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Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the University of Michigan’s No. 2-ranked football team, has been suspended for the remainder of the 2023 regular season because his team was found guilty of violating the Big Ten policy on sportsmanship, according to a Friday afternoon press release from the conference.
Harbaugh will not be allowed to coach at his team’s upcoming games against Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State, but he will be allowed to be present at practices and team activities.
Harbaugh’s punishment stems from Michigan’s “impermissible, in-person scouting operation,” according to the release. It says the operation gave the school “an unfair competitive advantage that compromised the integrity of competition.”
The Big Ten’s announcement set social media sites like X ablaze.
Football fans and reporters debated whether the punishment was fair and why the Big Ten waited to announce the news when Michigan was already traveling on its way to State College, Pennsylvania, to prepare to play Penn State.
“What happens now? Jim Harbaugh flies home? He watches the game with fans at a Michigan bar? He hangs in the lobby of the hotel with the game on? I have questions,” posted Ian Rapoport, NFL Network’s national insider, on X.
What happens now? Jim Harbaugh flies home? He watches the game with fans at a Michigan bar? He hangs in the lobby of the hotel with the game on?
I have questions. https://t.co/xxuLHsjWO9
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 10, 2023
Bruce Feldman, a reporter for The Athletic, noted that the Big Ten does not have evidence that Harbaugh himself was involved in sign-stealing.
“The Big Ten says it does not have knowledge indication that Jim Harbaugh was aware of the signal-stealing scheme. ‘This is not a sanction of Coach Harbaugh. It is a sanction against the University that, under the extraordinary circumstances presented by this offensive conduct...,’” Feldman posted on X.
Nicole Auerbach, a senior writer for The Athletic, noted that the Big Ten left the door open to imposing additional punishments in the future.
“The Big Ten says it may impose additional disciplinary actions as more information is received over the course of the NCAA investigation,” she said.
Pete Thamel, college football senior reporter for ESPN, shared an excerpt of the Big Ten’s letter to Michigan on X and pointed out that the conference was troubled by how the university has responded to the Big Ten’s efforts to investigate accusations of sign-stealing.
Important passage to explain why the Big10 decided to punish Michigan: "Notably, the University’s November 8 response does not deny that the impermissible scheme occurred. Instead, it offers only procedural and technical arguments designed to delay accountability." pic.twitter.com/Wy0wWBuyJw
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) November 10, 2023
In its statement on the suspension, Michigan argued that Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti “disregards the conference’s own handbook, violates the basic tenets of due process and sets an untenable precedent of assessing penalties before an investigation has been completed,” according to Adam Rittenberg, a senior writer for ESPN.
The school also said that it will be seeking a court order to prevent “this disciplinary action from taking effect.”