No Such Thing As The Blue Wall, Eh?
Yesterday, Michigan announced a self-imposed three-game suspension for Jim Harbaugh (pictured above outside of Schembechler Hall*) amid alleged NCAA infractions that include improper recruiting visits, improper player workouts, analysts improperly coaching on the field, and — the most severe accusation — that Harbaugh lied to and didn't cooperate with NCAA investigators.
ESPN.com's Pete Thamel reported that U-M is taking matters into its own hands because it's aware the NCAA's own punishment may be harsh. A week ago, the NCAA's disciplinary board rejected a four-game suspension for Harbaugh that was mutually agreed upon between NCAA investigators and Michigan. Here's more from Thamel's story:
Michigan's self-imposed suspension for Harbaugh is designed to soften the potential ruling from the NCAA, which likely won't come until 2024, a source said. Harbaugh faces a Level I violation, which would be for not cooperating with or misleading NCAA investigators about the alleged violations.
A source familiar with the case told Thamel that Michigan's decision to self-impose the three-game suspension of Harbaugh is indicative of the severity of the eventual potential ruling against Harbaugh. It's a move that shows the school is trying to essentially curry favor for good behavior, a source told Thamel, and mitigate some of the eventual punishment.
Schools rarely overreach in self-imposing penalties. While the entire process has to play out, more punishment for Harbaugh is a reasonable expectation, considering the school's actions. The NCAA had pushed back on one of the media narratives that had emerged from the case, which was that it revolved around paying for a cheeseburger. The reality of the self-imposed penalties show there is likely more to the case.
Michigan issued a press release Monday evening on the matter, which included no statement from Harbaugh, but did include the following from AD Warde Manuel:
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. 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.
Harbaugh later released his own 26-word statement, which you'll note lacks any accountability or contrition:
I will continue to do what I always do and what I always tell our players and my kids at home, ‘Don’t get bitter, get better.’
(Sidebar: Interesting the different approaches to bitterness between 2023 Jim Harbaugh and 2016 Jim Harbaugh.)
Harbaugh has reportedly refused to admit he lied to NCAA investigators, so it's no surprise his official statement includes zero remorse or the like. Also, the fact that he issued his statement separately from the full press release further illustrates the icy relationship he reportedly has with Manuel, his boss-in-title-only.
Anyway, let's check in on the Blue Wall, which so many Michigan fans and media (again, one and the same) are eager to remind you doesn't exist.
The guy who, as recently as a week ago, was carrying U-M's water with the cheeseburger narrative all of a sudden finds Harbaugh's suspension necessary. Fascinating!
Let's check in on author and professional U-M damage controller John U. Bacon.
You hear that, folks? This whole debacle is actually a good thing!
Seriously, you've gotta give it to Bacon. He is the Simone Biles of mental gymnastics. If he keeps performing advertorial at this high of a level, there's only one higher level he could ascend to — Russian state-owned media.
* This is a joke playing on the similarities between Russia and U-M when it comes to leveraging its local media to advance its interests.