The Jim Harbaugh suspension saga came to an end (at least for now) on Monday after Michigan football announced that the reigning Big Ten Coach of the Year will serve a self-imposed three-game suspension stemming from alleged violations during the dead period during COVID-19 in 2020.
Last month, it seemed Harbaugh was set to serve a four-game suspension to start the 2023 college football season, which the Wolverines will start as the second-ranked team in the AP poll. However, the NCAA's infractions committee rejected the agreement, meaning this story likely still has a few chapters left before its conclusion.
As Harbaugh, who's set to begin his ninth season on the Wolverines' sideline, is facing a Level I violation due to misleading or not cooperating with investigators as it pertains to the alleged violations, it seems the university went with the self-imposed suspension with the hope of receiving a less-severe punishment from the NCAA when the time comes. Michigan football is also facing four Level II violations, which aren't nearly as serious.
As for when that punishment will be handed down, most experts seem to believe that won't be until at least 2024.
So what does the Jim Harbaugh suspension mean for Michigan football in 2023? Well, if this three-game ban is all that happens this season, the answer is quite clear: absolutely nothing.
Sure, Harbaugh, who commented on the suspension a few hours after it was announced, will miss the Wolverines' first three games, all of which will be played in the friendly confines of Michigan Stadium. But it's not as if any of the three teams coming to “The Big House” pose any real threat to the two-time defending Big Ten champs.
Here's how Michigan's schedule plays out over the first three weeks:
First up on September 2 is East Carolina, who went 8-5 in 2022 and is the only team of the first three that had a winning record a season ago. But the Pirates don't look to be much of a threat this year in the American Athletic Conference. In fact, most experts aren't even predicting them to finish within the top five in the conference, which will likely be a two-team race between Tulane and Texas-San Antonio.
In Week 2 on September 9, Michigan welcomes UNLV, who started 4-1 in 2022 but went 1-6 over the final seven games, a finish that cost head coach Marcus Arroyo his job. As the Rebels are yet again rebuilding, they're not expected to compete whatsoever in the Mountain West.
The final game Harbaugh will miss takes place on September 16 when the Wolverines host Bowling Green. The Falcons went 6-7 a year ago and seemingly pose a bigger threat than UNLV as head coach Scot Loeffler has the program trending in the right direction after several rough years early in his tenure. But it's not as if anyone is expecting Bowling Green to come to Ann Arbor and pull off an upset.
Now, it should be said that anything can happen on any given Saturday. And nobody knows that more than Michigan. Ask any fan of the maize and blue about the Appalachian State game in 2007 and see what happens.
But it's hard to fathom an upset of that magnitude taking place again, not with the talent on this current Wolverines squad.
So it's those three and then Harbaugh is back for the Big Ten opener on September 23 versus Rutgers, which will also be contested at “The Big House.” Michigan goes on the road for the first time the following week against Nebraska.
So, again, the Jim Harbaugh suspension really doesn't affect the program whatsoever, no matter who the interim head coach may be. Could additional penalties hurt the Wolverines in the future? Sure. But for now, Michigan is right on track to be a serious contender for a national championship for a third straight season.