Michigan football’s tour of the globe will continue next spring.
Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh said in a radio interview Monday morning that the program has locked in a trip to South Africa for next spring.
“We’re going to [South] Africa,” Harbaugh said via the Detroit Free Press. “We’re going to Johannesburg and Cape Town and we’re going to do a safari. How about that? How about a safari? I’m looking forward to it.”
South Africa will be Michigan’s fourth spring trip under Harbaugh
The trip to South Africa will be the third international spring adventure during Harbaugh’s tenure. The first two trips landed the Wolverines in Europe. In 2017, the team took a jaunt to Rome, Italy, for a few practices and to take in the sights and sounds. A trip to Paris, France, followed this year.
In 2016, Harbaugh brought part of its spring practice schedule to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
In addition to South Africa, trips to Cuba, Spain and Greece were also considered for 2019, Harbaugh said. He wants an international trip to be a yearly occasion for his program.
More education, less football
Michigan’s trips have gotten less and less about football as the years have gone by.
The trip to IMG, which has one of the premier high school programs in the country and a roster full of Division I talent every year, caused quite a bit of uproar. That trip was even the impetus for an NCAA rule change. The Power Five conferences voted 58-to-22 to prohibit off-campus practices during a vacation period outside a sport’s championship season.
Three days after that vote passed, Michigan announced its trip to Italy. Because the rule did not go into effect until August of that year, the Wolverines’ trip to Italy, which included three football practices at the facility of professional soccer club AS Roma, was legal under NCAA rules.
The trip to Italy was billed as an educational and cultural experience that included trips to landmarks across Rome.
There were no football activities involved in UM’s April trip to France.
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) May 18, 2018
Who funds Michigan’s trips abroad?
Other than saying they were financed by a donor, Michigan had kept quiet about how the trips were funded until Harbaugh spilled the beans to reporters in Paris. Harbaugh revealed that Activision Blizzard (the video game company that makes “Call of Duty,” among other games) CEO Bobby Kotick donated around $750,000 for the team’s trip to Rome in 2017.
Kotick, along with another UM donor, Don Graham, joined forces to pay for the Paris trip, which is expected to cost around the same as the Italy trip.
“Two great Michigan guys, especially Bobby. They’re the best,” Harbaugh told reporters. “Bobby doesn’t want anything said. He doesn’t want anybody to know that, but it’s a hard secret to keep.”
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