Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh Accepts Three-Game Suspension from Big Ten, Will Not Coach Against Maryland or Ohio State

By Garrick Hodge on November 16, 2023 at 3:33 pm
Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh officially will not be on the sidelines for the Ohio State game in nine days.

Per a release from Michigan, Harbaugh has accepted his three-game suspension imposed by the conference last Friday and will no longer seek a temporary restraining order against the conference in a hearing that was set for Friday. As a result, Harbaugh will not be on the sidelines for Michigan’s final two games of the regular season against Maryland or Ohio State.

“This morning, the University, coach Harbaugh, and the Big Ten resolved their pending litigation," the statement reads. "The Conference agreed to close its investigation, and the University and coach Harbaugh agreed to accept the three-game suspension. Coach Harbaugh, with the University’s support, decided to accept this sanction to return the focus to our student athletes and their performance on the field.  The Conference has confirmed that it is not aware of any information suggesting Coach Harbaugh’s involvement in the allegations. The University continues to cooperate fully with the NCAA’s investigation,”

The Big Ten also released a statement Thursday on Michigan's decision not to appeal the suspension.

"The Big Ten Conference’s commitment to student-athletes, sportsmanship and the Commissioner’s duty to protect the integrity of competition will never waver," the Big Ten wrote. "Today’s decision by the University of Michigan to withdraw its legal challenge against the Conference’s November 10th Notice of Disciplinary Action is indicative of the high standards and values that the Conference and the University seek to uphold. The University of Michigan is a valued member of the Big Ten Conference and the Conference will continue to work cooperatively with the University and the NCAA during this process."

While Michigan said in its statement that the Big Ten “agreed to close its investigation,” Catherine Briley of The Athletic reported that Michigan and Harbaugh “voluntarily dismissed their complaint against the Big Ten,” citing the Washtenaw County courthouse, where Harbaugh’s hearing was scheduled to be held Friday. That said, Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic reported that the Big Ten “is now deferring to the NCAA and its penalty process” and will only impose further punishments against Michigan if “the NCAA finds/proves that one or more of Michigan’s countable coaches were involved in the Connor Stalions scheme.”

The Big Ten issued Harbaugh's three-game suspension a day before the Wolverines faced Penn State, which prevents him from being with the team on gamedays for the rest of the regular season but still allows him to coach during the week. The suspension led Michigan to immediately file a request for a temporary restraining order that would still allow him to coach through the season, but it was not ruled on in time for the Wolverines' game against the Nittany Lions. A hearing was set for Friday, but will no longer take place now that Harbaugh has accepted the suspension.

With offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore acting as head coach in Harbaugh's place, Michigan defeated Penn State, 24-15. Moore is expected to remain the acting head coach for the final two regular season games.

The suspension is only for the rest of the regular season, meaning Harbaugh will be allowed to return to the sidelines for any postseason games Michigan qualifies for, including the Big Ten Championship Game if the Wolverines beat Ohio State.

The Big Ten announced on Oct. 19 that the NCAA had launched an investigation into Michigan for scouting opponents in person and filming opponents’ signals, both of which are prohibited by NCAA rules. Connor Stalions, a former staffer for the Wolverines, allegedly purchased tickets to more than 35 games at a minimum of 17 different schools over the past three years, including games involving at least 12 of the Big Ten’s other 13 teams. Images also emerged that appeared to show Stalions on the sideline of Central Michigan’s season opener against Michigan State.

In the Big Ten’s official disciplinary notice to Michigan last week, the Big Ten said it was informed by the NCAA on Nov. 2 that it “knew and could prove” that Stalions “coordinated a vast off-campus, in-person advance scouting scheme involving a network of individuals” that included videoing opponents’ signals from seats strategically located in other stadiums.

Stalions resigned from Michigan on Nov. 3 after he was initially suspended with pay by the university on Oct. 20.

Harbaugh has said he was unaware of the alleged sign-stealing scheme, saying in a statement on Oct. 19 that he did “not have any knowledge or information regarding the University of Michigan football program illegally stealing signals, nor have I directed any staff member or others to participate in an off-campus scouting assignment.” That said, Harbaugh can be found culpable for NCAA violations committed by his staff if it is determined he should have been aware violations were occurring even if it is not proven that he was directly involved in the scheme.

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