Jim Harbaugh agrees to serve 3-game suspension as Big Ten closes sign-stealing investigation

Michigan says it will 'cooperate fully' with the ongoing NCAA investigation

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has agreed to serve the three-game suspension levied by the Big Ten amid the conference's investigation into alleged impermissible, in-person sign-stealing by a member of the UM football staff.

The university issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying that the pending litigation between UM, Harbaugh and the Big Ten has been resolved. As a result, the Big Ten has agreed to close its investigation into Michigan and Harbaugh will serve his suspension in full. The NCAA's investigation into Michigan is ongoing.

"This morning, the University, Coach Harbaugh, and the Big Ten resolved their pending litigation. The Conference agreed to close its investigation, and the University and Coach Harbaugh agreed to accept the three-game suspension,” the university’s statement said.

“Coach Harbaugh, with the University's support, decided to accept this sanction to return the focus to our student-athletes and their performance on the field. The Conference has confirmed that it is not aware of any information suggesting Coach Harbaugh’s involvement in the allegations. The University continues to cooperate fully with the NCAA’s investigation."

Harbaugh already missed last Saturday’s game at Penn State and will now be suspended for the third-ranked Wolverines’ final two games. Harbaugh will miss Saturday's game at Maryland and the much-anticipated showdown with rival No. 2 Ohio State. Both Ohio State and Michigan are undefeated, so their meeting on Nov. 25 in Ann Arbor will decide the Big Ten East and also have significant College Football Playoff implications. Harbaugh, who is permitted to coach his team during the week, would then be able to return to the sideline for the postseason, including the Big Ten title game should Michigan reach that stage.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh will have to sit out the next two games, which will including a matchup at Maryland and a home game against Ohio State. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh will have to sit out the next two games, which will including a matchup at Maryland and a home game against Ohio State. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

After the Big Ten handed down its discipline to Michigan last Friday, the school sought a temporary court order that would allow Harbaugh to coach. A judge would not rule on the case before last Saturday's game vs. Penn State, but a hearing was scheduled for Friday, Nov. 17. That hearing has now been canceled as a result of Thursday's resolution.

The Big Ten, in a statement of its own, said its "commitment to sportsmanship and the commissioner's duty to protect the integrity of competition will never waver."

"Today’s decision by the University of Michigan to withdraw its legal challenge against the conference’s November 10th Notice of Disciplinary Action is indicative of the high standards and values that the conference and the university seek to uphold," the Big Ten statement reads. "The University of Michigan is a valued member of the Big Ten Conference and the conference will continue to work cooperatively with the university and the NCAA during this process."

The punishment was in response to the news that the NCAA was investigating Michigan staff member Connor Stalions for allegedly running an in-person scouting operation where he sent friends to games to video record the sideline play signals of future Michigan opponents.

Stalions, who resigned on Nov. 3, is accused of sending as many as 65 people to record games across the Big Ten and the country, according to reporting from Yahoo Sports' Ross Dellenger and Dan Wetzel. Harbaugh has denied having knowledge of Stalions' alleged operation.