University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh was suspended for the final three games of the regular season Friday amid an investigation into a sign-stealing scandal, the Big Ten conference announced.
The conference said Michigan conducted an “impermissible, in-person scouting operation over multiple years, resulting in an unfair competitive advantage that compromised the integrity of competition,” Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti wrote.
The scandal alleges that Michigan staffer Connor Stalions attended and sent friends to attend games for upcoming Michigan opponents and film their sideline to decode signals coaches use to call plays.
Michigan plans to file a court order to keep Harbaugh on the sidelines, it said in a statement Friday.
If the suspension stands, Harbaugh will not be able to coach upcoming games against Penn State and Maryland, as well as the key rivalry game against Ohio State. He will still be allowed to coach during the week at practices and participate in other team activities.
The university filed a response to the conference’s notice of impending disciplinary action on Wednesday, arguing the conference should show restraint and follow league bylaws.
“The conference should act cautiously when setting precedent given the reality that in-person scouting, collusion among opponents, and other questionable practices may well be far more prevalent than believed,” Athletic Director Warde Manuel wrote in the letter, first acquired by Yahoo Sports.
In its response, the university claimed responsibility for the scheme but said it was the action of Stalions alone, and it said there was no evidence other coaches — including Harbaugh — were aware.
Michigan, which is No. 2 in the AP Top 25 poll and No. 3 in the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings, already faced a tough schedule as it seeks to return to the CFP for a third straight year.
Harbaugh, who coached in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers, was also suspended at the start of the season for three games over recruiting violations.
The 9-0 Wolverines face the 8-1 Penn State Nittany Lions — 9th in the CFP rankings and 10th in the AP Top 25 — on Saturday.