Big Ten Suspends Jim Harbaugh Over Michigan Sign-Stealing Scandal

The suspension will only apply to regular season games

Jim Harbaugh
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh walks through the tunnel prior to a college football game between the Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines on October 21, 2023.
Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Turns out Major League Baseball isn’t the only sports entity with a sign-stealing scandal. The Big Ten conference announced on Friday evening that it had taken disciplinary action against the University of Michigan for violations of the conference’s Sportsmanship Policy. In what is arguably the most noticeable reflection of the conference’s decision, head coach Jim Harbaugh will be absent from the team’s remaining regular season games.

The announcement criticized Michigan for “conducting an impermissible, in-person scouting operation over multiple years” and the resulting “unfair competitive advantage.”

While Harbaugh is barred from being on the premises when the Wolverines play, he will be permitted to take part in practices and related activities. Besides the initial announcement, the conference provided no additional comments on the issue.

The Athletic’s report on the scandal provides more context for the suspension, including a clarification that the Big Ten are suspending Harbaugh as a result of him “[embodying the University” as opposed to implying that Harbaugh was necessarily aware that the scouting operation violated Big Ten policies.

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According to The Athletic’s reporting, Michigan plans to appeal the decision.

Last month, the Washington Post reported that the Big Ten announced its investigation of Michigan over allegations of sign-stealing — which led to the suspension of Connor Stalions, a member of the Michigan football staff who has a long and somewhat surreal history with the program.

Further complicating matters is the fact that, as ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt noted, “Michigan has submitted evidence to the Big Ten that Ohio State, Rutgers and Purdue shared Michigan’s signs prior to the 2022 Big Ten title game.” It begs the question: could this scandal wind up affecting a much larger group of football programs before too long?

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