The Michigan Wolverines will have a chance Saturday to make a monumental achievement in the history of college football. And coach Jim Harbaugh may miss it.
Unless a judge on Friday morning at the Washtenaw County Courthouse in Ann Arbor grants the University of Michigan and Harbaugh a temporary restraining order against the Big Ten’s suspension of Harbaugh, he will miss Saturday’s game at Maryland (Noon, FOX).
If No. 3 Michigan (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten) beats 20-point underdog Maryland (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten), it will collect its 1,000th all-time victory. The Wolverines lead college football with 999 wins against 353 losses and 36 ties for a .733 winning percentage since 1879. Ohio State is second with 963 wins and 331 losses and 53 ties for .735 since 1890.
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Jim Harbaugh Hopes To Coach In Michigan’s 1,000th Win
Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh speaks to the media during the Big 10 football media day at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports)
Michigan will host No. 1 Ohio State on Nov. 25 (Noon, FOX) to close the regular season. The Big Ten suspended Harbaugh for Michigan’s final three regular season games last Friday. Because it and the NCAA have uncovered evidence of an illegal scouting and sign-stealing scheme in Harbaugh’s program, stretching back at least three years.
The Wolverines won their first game without Harbaugh on Saturday, 24-15 at No. 10 Penn State behind interim head coach Sherrone Moore, the team’s offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. Harbaugh’s suspension is only for games. He can assume all other duties of a head coach Sundays through Fridays. Should Harbaugh not win the court ruling, Moore will coach the Wolverines again.
“Sitting at 999 wins, chance for 1,000 this Saturday,” Harbaugh beamed at his weekly press conference Monday. “It’s in our wildest dreams. That’s what we hoped for. That’s what we worked for – that we’d have a chance to play in our 11th game this season with a chance to get that 1,000.”
Michigan Wants Temporary Restraining Order In Court Ruling
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s college football program is being investigated for sign-stealing. (Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK)
Alas, when the NCAA finishes its investigation of the systemic sign-stealing scheme, the victory total may change. The NCAA could make Michigan forfeit all victories in which it finds that the coaching staff used illegally begotten signs from analyst Connor Stalions and other staff involved in the organized espionage that allegedly began in the 2021 season.
Historically, the NCAA makes programs forfeit victories that were achieved by means that break NCAA rules or with ineligible players.
Harbaugh mentioned that Michigan already leads the NFL’s all-time winningest team, which is the Green Bay Packers with 829 wins since 1919. And Michigan has more wins than the winningest high school team of all time, which is Valdosta High in Georgia with 952.
Michigan Has More Wins Than Green Bay Packers
“Michigan Wolverines – 999,” he said. “No one has won more. NOOO-Body!”
Harbaugh watched Michigan beat Penn State on his team hotel television as his suspension does not allow him to at the game venue – sidelines, stands or just outside. The former Michigan quarterback (1982-86) under legendary coach Bo Schembechler was asked how frustrating it would be, should he have to miss win 1,000.
“You don’t really get me too much,” Harbaugh answered. “I don’t think anybody does. Whatever the emotion is, whether it’s – name an emotion – frustration, anger, happiness. Whatever it is, I just go find work to do. I find something extra to do and when I do that, then I find that it clears my mind, cleanses my soul. And a lot of times, the perfect thing comes to you – what to do, how to do it. Not every time, but a lot of the time.”
That could be taking care of the chickens he raises at home with his wife Sarah.
“Sometimes I get angry, and I’ve got two options,” he said. “I can come back and fire back and show who’s boss. Or I can turn right around, go out and feed the chickens, clean out the coop, cut the lawn, edge it. Work for hours. It always is the better resolution. That’s how I treat things since I was real young. It’s very productive. Been highly productive the things I get accomplished from that work.”
Michigan has achieved other momentous milestones this season despite not having Harbaugh for four games now. He sat out the first three games of the season on a self-imposed suspension by Michigan with hopes that could erase any further game suspensions regarding Harbaugh’s prior previous NCAA violations involving recruiting in 2020. The NCAA balked, though, and said its investigation of that continues with further penalties and possibly more game suspensions due.
The Wolverines won their 10th straight road game at Penn State going back to the 2021 season. Michigan has not won that many in a row on the road since the 1945-48 seasons. Michigan is also on a 22-game winning streak in the Big Ten for the longest in program history.
Wolverines Can Continue Milestone Season Against Maryland
Michigan Wolverines running back Blake Corum (2) warms up before action against the Bowling Green Falcons in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Saturday, Sept.16 2023. (Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK)
Michigan has started 10-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since doing that four times from 1971-74 under Schembechler. Interestingly, Michigan finished with a loss or tie in each of those four seasons under Schembechler and last year under Harbaugh. The Wolverines have won 26 straight regular-season games, tying the most in a row in Big Ten history with Michigan’s 1903-05 teams.
“And nobody cares who gets the credit,” Harbaugh said. “Very proud.”
In the same press conference in which Harbaugh called his alleged cheating program, “America’s Team,” he made two more lofty comparisons. One came from the Bible and another from World War II. This guy doesn’t know when to stop. And he touched on the allegations without mentioning them.
“Moses had 90 leaders,” he said. “How many do we need? Answer was we need more than 90. And we’ve got that. They’re on a mission. The mission last year was a happy mission. This year it’s been even more than the wins. It’s a mission of faith. It’s a mission of speaking truth to power.”
Actually, “speaking truth to power” is what the NCAA and the Big Ten are doing to Michigan more than the other way around. But, OK, Jim, you’re on a roll.
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Innocent Michigan Wolverines Still Benefiting
Michigan acting head coach and offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore coaches on the side line during the Michigan Wolverines versus Penn State Nittany Lions game on November 11, 2023 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA. (Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
“It’s a mission of playing for each other as a Band of Brothers,” Jim Harbaugh said. “It’s a mission, and I see our guys and they’re strong, they’re walking upright and innocent and just taking care of business.”
The players are innocent, so the old argument against any NCAA sanctions always illogically goes. If players are always protected from NCAA penalties, then there never can be NCAA penalties.
But in this case, if the evidence the NCAA and the Big Ten have of Michigan’s systemic cheating scheme is accurate, those “innocent” players have been – knowingly or unknowingly – benefitting from illegally stolen signs and signals.
And as Britney Spears sings, that’s “not that innocent.”