Big Ten conference bans Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh from sidelines over sign-stealing violations

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh watches during warmups before an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, on October 21, 2023, in East Lansing, Michigan.

Michigan Football Coach Jim Harbaugh Suspended for Three Games for Impermissible Scouting Operation

Jim Harbaugh, the head football coach at the University of Michigan, has been suspended for the final three games of the 2023 regular season by the Big Ten Conference. The suspension comes after the conference found that the Michigan football program conducted “an impermissible, in-person scouting operation over multiple years,” in violation of the Big Ten sportsmanship policy.

The suspension includes Saturday’s game against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Harbaugh will be allowed to attend practices and other football team activities, but he will not be allowed to be in the stadium on game days.

The Big Ten’s investigation into Michigan’s scouting operation began in October, after the NCAA announced that it was also investigating the program for alleged sign-stealing. Sign-stealing is not technically prohibited by NCAA rules, but in-person scouting is explicitly outlawed.

The Big Ten said in a statement that it imposed the disciplinary action on Michigan even though it had not received any information indicating that Harbaugh was aware of the impermissible nature of the scouting scheme. The conference clarified that the sanction was against the university, not Harbaugh.

Harbaugh has denied that the Michigan football program illegally stole signals. He said that he and his coaching staff would fully cooperate with the investigation into the matter.

The University of Michigan said in a statement that it intended to seek a court order to prevent the Big Ten’s disciplinary action from taking effect. The university said that it was “dismayed” at Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti’s “rush to judgment” of assessing penalties before an investigation has been completed.

The Big Ten’s decision to suspend Harbaugh is a significant development in the ongoing investigation into Michigan’s scouting operation. It remains to be seen whether the NCAA will also impose penalties on the program and whether Harbaugh will be disciplined further if it is found that he was aware of the impermissible scheme.

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