Michigan without Jim Harbaugh against Penn State after no ruling to lift ban

Jim Harbaugh
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — No. 2 Michigan will be without coach Jim Harbaugh for its biggest game of the season so far at No. 9 Penn State on Saturday, after a judge did not issue a ruling on the school’s attempt to at least temporarily lift the Big Ten’s penalty against the Wolverines for a sign-stealing scheme.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said 90 minutes before kickoff that Harbaugh would not be at Beaver Stadium with the team and a hearing in the school’s lawsuit challenging the Big Ten’s punishment of Harbaugh was scheduled for Nov. 17.

On Friday, hours after the Big Ten banned Harbaugh from coaching the rest of the Wolverines’ final regular-season games as punishment for a sign-stealing scheme, the coach and his alma mater filed a request for a temporary restraining order against the Big Ten and Commissioner Tony Petitti.

Their attorneys asked for a speedy decision that would allow Harbaugh to coach against the Nittany Lions in the top-10 matchup that was scheduled to kick off a little after noon Eastern.

“The harm to the university’s student-athletes would be irreversible,” attorneys for Michigan and Harbaugh said in the filing.

But it was to no avail.

About 2 hours and 45 minutes before kickoff, four buses carrying Michigan players, coaches, Manuel and other staff were greeted by a few dozen Michigan fans lined up behind steel barriers.

Some cheered and yelled “Go Blue!” as the buses emptied. There was no sign of Harbaugh.

One fan yelled out to Manuel: “Let’s join the SEC!”

Manuel raised a hand to acknowledge the fans, but otherwise Michigan entered the stadium with little fanfare.

The conference disciplined the school Friday for an elaborate, in-person scouting scheme that is also being investigated by the NCAA. Michigan leadership insists conference bylaws require the NCAA investigation to play out and that Petitti overstepped his power by doling out punishment.

The Big Ten noted that Michigan is only arguing procedure and process and had conceded the impermissible conduct went on. Conference rivals have been angry and frustrated as evidence mounted that a former low-level staffer was buying tickets to the games of Michigan’s opponents and sending people to record video of sideline signals.

The rare punishment of a national championship contender in the final stretch of its season and one of college football’s most successful coaches by its own conference has become one of the biggest stories in sports.

On the field, Michigan has been the most dominant team in the country, beating its opponents by average of 36 points per game and not allowing more than one touchdown in any game. The Wolverines’ competition so far has been the only argument against its excellence. Penn State will be the first ranked team Michigan has faced.

Harbaugh’s team is vying for a third straight Big Ten championship and appearance in the College Football Playoff.

After Penn State, the Wolverines play at Maryland before the traditional regular-season finale against heated rival Ohio State. The third-ranked Buckeyes visit Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Nov. 25.

The Big Ten’s penalty would allow Harbaugh to return for the Big Ten championship game and the playoff, if Michigan makes it.

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