Harbaugh accepts suspension as Michigan drops case against Big Ten

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Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh will not be on the sideline Saturday when his team goes for its 1,000th win in school history, or the following Saturday when it plays No. 3 Ohio State with a trip to the Big Ten Championship on the line.

The university announced in a statement Thursday afternoon that the school and Harbaugh have ‘resolved their pending litigation’ with the Big Ten Conference and accepted his three-game suspension for the remainder of the regular season.

Harbaugh was punished as part of a sign-stealing scandal that is being investigated by both the NCAA and Big Ten. As part of the settlement between Michigan and the Big Ten, the conference will drop its investigation.

‘This morning, the University, Coach Harbaugh, and the Big Ten resolved their pending litigation. The Conference agreed to close its investigation, and the University and Coach Harbaugh agreed to accept the three-game suspension,’ began a statement from Associate Athletic Director Kurt Svoboda. ‘Coach Harbaugh, with the University’s support, decided to accept this sanction to return the focus to our student-athletes and their performance on the field. 

‘The Conference has confirmed that it is not aware of any information suggesting Coach Harbaugh’s involvement in the allegations. The University continues to cooperate fully with the NCAA’s investigation.’

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Shortly after Michigan announced its decision, the Big Ten released a statement.

‘The Big Ten Conference’s commitment to student-athletes, sportsmanship and the Commissioner’s duty to protect the integrity of competition will never waver,’ the statement began. ‘Today’s decision by the University of Michigan to withdraw its legal challenge against the Conference’s November 10th Notice of Disciplinary Action is indicative of the high standards and values that the Conference and the University seek to uphold.

‘The University of Michigan is a valued member of the Big Ten Conference and the Conference will continue to work cooperatively with the University and the NCAA during this process.’

Harbaugh was suspended by the Big Ten last Friday for violating the Big Ten Sportsmanship Policy as it relates to the ongoing sign-stealing investigation surrounding the program. Connor Stalions, a former recruiting staffer, was identified as a person of interest by reports on Oct. 20 that said he illegally obtained signals from other teams. He was initially suspended by the school before resigning on Nov. 3.

Sign-stealing is not against NCAA rules, but in-person scouting and the use of technology to scout are prohibited.

The sudden about-face to drop the lawsuit comes less than 24 hours before Harbaugh and attorneys who represented him and the Michigan Board of Regents were set to hold a hearing in front of Judge Timothy Connors in Washtenaw County Circuit Court.

By bringing the case to court, Michigan’s hope initially was to receive a temporary restraining order against the league’s ruling, which would’ve allowed Harbaugh to coach each of the remaining regular season games. Now that Michigan has come to terms with the league, Harbaugh’s suspension is final, but the Big Ten’s investigation into the matter has ended.

The NCAA investigation into the matter still remains, where there could be additional penalties if the governing body deems there was evidence somebody on Michigan’s staff either helped Stalions, or had knowledge of his plot.

The NCAA reportedly has evidence of Stalions purchasing 35 tickets at 17 different stadiums across the past three years. He would then forward them to an associate who would record the opponents’ sidelines with their cell phone and send the videos back to Stalions who would time them up with the plays and de-code the signals. There was also reportedly a spreadsheet with that indicated a $15,000 budget for travel and fees associated this year. Michigan – in response to a Freedom of Information Act request – said Wednesday that Stalions never filed expense reports with the university, even though that doesn’t necessarily prove there wasn’t a budget.

There is also an investigation into whether Stalions was on the Central Michigan sidelines for a game against Michigan State earlier this season, earlier this season, allegedly wearing Central Michigan gear.

Harbaugh, the Big Ten said, was never directly linked, but is being punished as he represents the program.

The decision came down last Friday when the No. 2 Wolverines were en route to State College for a game against Penn State, their first top-10 matchup of the year, and athletic director Warde Manuel lit into the league in a statement, when he called the suspension ‘unethical’ and ‘insulting’.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY