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So Embarrassing: How Should Fans Feel About Jim Harbaugh’s Sign-Stopping Saga?

This football season at Michigan has been a soap opera, a spy thriller, and a courtroom drama all rolled into one.

 

The drama will shift to a Washtenaw County courthouse on Friday as Michigan seeks a court order allowing Jim Harbaugh to coach against Maryland on Saturday, despite a three-game suspension imposed by the Big Ten.

A week later, Michigan will face Ohio State in another clash of undefeated teams. Before we get into that, let’s address a few of your concerns.

Questions submitted were edited for brevity and clarity.

 

 

As a lifelong Michigan supporter, I grew up with the Michigan Man persona. While I admire the product on the field, I’m not convinced Harbaugh embodies the standards that should come with the job because of his off-field difficulties.

This team makes me pleased, perplexed, eager, and stressed, which I don’t think is necessary.

 

Is it safe to assume that, with the university’s authorities on his side, he’s in the clear? After all, why risk your reputation on someone who is accused of overseeing unlawful scouting? Mr. Joshua B.

 

Michigan fans are understandably conflicted about the issue. To be honest, anyone who isn’t at least a little conflicted would want to reconsider their priorities.

 

 

At this point, there is no proof that Harbaugh was aware of or approved of the scouting scheme. But if he’s going to be held accountable for everything Michigan does well—graduation rates, draft picks, and on-field success—then he should also be held accountable for everything that goes wrong.

 

I don’t expect Michigan fans to lead the charge to punish their team, but Michigan appears to be looking everywhere but in the mirror from the top down

 

At this point, there is no proof that Harbaugh was aware of or approved of the scouting scheme. But if he’s going to be held accountable for everything Michigan does well—graduation rates, draft picks, and on-field success—then he should also be held accountable for everything that goes wrong.

 

I don’t expect Michigan fans to lead the charge to punish their team, but Michigan appears to be looking everywhere but in the mirror from the top down.

At the very least, the program showed a lack of judgment and oversight by hiring Connor Stalions and allowing him to operate unchallenged. The issue here is not Tony Petitti’s interpretation of the Big Ten’s sportsmanship code, but rather the lack thereof.

 

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.

 

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 the 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 sidelines.

 

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.

Wasserman: Spare us the drama, Michigan — your ‘challenges and adversity’ are self-inflicted

Has Jim Harbaugh lost faith in the idea of college football? When he came back to Michigan, there was an aura of joy about him—just a delight in the college football experience.

It was nostalgic, palpable, and honest. He’s just not the same guy anymore, even though Michigan is better than ever. Chris L.

 

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.

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