The Jim Harbaugh suspension shows the absurdity of college football on full display

College football wouldn’t have a sense of humor if the next episode of this bizarre Michigan cheating scandal didn’t involve Jim Harbaugh showing up in a very silly disguise to coach his team. How long it took the Big Ten to announce a potential season-defining disciplinary action sparked a ridiculous controversy Friday afternoon.

Not entirely clear, the head coach, who was unaware of a staff member’s prohibited in-person scouting and sign-stealing activity, received a rare preemptive punishment for a complex matter still under investigation. The Michigan situation is a clear offense at worst. Connor Stallions, recently fired analyst and apparent mastermind of the Harbrain project, left behind evidence of wrongdoing across the country. But while it’s easy to assume the Stallions haven’t sinned in isolation, there haven’t been any compelling revelations that prove a high-level, Harbaugh-planned conspiracy.

Research takes time. Truth and accountability are not microwave concepts. But in the emotional whirlwind of the game, Big Ten Commissioner Tony Pettitte felt the need to act now. Taking advantage of the conference’s foul play policy, he found a reason to deliver the most controversial decision of his six months on the job. Petite couldn’t win, really. And sure enough he didn’t.

Depending on how the sight of the Maize and Blue affects your feelings, you’ll have to decide whether the punishment is too harsh or lenient, too inappropriate or too inconsistent with NCAA procedures. But can we pile on by adding too much humor? It’s officially the funniest season in the era of college football. At many levels, the rival schools are on their worst behavior and now their endless wrestling matches are spilling over into the kangaroo playground.

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Michigan was not simply accused of cheating. It has been accused of defying accepted norms and daring to commit fraud. The competitive advantage of stealing signals is not necessarily criminal; Many teams have been known to do this. The manner in which the Stallions organized their attempt to decipher the opponents’ calls was a reprehensible act of football. For the Wolverines, the hypocrisy of their anonymous accusers is part of their grip and their defense.

Connor Stallions, a Michigan man embroiled in a scandal, was built for this

In the end, Pettitte was forced to choose a side. It now appears that outrage from Big Ten coaches and athletic directors influenced his decision. Petite will feel flexible moving forward. It’s hard to hold power when your members are constantly victimized and think they can shout a positive response. Then again, if Pettitte had delayed action, he might have looked like a Michigan apologist who only cared about trying to get several Big Ten teams into the College Football Playoff.

Given a choice between the general disaffection of most of its members and specific resentment from Michigan, Petit went with the latter. Now, the commissioner has a rival in the Wolverines. As Michigan prepares to take legal action to sideline Harbaugh and continue their undefeated season and national title, it will be fascinating to follow. But in the long run, how will this difficult relationship play out between the new commissioner and the Wolverines, who along with Ohio State are the conference’s most important football assets? The clash comes at a critical time in the rebuilding game, with every prestigious football school seemingly willing to go to extreme lengths to cash checks and bolster its power.

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It doesn’t look like Michigan will make some bad moves to further destroy a college football structure that lacks central leadership and vision. But the Wolverines are at least ready to contend in their own conference. Harbaugh’s circus-like release of the suspension made matters worse. No. 3 Michigan leaving Ann Arbor and arriving for the State College 10 Penn State game was made ridiculous by live television footage that day as the media waited for the conference to announce its decision. It did so while Harbaugh and his crew were on board.

“We are appalled by the commissioner’s rush to judgment during an ongoing NCAA investigation — one in which we are fully cooperating,” Michigan said in a statement Friday. “Commissioner Petit’s Urgent Action [Friday] It is a reaction to pressure from other convention members rather than a desire to apply the rules fairly and impartially. By taking this step at this time, the Commissioner is personally marginalizing himself and changing the very ground he claims to be protecting.

“Also, trying to prevent the university from seeking immediate judicial relief on Veterans Day — a court holiday — is not a profile of impartiality.”

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In Pettitte’s mind, he wanted to preserve the integrity of Big Ten football. And when the dust settles, he may have done so. But now, he seems to have walked to the end of the plank instead of taking measured steps. Perhaps he felt that punishing Harbaugh, a brilliant coach but a polarizing figure, was a middle ground. It was Harbaugh’s second suspension of the season; Michigan was handed a three-game suspension to start the year due to alleged NCAA violations during the Covid-19 inactive period.

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Harbaugh is the most accomplished major college or pro football coach who has yet to win it all. However, he continues to see trouble. It becomes easier to portray him as a traitor. But another dangerous assumption at this point.

That’s the modern history of college football, isn’t it? There is no time for certainty. The best team in the nation is often an educated guess, even when four teams play. Why not calm everyone down by punishing the cheaters and trusting the evidence won’t exonerate Harbaugh?

In this season of stupidity, premature punishment is almost as absurd as the crime itself.

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