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Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti says he and Michigan ‘have moved past the friction’

In November, as Michigan football was entering the meat of its 2023 schedule en route to Happy Valley to face Penn State, the Big Ten took unprecedented action, suspending head coach Jim Harbaugh for three games due to Connor Stalions’ alleged in-person sign-stealing scheme. The Wolverines sought an injunction through the courts, but it wasn’t granted, and ultimately, the school stopped its fight against the Big Ten and commissioner Tony Petitti.

Yes, there was some bluster. Michigan had workshopped the idea of leaving the conference, but ultimately it bowed, and the Wolverines won anyway. They beat Penn State, Maryland, and Ohio State without Harbaugh. Then they beat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game, Alabama in the Rose Bowl, and Washington in the national championship.

Now, the maize and blue have to coexist with their conference and its first-year commissioner. And Petitti told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that bygones are now apparently bygones.

Petitti called his first football season as Big Ten commissioner “remarkable,” noting the national championship won by Michigan, the first Big Ten team to earn a title since Ohio State in 2014. The Big Ten’s decision to impose in-season discipline for Michigan — coach Jim Harbaugh was suspended for the team’s final three regular-season games — amid the NCAA’s investigation into illegal off-campus scouting and signal stealing drew significant criticism for Petitti. Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, in a piercing statement following the suspension, called the Big Ten’s actions during an NCAA investigation “completely unethical” and “an assault on the rights of everyone.”

Petitti said he and Manuel have moved past the friction and even sat next to each other at a dinner the night before Michigan played Alabama in the CFP semifinal at the Rose Bowl. Petitti called Manuel “one of the leaders in our room.”

“People sometimes misconstrue, these are never personal things, this is not personal,” Petitti said. “This is about doing what’s right for the conference, what’s right for our institutions. It doesn’t mean everybody’s going to agree with decisions that come from the league office, but that’s the job.

“At the end of the day, it’s about doing what you think is right in the process. That’s what we did, and there’s reaction to that, and we just worked our way through it.”

While it may not be personal between Petitti and the Michigan brass, certainly his involvement did not help the Wolverines retain Harbaugh, who went to the NFL this offseason. His contract demands featured immunity from the NCAA investigation, and the Big Ten’s meddling certainly muddled the waters. Now that Harbaugh’s gone, there will likely be a longtime fan distrust of the conference, and if there is any other arbitrary punishment that comes down from Rosemont, Illinois, the animosity could return in a hurry.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire