When the second-ranked Michigan Wolverines take on ninth-ranked Penn State on the road Saturday, they will be without head coach Jim Harbaugh. On Friday, the Big Ten suspended the coach from coaching during the final three games of the regular season, as part of the ongoing investigation into allegations the Wolverines and former recruiting analyst Connor Stalions operated a sign-stealing program that ran afoul of NCAA rules.
While Michigan and Harbaugh filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would allow him to coach on Saturday against Penn State, the court declined to immediately intervene, instead setting the matter in for a hearing next Friday, ahead of Michigan’s game against Maryland.
Now the school’s athletic director, Warde Manuel, is blasting the conference in the wake of the suspension.
In a statement released Saturday after the Washtenaw County Circuit Court (Michigan) declined to intervene, Manuel first outlined that no one at the school “is happy to hear of the allegations and preliminary evidence that has come forth about in-person scouting and sign stealing by a member of our football program.”
Manuel then sharply criticized the process leading to Harbaugh’s suspension.
“However, no one here, an no one at other universities around this country, wants to be convicted and penalized without due process of a complete investigation and with a significant harm to our student-athletes. This is a fundamental principle of our justice, NCAA and, until yesterday, our conference systems.
“Sadly, that is not what happened yesterday.”
Manuel also warned the rest of the conference about hte precedent set by the Big Ten’s decision on Friday.
“All of the Head Coaches in the Big Ten (some who have been accused of actively participating in the trading of signals of opponents) and my Big Ten AD colleagues can rejoice today that someone was ‘held accountable,’ but they should be worried about the new standard of judgment (without complete investigation) that has been unleashed in this conference.”
Manuel concluded his statement with a full-throated defense of Michigan’s head coach.
“You many have removed him from our sidelines today, but Jim Harbaugh is our head football coach. We look forward to defending Jim’s right to coach our football team at the hearing on Friday. He has instilled his pride, passion, and the team’s belief in themselves to achieve greatness. I will continue to support Jim throughout this process, my coaches and staff, and especially our student-athletes as we continue to play this game and fight to win for Michigan and all who love us.”
The hearing Friday is scheduled for 9:00 a.m., Eastern. Given everything that has been alleged, and said, throughout his process Washtenaw County Circuit Court might want to sell tickets.