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Big Ten suspends Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh in sign-stealing investigation

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh holds up the Big Ten Championship Trophy after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 42-3 in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis, Ind., in 2021. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI
1 of 5 | Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh holds up the Big Ten Championship Trophy after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 42-3 in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis, Ind., in 2021. Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 10 (UPI) -- The Big Ten suspended University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh for the remainder of the season amid an ongoing investigation into a sign-stealing ring, alleging the school was engaged in "an organized, extensive, years-long in-person advance scouting scheme that was impermissible."

Harbaugh is banned from the game venue for the remaining three games of the regular season but can still attend practices and other team activities.

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The league said it found the team in violation of the sportsmanship policy "to gain an unfair advantage by stealing the signs of teams that the university's football team was due to play later in the season."

Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti said the decisions to suspend Harbaugh allows the team to play the remainder of the season. In a 13-page letter to Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, Petitti said action was necessary because of "the extraordinary nature of the offending conduct."

"Notably, the university's November 8 response does not deny that the impermissible scheme occurred. Instead, it offers only procedural and technical arguments designed to delay accountability. The university also argues that because it believes that others are engaged in decoding signs, there must be nothing wrong with the university's activities. In addition to impermissible activities of others being currently unsupported by facts, the university's culpability is not dependent on the actions of other institutions," Petitti wrote.

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Harbaugh denied knowledge of the alleged scheme and said he never instructed staff members to break any rules. Michigan president Santa Ono said Friday the school will seek a court order to fight the decision.

"Today's action by Commissioner Tony Petitti disregards the conference's own handbook, violates basic tenets of due process, and sets an untenable precedent of assessing penalties before an investigation has been completed," Ono said. "We are dismayed at the commissioner's rush to judgment when there is an ongoing NCAA investigation -- one in which we are fully cooperating."

The third-ranked Wolverines are slated to play Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State with a potential Big Ten title game on Dec. 2 in Indianapolis.

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