Michigan has been investigated over a former staff member scouting games in person, a violation of NCAA rules, though Harbaugh denied knowing about it. But on Friday, the Big Ten released details of its findings and announced that Michigan has been found in violation of the conference’s sportsmanship policy.
“As a penalty imposed on the institution, the University football team must compete without its Head Football Coach for the games remaining in the 2023 regular-season, effective immediately,” the Big Ten said in a statement.
The second-ranked Wolverines play Saturday at No. 9 Penn State in one of the biggest college football games of the weekend. After that, they play at Maryland on Nov. 18 and then close the regular season at home on Nov. 25 against No. 3 Ohio State.
The Ohio State game could decide who makes the Big Ten championship game and even the four-team College Football Playoff. The playoff rankings have the Buckeyes placed first and the Wolverines third.
Harbaugh will be allowed to coach as normal during the week. He also missed the first three games of the regular season over recruiting violations during the coronavirus pandemic.
In response, Michigan said Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti was disregarding conference policy and bowing to pressure from other teams by announcing punishment prematurely. It also said it would pursue legal action and slammed the Big Ten for enacting it on a court holiday.
“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 statement read. “To ensure fairness in the process, we intend to seek a court order, together with Coach Harbaugh, preventing this disciplinary action from taking effect.”
Petitti told Michigan that no information was provided indicating Harbaugh knew about the scouting but that the punishment falls on him as head of the football program.
“This is not a sanction of Coach Harbaugh,” Petitti wrote in an email to Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel. “It is a sanction against the University that, under the extraordinary circumstances presented by this offensive conduct, best fits the violation because: (1) it preserves the ability of the University’s football student-athletes to continue competing; and (2) it recognizes that the Head Coach embodies the University for purposes of its football program.”
Former Wolverines staffer Connor Stalions allegedly attended and sent people to opponents’ games to record video, which was used to decode their in-game signals. He resigned two weeks after he was suspended by Michigan, with his attorney saying Stalions did not want to be a distraction for the team.
Findings by the NCAA and the Big Ten found that Stalions had been scouting games since at least the 2021 season.
“[Stalions] coordinated a scheme by which individuals were directed to attend games of future opponents for scouting purposes,” an email from Big Ten senior vice president Chad Hawley to Manuel said. “These were not isolated or haphazard incidents. The violations were pervasive, systemic, and occurred over multiple years.”
The Associated Press said there is evidence from 11 Big Ten schools of Stalions buying digital tickets, including games played by Ohio State. Stalions also reportedly purchased two tickets, one on each side of the stadium, for Ohio State’s game Oct. 21 against Penn State.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.