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incredibly embarrassing: What  Michigan football supporters are thinking about Jim Harbaugh, sign-st……..

Michigan football mailbag: How should fans feel about Jim Harbaugh, sign-stealing saga?

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan football season has been a soap opera, a spy thriller and a courtroom drama, all rolled into one.

The scene will shift to a Washtenaw County courtroom Friday as Michigan seeks a court order that would allow Jim Harbaugh to coach Saturday against Maryland, despite a three-game suspension handed down by the Big Ten. A week later, Michigan will face Ohio State in what’s shaping up to be another battle of 11-0 teams. Before we get to all of that, let’s answer a few of your questions.

Submitted questions edited for length and clarity.

As a lifelong Michigan fan, I have grown up subscribing to the Michigan Man persona. While I love the product on the field, I’m not sure Harbaugh manifests the ideals that should come with the role due to the off-field issues. This team makes me happy, confused, excited and stressed, and I’m not sure that needs to be the case.

With the university’s administrators backing him up, does this signal they think he’s in the clear? After all, why stake your reputation on someone who allegedly oversaw illegal scouting? – Joshua B. 

It’s normal for Michigan fans to feel conflicted about this situation. Frankly, anybody who’s not at least a little bit conflicted might need to examine their priorities.

At this point, there’s no evidence that Harbaugh knew about or sanctioned the scouting scheme. But if he’s going to get credit for everything Michigan has done well — the graduation rates and the draft picks and the success on the field — then it’s fair to hold him responsible for stuff that goes wrong, too.

I don’t expect Michigan fans to be leading the charge to punish their team, but from the top down, Michigan seems to be looking everywhere but in the mirror. At minimum, the program showed a lack of judgment and oversight in hiring Connor Stalions and letting him operate unchecked. That’s the problem here, not Tony Petitti’s interpretation of the Big Ten sportsmanship policy.

Michigan has a right to plead its case, and if Petitti overstepped his authority, he’ll be rightly criticized for it. That doesn’t change any of the underlying allegations levied against Michigan. If Michigan fans want to be mad at somebody, they should reserve at least some of their ire for the grownups whose job it is to protect the program from these sorts of embarrassments.

That being said, it might be time to retire the Michigan Man persona and admit that coaching at Michigan doesn’t come with any sort of moral high ground. If you assume everyone in college football is looking out for their own interests at all times, you’re rarely going to be disappointed.

Michigan is 10-0 and ranked No. 3 in the CFP Top 25. (Scott Taetsch / Getty Images)

What is something you think the non-Michigan fans seem to not really understand about the sign-stealing saga? What is something you think Michigan fans aren’t getting? — Jordan T.

There’s a huge disconnect between the fans who think this is bigger than Spygate and the Houston Astros scandal put together and those who think it’s much ado about nothing. In reality, it’s neither of those things.

I have little doubt that Michigan benefited from the information gathered by Stalions. If having another team’s signals weren’t an advantage, teams wouldn’t try so hard to get them. I also think the advantage was likely marginal, given how common it is for signals to get passed around.

If Michigan had won a bunch of close games during this 22-game Big Ten winning streak, I might be inclined to believe that advanced scouting was the difference between a win and a loss. But most of these games have been blowouts, and the Wolverines seem to be doing just fine without Stalions on the sideline.

Even if the advantage was minimal, it still matters that Michigan was apparently flouting the rules against in-person scouting.

I’m not sure Michigan fans understand how the “Michigan vs. everybody” attitude comes across to people outside their bubble when it’s being applied to a scandal of Michigan’s own making. Or maybe they don’t care. Either way, I’m not sure it’s a great message.

It’s funny you should say that, Chris, because I thought Harbaugh’s news conference this week was him at his fullest. I didn’t cover his early years at Michigan, but when I got here in 2019, I was struck by how little he resembled the persona I’d seen from afar.

