Michigan football sign-stealing: Jim Harbaugh reportedly could be suspended by Big Ten

A possible punishment for Michigan football in the sign-stealing scandal may be finally taking shape.

Two weeks after the story broke, Wolverine staffer Connor Stalions resigned this week, saying in a statement through his lawyer that head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan coaching staff were unaware of the depth and breadth of the operation.

On “College GameDay” on Saturday, ESPN insider Pete Thamel said it’s possible a punishment could be handed down soon — but nothing is set in stone yet.

“The most telling sign that the Big Ten — which would take action immediately and has the purview to do that — it would come under that league’s sportsmanship policy,” Thamel said. “And the most telling sign that could happen is that (Big Ten commissioner) Tony Petitti told his athletic directors this week that he’s been engaged with the NCAA. Which is an important step in getting a fact set in this case.”

Petitti reportedly met with Michigan president Santa Ono on Friday as well. Thamel continued:

“Over the past few days, Petitti has spoken with the athletic directors, he’s spoken with the presidents, he’s spoken with the coaches. And the next steps appear that there will be some type of punishment for Michigan. The most likely scenario here is some type of suspension for Jim Harbaugh. I wouldn’t expect anything to happen today … But in the upcoming days Rece I would expect that we’re gonna find out whether the Big Ten will punish Jim Harbaugh. What that will be. And how long that suspension will be potentially.”

Despite Stalions’ assertion Harbaugh and the staff was unaware of the operation, Harbaugh can still be punished due to NCAA rules that coaches are responsible for the actions of their programs whether they’re aware of them or not. As Thamel noted, Petitti spoke to Big Ten coaches last week, who were reportedly very adamant on a punishment for Michigan sooner rather than later.

Harbaugh is expected to be on the sidelines against Purdue on Saturday. But bigger games looming in the distance — at No. 9 Penn State on Nov. 11, and vs. No. 3 Ohio State on Nov. 25 — may make Harbaugh’s absence on the sidelines that much more impactful.

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