Around this time last week the University of Michigan was laying out its plan to attack the Big Ten in a court room. Jim Harbaugh had filed a motion that would allow him to coach from the sidelines today, and next week against Ohio State. Now, one week later, the school has backtracked into a corner.
Crazy how these things play out, right?
While the school had rallied the fanbase, with comments from President Santa Ono and athletic director Warde Manuel, it’s now pondering the future. Social media was pretty quiet on Friday night, without the Michigan vs. Everybody mantra being tweeted every five minutes. The difference in one week is visible on all fronts.
None of this would’ve been an issue if Michigan knew what was coming from the NCAA. Laying the groundwork for Harbaugh to make his triumph return to the sidelines was Michigan’s main concern at the time.
This was obviously to be expected, given previous statements from the school showing their support for Jim Harbaugh. President Santa Ono, along with other officials, were rightfully attacking commissioner Tony Petitti and the Big Ten’s decision to suspend Harbaugh, in a letter following the initial decision.
“Commissioner Petitti’s hasty action today suggests that this is more about reacting to pressure from other Conference members than a desire to apply the rules fairly and impartially,” President Santa Ono’s response read in-part. “By taking this action at this hour, the Commissioner is personally inserting himself onto the sidelines and altering the level playing field that he is claiming to preserve.”
The problem was that the Big Ten was ready to fight the motion Harbaugh filed, hiring counsel to force a hearing, which would’ve taken place on Friday. While Michigan threw jabs in statements, the NCAA was digging further for evidence to share with the Big Ten.
NCAA Caught Michigan Blindsided This Week Regarding Staff
While the Big Ten and Michigan spoke earlier in the week about a potential agreement that would see Jim Harbaugh return for the Ohio State game, the NCAA kept digging. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, linebacker coach Chris Partridge decided to interfere in the investigation.
All this time, from statements to the press and school officials making sure it was noted how much they stood behind Harbaugh, the NCAA was ready. Those talks about a potential settlement came to a screeching halt when the Big Ten notified Michigan that they had further evidence someone a staff member was involved.
Turns out, the Michigan football program was now ready to accept the three games, hoping the Big Ten would go away, for now. A far cry from where things stood in Ann Arbor just one week ago, Michigan knew it backed itself into a corner with nowhere to run, or no rebuttals on social media.
After it was reported that Chris Partridge was fired by Michigan for interfering in the NCAA investigation, the school released a statement that made it sound like they finally understood the damage this could all cause.
“From the outset, our focus has been on seeking due process and allowing the NCAA to conduct a fair and deliberate investigation, we are continuing to cooperate with the NCAA as it moves forward with its ongoing investigation,”the school noted. “Consistent with out commitment to integrity, we will continue to take actions, including disciplinary measures, based on information we obtain.
After going on the attack for weeks, turns out one of their own staff members was trying to destroy computer evidence regarding Connor Stalions, according to Yahoo. Obviously Michigan was signing a different tune on Friday, knowing how this could turn out.
It probably doesn’t help the school that a Michigan donor that goes by the name ‘Uncle-T’ is now being investigated for providing funds for Connor Stalions.
It’s Not Just Sign Stealing For Michigan, Jim Harbaugh
While we dissect the sign-stealing investigation at every turn, and rightfully so, don’t forget about the previous three-game suspension. The reason why Michigan is now starting to feel the heat is based on the fact that the football program is now under investigation by the NCAA, for two different matters.
Lost in all of the discussions about Connor Stalions is the NCAA inquiry about recruiting violations that date back to the Covid seasons. Though the infractions may not be program damaging, it was enough for the school to suspend Jim Harbaugh for three games to open the 2023 season.
If Michigan thought this would get them in the good standing with the NCAA, bringing them back to campus to investigate the integrity of the program doesn’t help. Sure, in the grand scheme of it all, the current punishment won’t ruin the career of Harbaugh, IF they don’t find out he knew about it.
The Aftermath For Michigan
But there’s another problem that could stand in the way of Michigan and Jim Harbaugh down the road if the NCAA uncovers more information.
“Michigan could have to deal with the dreaded lack of institutional control if the NCAA discovers more information about current staff members,” one Power-5 AD told OutKick. “They (NCAA) decided to jump on that case in a hurry, while that’s not usually the case. How many investigations have you seen over the years start producing evidence this quick?
“I’m not saying they are out to get him, but Harbaugh hasn’t helped himself over the years with some folks in-power. Even if he somehow did not know, he still should’ve known. That’s where the NCAA will get you.”
Michigan will take the field against Maryland and Ohio State without its head coach on the sidelines, hoping to win both games to clinch a Big Ten title game spot. Then, right there in Indianapolis, the Wolverines could end up winning the conference title, then having commissioner Tony Petitti hand them the trophy following a win.
One couldn’t have made this story up to start the 2023 season, but here we are with two weeks until championship Saturday.
I’d imagine Michigan officials are worried about the rest of this season, but they should probably start preparing for what could come in the aftermath. As you can tell by how this week ended, I don’t think anybody knows what the future has in store.
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Title: Michigan Changes Tone Regarding Jim Harbaugh, Portending Lack Of Institutional Control Could Be Future Problem
Author: Trey Wallace