a somewhat sympathetic light.

But this is a strange situation for a lot of reasons. I can't really figure out why Harbaugh would want to run Pipkins out of town:

  • He was scheduled to be a senior and Michigan is at 85 scholarships right now, with the three former walk-ons (Kerridge, Glasgow, Glasgow) we think will get scholarships in 2015 accounted for.
  • Pipkins thus doesn't impact the numbers in the 2016 class; the only reason he'd need to go this year is if Michigan was going to bring in yet more transfers.
  • ND DE transfer Jhonathan Williams was just told no by Michigan.
  • I'm sure at least one other player has a very legit medical hardship-inducing injury they haven't announced yet.

There were some rumors Michigan was looking at fifth year wide receivers that haven't come to fruition as of yet, but none of this really makes sense. Michigan seems to have room for him, and the move would appear to be a redshirt (that he should have gotten as a freshman /shakes fist at Hoke) so that he can be a fifth year somewhere else after getting his degree. That is unless he actually shouldn't play football.

Pipkins asserts in the article that Michigan wanted the scholarship… but for what?



June 26th, 2015 at 2:03 PM ^

I think we can all concede that's a possibility. The problem is, that's not what Pipkins believes, and the best case scenario is this creates an unjustified black mark on public perception. Maybe Pipkins does have legitimate health problems, or maybe he can't take the pressure and pace Harbaugh demands of student athletes. Or maybe it is as he believes, a conspiracy to force him out. The truth behind the curtain doesn't change the problem this kind of PR problem this creates.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:26 PM ^

Sometimes people can't see what's best for themselves, especially when it's all they've ever known. I can't imagine that Harbaugh would have pushed out a player who there was a chance might be useful when he could have just let him stay on the team and not get playing time. Therefore, I'm more inclined to believe that harbaugh felt this was in Pipkins best interests from a medical stand point. We'll probably never know though.

East German Judge

June 26th, 2015 at 4:33 PM ^

Life is full of risks as we all could get run over by the proverbial beer truck tonight, but the chances are small to almost zero.  In a physically punishing game like football, the number of concussions you have had is a serious issue, and he has had 2!  So considering that Pipkins is not an All American/1st round pick, he should really re-evaluate his life choices and since he does not seem to want to quit, JH is doing the proper thing and telling him no - but he can still finish his degree.

Parents expect head coaches to act like a father figure for the player and a good father (and mother) do not always give in to whatever a child wants, as they look to the child's long term best interests.  This is what I believe that JH is doing AND Hoke even said that 1 - 2 of the lineman will probably be medicals. 


June 26th, 2015 at 5:20 PM ^

If the motive for Harbaugh was the long term health for Pipkins, the best way to go about it would have been to red shirt him this year and talk to him about retiring after this year as that would make sure that he does not play this year and monitor him to make sure he is not hurting himself further while training.

Forcing him out says Harbaugh wants that scholarship spot. That does not look good no matter how much people want to twist it.

Mr Miggle

June 27th, 2015 at 5:30 AM ^

We're already allowed to backdate the maximum of three early entries. That's based on how many recruits were in the class of 2015, not whether you're under the 85 limit for the season.

You and some of others here, might feel less uncomfortable if you weren't making up things to worry about.  


June 26th, 2015 at 6:03 PM ^

It obviously hasn't caused any problems for other teams who have done the same thing. It's not going to stop recruits from coming to play football here. If the only answer is to be able to get on the soap box to claim moral superiority to other programs, then that is not the right reason.

the real hail_yes

June 26th, 2015 at 2:30 PM ^

Just a couple thoughts...

its also possible that Pip was a big fan of the Hokenvironment... Maybe he does actually know he's not going to play football again, but doesn't want to give up the perks of being a football player at Michigan (all while not really being a football player at Michigan).

Thats kind of a shitty way to paint Ondre and I hope I'm wrong, but maybe the kid doesn't have a great attitude and is holding other players back from giving the effort or buying into the new staff's demands.

Lt. Pete Mitchell

June 26th, 2015 at 2:37 PM ^

Is the athletic department able to comment on this?  I'm not sure it's worth getting into a he said she said with a player, but I would think we are able to comment on enrolled student athletes (vs. rectruits).  I know dave brandon would have a presser or statement out by now, but I'm interested to see how Hackett and JH handle this.

the real hail_yes

June 26th, 2015 at 5:07 PM ^

This was clearly a stupid idea, so I went ahead and negged myself.

fwiw, I wasn't trying to say I think this is the case as much as pointing out that there are alternative explanations to the Harbaugh forced him out so they could have his scholarship line. But whatever, it seems like his health was probably the reason for this and thats better than the othre scenarios.


June 26th, 2015 at 3:33 PM ^

All players think they are indestructable, that injuries are just "bad breaks" and that they can play in the NFL.  Harbaugh did Pipkins a huge favor here.  Hopefully, Pipkins realizes it someday.  I just hope he makes it through his next team without "proving" Harbaugh "right."