As Michigan found its groove as a program, a lot of those Harbaugh-isms started to return. If anything, I think the success of the past three years has emboldened him to be more of his authentic self.

Whether he’s lost faith in the idea of college football is a different question. He’s certainly no fan of the NCAA, and the Big Ten isn’t endearing itself to him, either.

If he returns to the NFL after this season, it will be hard for him to deny that his run-ins with the administrators of the sport played a role. But all the present drama aside, he genuinely enjoys coaching this team and seems as happy as I’ve seen him at any point in the past five years.

If the suspension is upheld and Harbaugh faces the possibility of more penalties down the road, what do you think the odds are that he would likely go to the NFL? I feel like they are much higher now than they were before all this mess. — Scott P.

The Big Ten may or may not have the authority to suspend a coach for violations within his program, but the NCAA unquestionably does. Given Michigan’s status as a repeat offender, I don’t expect the NCAA to go easy on Harbaugh.

That could make the NFL even more attractive than it already was, assuming there’s a team out there that wants Harbaugh and doesn’t mind the NCAA baggage.

I fully expect Harbaugh to explore that avenue again, but I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion. Michigan’s leaders, including president Santa Ono and athletic director Warde Manuel, have stood behind Harbaugh in the midst of all this, and those things don’t go unnoticed. In a weird way, his relationships with Michigan’s administration appear stronger than ever. That doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

How tough is it going to be to recruit? Sanctions are coming and Harbaugh’s days are likely numbered. Why would any recruit with options commit to Michigan? – Dustin N. 

Dustin submitted this question before four-star quarterback Carter Smith committed to Michigan on Tuesday. Smith’s commitment was a good news/bad news situation:

Good news because Michigan landed a top-15 quarterback in the 2025 class, bad news because of what it implies about five-star QB Bryce Underwood, the top quarterback in the class.

Smith tweeted out a Michigan offer on Nov. 5 and committed less than two weeks later. Anything can happen, but taking a quarterback right now implies Michigan is at least preparing for the possibility that Underwood goes elsewhere.

The Wolverines don’t want a repeat of 2023, when they went all in with five-star quarterback Dante Moore and had to scramble at the end. This might not be the quarterback news Michigan fans were hoping for, but it’s good news nonetheless.

We’ll have to see what comes of the NCAA investigation, but I wouldn’t assume Michigan’s recruiting is going to tank because of this.

Offseason controversy is the norm with Michigan, and the Wolverines seem to sign top-15 classes pretty much every year. The 2024 class is pretty much done, and the 2025 cycle won’t heat up until spring or summer. Good or bad, a lot can change between now and then.

Should Michigan fans be worried about their offensive tackles being able to hold up against the Ohio State pass rush? — Rasheen C. 

I’d be at least a little bit nervous about that if I were a Michigan after seeing how much pressure Penn State was able to generate on J.J. McCarthy.

Penn State has twice as many sacks as Ohio State has this season, so I wouldn’t assume that Ohio State will be able to do the same thing. But the Buckeyes are talented up front, and I don’t think Michigan can go into that game expecting to score 24 points and win.

The Wolverines will need to be able to throw the ball and keep McCarthy on his feet. The right tackle spot in particular has been a source of concern, and Michigan will need to shore that up in the weeks ahead.

There seemed to be some buzz on social media about Michigan leaving the Big Ten because of the way they handled Harbaugh’s suspension. Is that really a possibility and do you ever see that happening in the near or distant future? – Josh S. 

I would put the chances of that at somewhere less than zero. I understand the saber-rattling on both sides, but threatening to leave a conference that pays its members somewhere close to $60 million per year is absurd.

Where is Michigan going to go? The SEC? And give up the Ohio State game, one of the most valuable rivalries in sports? Realignment doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with rational decision-making, but leaving the Big Ten over a coach’s three-game suspension would be one of the most short-sighted decisions any school could possibly make.

Which is why I gave no credence to the whole idea.

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