Michigan suspends football coach Jim Harbaugh for 3 games to begin 2023 season


Jim Harbaugh informed the Michigan football team before Monday’s practice that the program has self-imposed a three-game suspension on him to begin the 2023 season, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Free Press.

Harbaugh, 59, will not be on the sidelines for Michigan’s non-conference schedule — East Carolina (Sept. 2), UNLV (Sept. 9) and Bowling Green (Sept. 16) — but will return for the Big Ten schedule, which begins the following week at home vs. Rutgers (Sept. 23).

It is unclear if Harbaugh was informed of the decision, or if he was part of a collaborative process, but this is seen as Michigan’s effort at appeasing its governing body with hopes of avoiding further sanctions in the future.

“The more or less logic is 25% is the standard practice here,” the person said. “That’s what Michigan believes is reasonable. It’s defensible. If the NCAA wants more, then that’s going to come out at the hearing. Regardless of what’s right for Jim Harbaugh, what’s right for Michigan is to do the right thing.

“This is clearly the right thing based on the facts of what is known.”

While the saga has seemingly taken its final twist on the effects on the 2023 season (outside of clarity on who will serve as the interim coach), the story is far from over.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh speaks to the media during Big Ten football media days on Thursday, July 27, 2023, in Indianapolis.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh speaks to the media during Big Ten football media days on Thursday, July 27, 2023, in Indianapolis.

The Wolverines were served a draft of notice of allegations back in January, and then reports surfaced U-M and NCAA had reportedly agreed to a four-game suspension in July. That deal fell apart in the final hours in early August.

The suspension was for the Level I and II violations the NCAA said Harbaugh and the football program committed. The Level II violations stemmed from various recruiting and coaching infractions. The Level I offenses, deemed more serious, were from statements Harbaugh made to NCAA which the organization deemed misleading.

Once the deal fell apart, it appeared the case would go through the normal hearing process — and it likely still will, which would seemingly push any punishment imposed by the NCAA into 2024 — though there remained a chance Michigan could impose its own punishment.

Given the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions reportedly rejected the negotiated resolution for a four-game suspension, it seemed unlikely Michigan would impose a penalty of lesser severity since the NCAA is looking to bring the case before a judge.

Harbaugh, as well as offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore, who would have been suspended for one game (along with tight end coach Grant Newsome for their involvement in the alleged recruiting infractions), have said they cannot comment on the investigation each time they’ve been asked.

“As you probably already know, I’m not allowed to talk about any aspect of that ongoing situation,” Harbaugh said July 27 at Big Ten media days in Indianapolis. “I’m with you — I would love to lay it all out there. Nothing to be ashamed of. But now is not that time.”

“We are continuing to work cooperatively with the NCAA staff on an enforcement matter,” Michigan athletics director Warde Manuel added in a statement shortly after news broke in July. “At this time, we cannot comment further on any aspect of the matter.”

But others spoke instead. NCAA vice president of hearing operations Derrick Crawford, in an unusual practice, sent out a statement to dispel any notions or rumors circulating that the investigation was about one now infamous off-campus meal.

“The Michigan infractions case is related to impermissible on- and off-campus recruiting during the COVID-19 dead period and impermissible coaching activities,” he said. “Not a cheeseburger.”

That got Tom Mars, Harbaugh’s attorney, fired up enough to publicly respond.

“Pursuant to the NCAA’s internal operating procedures, and under threat of penalties, Michigan, the involved coaches, and their lawyers are prohibited from uttering a word about this ongoing case,” he wrote. “Yet the NCAA can issue a public statement putting its spin on the case?”

Any further punishment as it pertains to this investigation will come from the NCAA, but only once the legal process is played out. In the meantime, Harbaugh said he has his full attention on the season ahead.

Michigan is ranked No. 2 in both the USA TODAY AFCA Coaches Poll and AP Poll to begin the season, and comes off a two-year stretch where it’s 25-3 overall with two wins over Ohio State, two Big Ten championships and two College Football Playoff appearances.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan suspends Jim Harbaugh for 3 football games

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