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Michigan Court Filings Seek To Stop Jim Harbaugh Suspension

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Jim Harbaugh, the football coach at Michigan, and his legal team filed a breach of contract complaint on Friday night, requesting that a state judge stop the Big Ten from suspending Harbaugh this weekend.

Michigan and Harbaugh filed a follow-up motion for an emergency temporary restraining order in addition to the original complaint. They contended that preventing Harbaugh from playing in Saturday’s top-10 matchup between the Wolverines, who are rated third, and Penn State would be detrimental to the coach, the team, and the school.

The Big Ten failed to grant Harbaugh and the university the due process safeguards specified in its own regulations, according to a letter from Michigan’s lawyers.

They said the disruption to a season in which the team could contend for a national championship is “threatening the loss of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for dozens of student athletes and irreversible harm to the University’s and Harbaugh’s reputation.”

“This shoot first, ask questions later approach to sanctions is a flagrant breach of fundamental fairness,” they wrote.

Source: The Washtenaw County Trial Court’s Judge Carol Kuhnke will rule on the restraining order. In order to issue a temporary restraining order, Kuhnke must conclude that Michigan and Harbaugh have a good probability of demonstrating that the Big Ten is in violation of its own regulations and that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if the court does not act quickly.

Both parties would then have an opportunity to present their cases during an injunction hearing at some point during the following 14 days if the judge decides to impose a restraining order prior to Saturday’s noon ET kickoff. In fourteen days, on Saturday, Michigan will play its final home game of the regular season versus rival and top-ranked Ohio State.

In a letter outlining the conference’s decision to suspend Harbaugh, Petitti claimed to have received sufficient proof from the NCAA that a Michigan staff member—possibly Connor Stalions, who left the team last week—had planned a plot to snoop on future opponents’ playcalling signals by paying multiple individuals to travel on illegal in-person scouting trips.

Michigan’s attorneys contended that by punishing Harbaugh under the sportsmanship policy rather than waiting for the outcome of an ongoing NCAA investigation into the alleged conspiracy, Petitti’s actions violated the agreement between the conference and its members.

According to Big Ten regulations, the sportsmanship policy can only be applied to penalize a person who has been “found to have committed an offensive action” or the offending institution. Petitti stated on Friday that he was not directly penalizing Harbaugh, but rather the institution as a whole by taking the head coach off the field. Michigan’s attorneys contended that since Harbaugh is not an institution, he shouldn’t be subject to individual punishment.

They advised the judge that the Big Ten would not be harmed by delaying the imposition of any suitable fines until the NCAA had finished its investigation.

The lawyers said it would benefit the conference to make sure a punishment is warranted, “particularly in light of recent news accounts suggesting that the alleged conduct is more widespread than previously realized.”

The Big Ten discovered that Michigan had broken the sportsmanship standard earlier in the season, and Petitti stated in his letter on Friday that he believed some action was required to bring competitive fairness back this season.

After taking a Friday afternoon flight to Penn State, Harbaugh spent Friday night with the players. Kuhnke has until Friday night and Saturday’s noon kickoff to make a decision.

The team has announced that offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore will take over as head coach in place of Harbaugh versus Penn State should his restraining order be denied.

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