The Big Ten on Friday suspended University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh for the last three games of the regular season, the conference announced.
The move comes three weeks after the NCAA announced an investigation into Harbaugh and the team over alleged sign stealing.
The Wolverines, who are 9-0, head to Happy Valley to face Penn State, 8-1, on Saturday.
Harbaugh won’t be allowed to coach the team from the sidelines during games but will be able to serve as head coach at practices during the week.
In a lengthy statement, the university condemned the punishment.
“We are dismayed at the Commissioner’s rush to judgment when there is an ongoing NCAA investigation—one in which we are fully cooperating,” it said.
The statement went on to suggest that the ruling “is more about reacting to pressure from other Conference members than a desire to apply the rules fairly and impartially.”
“By taking this action at this hour, the Commissioner is personally inserting himself onto the sidelines and altering the level playing field that he is claiming to preserve. And, doing so on Veteran’s Day—a court holiday—to try to thwart the University from seeking immediate judicial relief is hardly a profile in impartiality. To ensure fairness in the process, we intend to seek a court order, together with Coach Harbaugh, preventing this disciplinary action from taking effect,” the statement concluded.
Earlier this week, the team fought back against any potential punishment in a 10-page letter to the Big Ten. Sources also told the Associated Press the Wolverines might invoke an emergency legal action if they are punished before a full investigation is complete.
The Big Ten said the university violated the conference’s sportsmanship policy “for conducting an impermissible, in-person scouting operation over multiple years, resulting in an unfair competitive advantage that compromised the integrity of competition.”
The statement added that the penalty is “imposed on the institution,” but that Harbaugh is the one serving the punishment.
It remains unclear how Harbaugh and the Wolverines could have participated in sign stealing, which Harbaugh previously denied, but Yahoo Sports previously reported that the NCAA was looking into whether Michigan sent representatives to future opponents’ games to gain information on their signage.
During the week, coaches spend hours analyzing opponents’ game footage to spot notable weaknesses that could appear in future games, as well as strenghts they will have to work to defend.
But teams are not allowed to use footage of opponents’ sideline actions out of fear of potential sign stealing.
“Any attempt to record, either through audio or video means, any signals given by an opposing player, coach or other team personnel is prohibited,” according to the 2023 NCAA football rule book.
Both Michigan and Harbaugh previously said they would cooperate with the NCAA’s investigation.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Nbcnews.com