Nov 16, 2023 - Sports

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh heads to court

Harbaugh stands in the middle of the frame looking outward with a microphone headset. There are players milling about behind him.

Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines against Purdue on Nov. 4. Photo: Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Jim Harbaugh's immediate status as the University of Michigan's football coach could be decided in a Washtenaw County courtroom Friday as the university's all-out defense of its football program reaches a fever pitch.

Driving the news: U of M is expected to argue that the Big Ten's suspension of Harbaugh for the rest of the regular season is improper and, if allowed to stand, would cause irreversible harm to the football team and the university.

Why it matters: Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Timothy Connors could put Harbaugh's suspension on hold — allowing him to coach Saturday at Maryland — while U of M's lawsuit fighting the punishment plays out.

  • The hearing underscores the gravity of sign-stealing allegations facing the team that have rocked the college football world over the last several weeks.

Context: The undefeated No. 2 Wolverines are in the thick of a national championship hunt.

Catch up fast: At the heart of the sign-stealing scandal is former Michigan staffer Connor Stalions, who allegedly ran a scouting operation using his friends to attend games and record play signals from the sidelines of future opponents, Yahoo reports.

  • While NCAA rules permit sign stealing, in-person scouting is illegal.
  • After the Stalions allegations broke, Michigan presented the Big Ten with evidence that other conference schools had also stolen signs.
  • Last Friday, while the team was on its way to Penn State, the Big Ten suspended Harbaugh "for conducting an impermissible, in-person scouting operation over multiple years, resulting in an unfair competitive advantage that compromised the integrity of competition" and violated the league's sportsmanship policy.
  • An NCAA investigation into the matter is ongoing.

What they're saying: Harbaugh plans to attend the court hearing.

  • "I'm going to talk on Friday," he told reporters Monday. "I'm just looking forward to that opportunity — due process. I'm not looking for special treatment, not looking for a popularity contest, just looking for the merit of what the case is."

Between the lines: Among the lawsuit's key questions is whether Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti overreached in penalizing the ninth-year coach.

  • "That will be a tough task for Michigan. The school has agreed to follow a conference sportsmanship policy that explicitly accords the commissioner far-reaching and unappealable decision-making authority regarding conduct," legal expert Michael McCann wrote for Sportico.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Detroit stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more