June 26th, 2015 at 2:16 PM ^

one would think if JH thought Pipkins could contribute at Michigan this fall he would welcome him back. 

the more kids that get drafted by NFL teams the better for Michigan Football. 

makes no sense unless as mentioned we needed the scholi for some 5th year transfer. Doubt you hear Harbaugh talk about this. 

Mr Miggle

June 26th, 2015 at 5:08 PM ^

I would not endorse.

one would think if JH thought Pipkins could contribute at Michigan this fall he would welcome him back.

Pipkins may well recover enough from ACL to help someone on the field. If that was the only medical issue, then Harbaugh should give him that opportunity. It's not, though. He can play with arthritis in his knees, but it's not going away. It's going to affect his quality of life over time and football will make it worse.

The concussions are worrisome too. Again, he can come back, but it's an issue football is starting to take more seriously. After the Morris debacle last year, I would expect Michigan to be especially careful.

I'm much happier taking a hit in the media now, rather than reading a sad story down the road.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:28 PM ^

You still have a head coach dictating this kind of decision to a kid who wants to play.  It's one thing to advise, another to dictate and close off his options. 

Moreover, we're talking about a kid who DID play last year from Michigan, coming all the way back (or at least far enough back to play) from a major injury that he previously sustained while playing for Michigan.  So, either the Michigan training staff was wrong to let him play last year with this dangerous injury or there is some unreported reinjury, reoccurance, or additional injury that has not yet been reported... OR the other (most obvious) option (that Pipkins was forced off the team because of the quality of his play) is real.


June 26th, 2015 at 11:34 PM ^

I thought Pip was from Missouri.  Was he from Saginaw originally or something?   Thought Pip was going to be a great one.   Loved his Brady Hoke impression.  That's got to be a tough call as a coach.  You have a 5* kid who hasn't performed and is injured, but might defy the odds have a break out year and go to the NFL.   Is it the kid's choice to risk brain damage and permanant knee problems, or do you make the choice for them cheating them out of being a millionaire.  With all of the Junior Seau suicides and Shane Morris fiasco, you have err on the side of caution right?


June 27th, 2015 at 5:08 AM ^


And if every kid who has 2 concussions is going to retire, then we might as well kiss the game of football goodbye. I'm not even joking. I would guess that the majority of players who are seniors in college have had at least two concussions.


June 27th, 2015 at 8:42 PM ^

Pipkins was supposedly evaluated by the team doctors, and they told him he was fine to resume football activities. Pipkins claims that afterwards Harbaugh and the athletic trainer both urged him to get a re-evaluation. After the 2nd evaluation, the doctors changed their mind and suggested that Pipkins take 6 months of rest before resuming football activities.

So if Pipkins followed the doctors' suggestion, then at most he would have to miss the majority of this season. Since Pipkins is eligible for a medicial redshirt, can he not just come back for 2016?

Blue Durham

June 26th, 2015 at 2:52 PM ^

And the "you're not going to be drafted by the NFL" part as well. It is the simplest but also the most reasonable explanation.

There is no or very little up-side for Pipkins to stay on the team and risking further injury, but there is significant down-side, both with respect to probability as well as severity.

As was abundantly apparent during the Shane Morris incident, most people rightly believe the head coach is responsibility for the health and welfare of all of his players.

Sometimes the coach has to make the tough call, even if the player is against it. With no apparent benefit to Michigan scholarship-wise, this seems to be the case.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:01 PM ^

If I'm Harbaugh, I'm not signing any more 5th year guys.  I'll give the schollie to a walk-on, but I don't want to provide ammo to anyone, especially on the recruiting trail.  He may not be able to defend himself in public, but at least if he doesn't 'replace' Pipkins, he can defend himself in the living room.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:18 PM ^

Harbaugh doesn't care about providing ammo, he cares about winning. That is why we wanted him to couch our team. If another 5th year guy is the answer, he will take him.

Also, we would technically need 4 more 5th year transfers to reach the 85 limit now, if we didn't give out three to the walk-ons Brian mentioned above.

Victor Valiant

June 26th, 2015 at 2:28 PM ^

Defend himself against who's negative recruiting? Saban's? Urban Meyer's? Guys get "medical'd" all of the time in big time college football and some aren't too happy about it. Pipkins is one that isn't happy. Harbaugh is doing what he believes is the best thing for the TEAM, THE TEAM, THE TEAM.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:01 PM ^

UM doesnt need the scholarship, so this just seems to be a difference of opinion between Pipkins and the football staff. And It seems like Pipkins has not handled it very well. 


June 26th, 2015 at 2:01 PM ^

It sounds like to me that Harbaugh actually cared about his health and that he really shouldn't play. Maybe Ondre needs to hang it up. Sometimes looking from the outside in is the best way to view it.