Harbaugh suspension stands; court hearing canceled

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh watches his team warm up before action against the Purdue Boilermakers at Michigan Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh watches his team warm up before action against the Purdue Boilermakers at Michigan Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

This just in.

OK, that was fun to write, but maybe by the time you read it, this was in some time ago, like 1:15 p.m. Pacific Time, Thursday, November 16, 2023. So, on to the big news:

The suspension for Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh through the end of the regular season imposed by the Big Ten will stand, the school announced on Thursday.

A scheduled court hearing for Friday morning was canceled.

“This morning, the University, Coach Harbaugh, and the Big Ten resolved their pending litigation,” a Michigan statement read. “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 investigation.”

 

So Harbaugh, who is wrapped up in a scandal over whether his program used illicit means to scout future opponents illegally, will remain suspended for games against Maryland and Ohio State.

Before that revelaton Thursday, Harbaugh was busy sucking the air out of, ah, where ever he stood. 

Unbeaten on the field, but embattled nonetheless,  Harbaugh thinks his Wolverines should be America’s Team because they ”beat the odds. . .adversity. . . overcame naysayers and so-called experts.”

This declaration beckons the famous retort of ESPN’s College GameDay mega-show host Lee Corso.

“Not so fast. . . .”

Corso’s fellow ESPN talk show host Paul Finebaum certainly took that contrarian position after hearing Harbaugh.

“I found it sad and pathetic,” Finebaum said Monday on ESPN's SportsCenter. “Why? Because this isn’t America’s team. This isn’t what America’s about. Here we are, just days removed from Veterans Day, where we honor people who are really representative of America. This team is not representative of anything other than a program accused of cheating. Cheating.”

Harbaugh was suspended for three games on Nov. 9 after the Big Ten contended Michigan violated the conference's sportsmanship policy for sign-stealing. Harbaugh fired back during his Monday news conference.

“This has gotta be America's team,” Harbaugh said during his Monday news conference. “America loves a team that beats the odds, beats the adversity, overcomes what the naysayers, critics, so-called experts think. That's my favorite kind of team.”

Without Harbaugh on the sideline, No. 3 Michigan (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten) defeated No. 10 Penn State (8-2, 5-2) on Saturday, 24-15, with offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore serving as interim head coach. Harbaugh is allowed to attend practices and team activities but cannot be present on game days.

Finebaum was more depressed than impressed.

“Trying to steal signs to gain an unfair advantage, that’s not the way this country was built and that’s not what should be described as America’s team,” he said.

“Ohio State is a much better program overall. It's got tremendous tradition...It's just not that big of a deal. They take themselves so seriously up there.”

Approximately 27 hours before the Wolverines attempt to secure the 1,000th victory in program history Saturday, against Maryland, a judge in Ann Arbor is scheduled to hear arguments on whether to grant a temporary restraining order that would lift the conference’s multi-game suspension. The high-stakes showdown in court Friday, with Harbaugh as the headliner, has already overshadowed his undefeated team’s next battle on the field, and become a cause célèbre among U-M diehards.

But what else is new during a season when the games played by a national championship contender have taken a backseat to the incessant drama surrounding Harbaugh, a man who has been banned twice from the sideline in the past three months by two different entities?

Even when he is absent, he manages to suck all the oxygen and seize the spotlight.

Yep, the story is about Harbaugh. Seems it was always so.

Great coach, but...whatever teams that might be considering him – hello NFL’s Washington and Las Vegas – must remember he is a package deal.

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