Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh to serve out suspension, Big Ten to close investigation into sign-stealing

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan announced Thursday that coach Jim Harbaugh will serve a three-game suspension from the Big Ten and the conference will end its investigation into a sign-stealing scheme as part of an agreement to resolve the school’s lawsuit against the league.

Harbaugh was suspended last Friday by the Big Ten and Michigan hours later asked a court for an injunction and temporary restraining order. Harbaugh did not coach the team against Penn State on Saturday.

The two sides were expected in court Friday in Ann Arbor, but instead Harbaugh will serve out the remainder of the suspension, missing games at Maryland on Saturday and at home against Ohio State on Nov. 25.

“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,” Michigan said in a statement. “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.”

The NCAA probe surfaced four weeks ago amid allegations that Michigan had used a robust in-person scouting and sign-stealing operation conducted by a low-level staffer, Connor Stalions, who has since resigned. The Big Ten said at the time it was also looking into the allegations.

The NCAA process is slow moving, but the Big Ten’s rules gave Commissioner Tony Petitti the opportunity to hand down discipline more quickly. It hit Harbaugh with a three-game suspension and the school immediately challenged the decision.

University leaders made the somewhat surprising decision to settle the case because the Big Ten would not agree to reduce the suspension to two games, the school didn’t want to drag the fight int court and negotiated for the conference to close its investigation, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke Thursday with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the school’s rationale.

Combined with a school-imposed, three-game suspension for an unrelated NCAA infractions case tied to recruiting, Harbaugh will miss half the Wolverines’ regular-season games this season, but could be back on the sideline if they make the Big Ten championship game.

No. 2 Michigan is one of the favorites to win a national title and is looking for its third straight Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff appearance.

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Russo reported from New York.

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