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?


LV Sports Bettor

June 26th, 2015 at 5:05 PM ^

You totally nailed it.

The first time I heard about oversigning I was shocked and couldn't believe that it was going on. It felt to me like CFB was playing under two different sets of rules for teams.

I made it a point to bring up oversigning to every CFB fan that I spoke to when the talk about the SEC dominating was brought up but I soon found out that hardly anyone cared to hear it as it only came down to winning and losing.

I decided then I would quit arguing about what goes on off the field. CFB is no longer the pure sport that I wanted to believe it was but instead it's a very big business with lots at stake. I'm fine with that too.

If we all looked at CFB as a business then what happened to Pipkins or any player like this would be totally fine. I think the problem were all having is that we want to believe that CFB is this pure game but the reality is those days are now gone.


Old Man Greene

June 26th, 2015 at 2:25 PM ^

So what if Harbaugh said ....if you fell ok then you can play...Pipkins gets hurt...story leaks that the medical staff said he shouldn't play..now how would that look...


June 26th, 2015 at 2:25 PM ^

It was no secret that Pipkins was facing a medical hardship. Pipkins himself was telling people that he was going to have retire due to too many concussions.

It doesn't sound like Michigan was doing anything wrong here other than saying, "it's not healthy for you to continue to play football." If they sign off on him playing while knowing what they know about his history with concussions and he suffers another one resulting in serious damage either now or down the line they could face serious repercussions.


June 26th, 2015 at 4:08 PM ^

If this is the case I would feel really bad for Pipkins (and might understand why it would be so hard to retire without ever really getting a chance despite the concussions), but it would make me feel better about the situation and Harbaugh's decision. Either way it's an unfortunate situation...had high hopes for him in the past, and loved his personality and Hoke impression!

Because of FERPA/HIPAA (I'm guessing more the latter) Michigan may not be able to talk about it and explain/defend their position. 

El Jeffe

June 26th, 2015 at 2:25 PM ^

I sense the first MGoQuestion of the next Harbaugh presser.

Srsly, this is what this blog should do. I applaud Brian for not shying away from the question--it may turn out that there is nothing there but I think Harbaugh should be required at least to answer a direct question about it.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:26 PM ^

It really is too bad that we can't get the full story from the UofM perspective. The statement about needing the scholarship just doesn't make sense since we are not over the limit, and he is a senior. With such a short time before fall practice starts, if we were getting a grad transfer I would imagine that would already been taken care of (cohesion w/teammates, playbook, etc.). I really get the feeling that Harbaugh and co. were looking out for his best interest, but being a competitive athlete being told that your not able to do something has to be a tough pill to swallow. That is where I see the disconnect coming, and really nothing wrong with this situation.

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June 26th, 2015 at 2:26 PM ^

I am not so sure this should fall negatively on Harbaugh in any way.

1) Ondre Pipkins was seriously hurt

2) The injury has produced arthritis in his knee

If he keeps playing then he most certainly will risk long term pain in his knee. It is his right to play but its not like the coach is doing something shady by cutting what would be considered a healthy player.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:28 PM ^

...hadn't just been told there's no room at the inn.  Given that he was told that, I don't know what to think.  As Brian says, why push a guy out so that you have an unused scholarship? 


June 26th, 2015 at 3:14 PM ^

That could even explain why Michigan thought it might be worth it to recruit Williams at one point. 

EDIT:  Having thought more about it, I don't believe that does explain anything.  Michigan told Williams they didn't have room this week and told Pipkins this week he was cleared to transfer to a given set of schools.  Pipkins alone couldn't have been the reason there wasn't room for Williams, because Pipkins is already leaving. 


June 26th, 2015 at 2:29 PM ^

I really don't want to be the one to bring this up, but could it be possible Harbaugh is pushing players off the team that don't fit the work ethic he's looking for? Again, I know nothing about Ondre Pipkins or his work ethic so not accusing him of anything. Just looking for an answer to Brian's question.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:33 PM ^

If he wasn't a senior I would probably tend to agree with that thought, but being a senior if anything he would be an extra body on the DLine. I guess time will tell if any other team clears him and he plays, but I get the feeling that it was based on health and long term damage.

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June 26th, 2015 at 2:33 PM ^

It's mentioned in one of the ESPN articles that the UM docs diagnosed Pipkins with arthritis in his knee. That's kinda a key point that makes it much more difficult to paint Harbaugh in a bad light.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:34 PM ^

I had my doubts but then I read that Pipkins says doctors told him he has arthritis in his knee. Yes, he can play through that, with pain, but is it worth it? This young man is going to be walking in constant pain when he's in his 30s, if not sooner. He'll have trouble walking up stairs by his 40s, probably earlier. He probably shouldn't be playing football anymore. 

What I don't get is the "not fair to your teammates" comment by Harbaugh. 


