Jim Harbaugh suspension, explained: Why Michigan coach's first game is in Week 4

Following a 3-0 start, Michigan gets one of the keys to its success back Saturday. And it isn't a player.

Coach Jim Harbaugh will be back to stalk the sidelines of The Big House for the Wolverines' Week 4 game against Rutgers — the first time of the 2023 college football season. Harbaugh, who was suspended for the first three games of the year, had to watch from home as Michigan beat East Carolina, UNLV, and Bowling Green.

While the game against Bowling Green was a bit too close for comfort, partly due to the struggles of quarterback J.J. McCarthy, Harbaugh returns to coach a team in a good place a fourth of the way through the season. The Wolverines kept the Harbaugh identity in his absence, averaging 156.7 rushing yards per game. But they also have 245 passing yards per game, a good omen for a team looking to add more air yards to its arsenal this year.

Harbaugh's suspension did not come from the NCAA. It was self-imposed by the university amid complaints of a recruiting violation and subsequent failure to cooperate with an NCAA investigation.

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The suspension will not necessarily close the book on the allegations against Harbaugh, but Michigan is hoping it will provide cushion when the NCAA does eventually level a ruling on the infractions. With that, here's everything you need to know about his suspension as he returns to coaching from the sidelines:

Why was Jim Harbaugh suspended?

Harbaugh landed on the receiving end of a self-imposed three-game ban from Michigan after a seemingly agreed-upon four-game suspension between Michigan and the NCAA was shot down by the NCAA infractions committee.

According to a statement from Derrick Crawford, the NCAA's vice president of hearing operations, the investigation into Harbaugh was for impermissible recruiting and coaching penalties during the COVID-19 dead period — not just a failure to disclose buying potential recruits a burger at an Ann Arbor bar, The Brown Jug, as was often reported.

"The Michigan infractions case is related to impermissible on and off-campus recruiting during the COVID-19 dead period and impermissible coaching activities — not a cheeseburger," Crawford said, per ESPN.

The more serious Level I violation, however, comes from Harbaugh not cooperating with an NCAA investigation. That can be met with a three- to six-game suspension.

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Why did Michigan self-impose a suspension on Jim Harbaugh?

Schools don't self-impose suspensions out of a sense of justice or altruism. At least, not in cases such as Harbaugh's.

Michigan likely suspended Harbaugh for three games in August in order to lessen a potential future punishment from the NCAA, which is unlikely to come down this season.

"While the ongoing NCAA matter continues through the NCAA process, today's announcement is our way of addressing mistakes that our department has agreed to in an attempt to further that process," athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement at the time of Harbaugh's suspension. "We will continue to support coach Harbaugh, his staff, and our outstanding student-athletes. Per the NCAA's guidelines, we cannot comment further until the matter is resolved."

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Michigan football schedule 2023

Expectations for Michigan remain sky-high after two straight College Football Playoff berths, something Harbaugh is hoping to alleviate upon his return.

“You watch the game, and (there are) so many so many feelings of, ‘Hey, just win. Just win the game. By one point.’ One point is what we’re really after,” Harbaugh told reporters on Monday. “And I don’t know if maybe there’s been too much pressure on the players that they have to win by 40 points or 30 points or 25 points. That’s a lot. Making sure that our team knows that the goal is to win the game.”

Michigan's next game will be against Rutgers, its fourth straight home game to start the season. It will then go on a road trip to Nebraska and Minnesota. The last three weeks of the season are where the gauntlet begins, as Michigan plays No. 7 Penn State on Nov. 11 and fourth-ranked archrival Ohio State on Nov. 25.




Saturday, Sept. 2

vs. East Carolina

Michigan 30, ECU 3

Saturday, Sept. 9

vs. UNLV

Michigan 35, UNLV 7

Saturday, Sept. 16

vs. Bowling Green

Michigan 31, Bowling Green 6

Saturday, Sept. 23

vs. Rutgers*


Saturday, Sept. 30

at Nebraska*


Saturday, Oct. 7

at Minnesota*


Saturday, Oct. 14

vs. Indiana*


Saturday, Oct. 21



Saturday, Oct. 28

at Michigan State*


Saturday, Nov. 4

vs. Purdue*


Saturday, Nov. 11

at No. 7 Penn State*


Saturday, Nov. 18

at Maryland*


Saturday, Nov. 25

vs. No. 4 Ohio State*


Saturday, Dec. 2

Big Ten Championship Game (Indianapolis)**


This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Jim Harbaugh suspension: Why Michigan coach's first game is in Week 4