June 26th, 2015 at 7:52 PM ^

Is there a debate over the number of scholarships available?  We've consistently heard that there was not a scholarship crunch this year but next, and when given the chance to take Williams UM passed. I guess there could be a rouge 5th-year WR or DE out there that Michigan is interested in, but I kind of doubt it.  I think people are rightly bothered because Pipkins came out so publicly, but the issues stem from 2016, not 2015 as far as I can tell.  


June 26th, 2015 at 6:09 PM ^

or should be the decision of his coaches and the doctors.  I can see it both ways.  There are players who live in pain everyday and wouldn't do anything differently.  Then there are lawsuits and the constant threat of lawsuits from players who should have been held back.  We cringe when a player gets left in too long, but now Harbaugh is slimy for having the kid's health in mind?  As has been pointed out, in terms of scholarships it makes no sense.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:34 PM ^

So let me get this straight, a Michigan coach gets blasted in the media for playing a injured player and is getting blasted again for not letting an injured player play again?  Ok...

Space Coyote

June 26th, 2015 at 2:37 PM ^

But I can't really confirm one way or another, is the topic of back-dating early enrollee scholarships. Does Michigan need the scholarship to be open in 2015 to back-date early enrollees if they go over 25? I couldn't find anything.

But still, Michigan's statement is that he'd still count to the 85 limit, so I don't get it.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:48 PM ^

This may not be a firm source on this issue per se, but it is on the internet so it must be true.




If you look at comment #6 it discusses this issue.  That was my understanding too.  That the backdating isn't about the 85 limit, it is about the 25 per class limit.  So if we signed 22 or less in the previous class, we can backdate up to 3.  


[I've seen it numerous other places on the internets, but nothing that I would call "official"]


Edit- thinking about it more, I question this.  If you can only have 85 on scholarship at one time, then you need to have 82 or less on scholarship in order to have space for the 3 early enrolees.  


So basically I am no help..Just ignore my writing and imagnine a gif of a kitten doing something fun...

Space Coyote

June 26th, 2015 at 2:51 PM ^

I think the 85 limit only applies come fall, because there is overlap anyway when you play late into bowl season with SRs that will leave and EE coming in.

I know Michigan signed 25 in '12 and 28 in '13. But I think '12 back-dated more than 3,  and so '13 could back-date into '12. Just not sure how it all works and couldn't find anything solid on the internet


June 26th, 2015 at 2:37 PM ^

and we did know there would be some guys either takin the medical hardship, or pushed to it like Pipkins is saying, but the timing and explanation from him don't make a ton of sense as Brian pointed out. There's very little gain for Michigan in doing this, especially if we just told a talented potential transfer there's no room, Williams would have been almost ideal to take the spot left by Pip. 

I'm not sure what to think, but if Ondre has been cleared by the medical staff and able to practice/workout with the team, I'd rather have him on it. He's had injury issues his whole career but that's why there are team doctors, if they're saying he can play I'd be confused why Harbaugh would push for a hardship. If they're skeptical on him at all, then it makes a lot more sense. 


June 26th, 2015 at 2:57 PM ^

Williams wouldn't be able to play this coming year anyway. I think people have said he will have to sit out a year and then have three years of eligibility remaining wherever he ends up.

I'm just glad we are all having the conversation about this issue now and maybe keeping the staff honest.

At least we're not all putting our heads in the sand.


June 26th, 2015 at 2:40 PM ^

So, if I remember correctly, the class limit is 25 but you can sign up to 28 if you back date those three scholarships to the previous year.  They can only do that if there's less than 25 from the 2015 recruiting class (no problem) and there's room on the 85-man total limit in 2015.  Maybe I don't completely understand the back dating process, but it's all I can think of.  So if you let Pipkins go this year, you can sign 26 in 2016.  

That said, in order to sign 26 in 2016, they would have to give a firm handshake to something like 12 out of the 15 (current) redshirt juniors.  I don't see 12 of these guys being shown the door for their 5th year:

RB Drake Johnson
OL Blake Bars
OL Ben Braden
OL Kyle Kalis
OL Erik Magnuson
WR Jehu Chesson
WR Amara Darboh
DE Matt Godin
DT Ryan Glasgow
DT Willie Henry
DE Tom Strobel
DE Chris Wormley
LB Allen Gant
CB Terry Richardson
S Jeremy Clark


June 27th, 2015 at 7:40 PM ^

who have committed are not basically walkons, grayshirts or something similar or possibly were told it could happen depending on the numbers. Maybe Harbaugh sees something that you, Brian, Ace and others don't see, but it seems like we jumped on some of these guys early when there were a lot of supposedly more complete players out there.

Don't know if this is at all possible but I was wondering this even before Ace's story about the murky commit status that Harbaugh used at Stanford.

Space Coyote

June 26th, 2015 at 2:46 PM ^

And it may be that Harbaugh didn't like his attitude and just wanted him gone. It's also completely unfair to speculate about that. Completely tarnishing a kid's reputation based on next-to-nothing at most because it helps fit a narrative isn't a good look.

Besides, it might bring rationale to why it's happening, I'm still not sure it makes the story any better.