Nov 4, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA;  Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh on the sideline in the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh out as court doesn’t intervene

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh will not coach the No. 3 Wolverines at Penn State on Saturday, despite the school’s request for a court order to allow him to do so, ESPN reported.

On Friday, the Big Ten banned Harbaugh from coaching on the sidelines for the final three games of the regular season, saying in a letter to the school that the Wolverines had violated the Big Ten Sportsmanship Policy by conducting in-person scouting that led to stealing signs.

Later in the day, Michigan and Harbaugh filed paperwork seeking an emergency temporary restraining order in Washtenaw County (Mich.) Circuit Court that, if granted, would have allowed Harbaugh to take the field against No. 11 Penn State in a crucial Big Ten showdown.

The court did not make a ruling, however, and scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. ET next Friday, ESPN reported. Harbaugh will be allowed to prepare the team on campus throughout the week, however.

“We look forward to presenting our case next week where we intend to demonstrate that the Big Ten has not acted legally or fairly,” Michigan said in a statement Saturday.

As the Wolverines (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) arrived at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa., on Saturday, Harbaugh was not on the bus. Instead, he was sequestered away from the team, waiting to learn whether the court would intercede and allow him to rush to the field for the game.

Offensive coordinator Sherron Moore will lead the Wolverines on Saturday in place of Harbaugh.

Under the conference ruling, Harbaugh may attend practices and other football team activities, but he may not be present at the games. The conference acknowledged it had no evidence yet that Harbaugh directed the sign stealing or other unallowed acts.

“This is not a sanction of Coach Harbaugh,” the conference said. “It is a sanction against the University that, under the extraordinary circumstances presented by this offensive conduct, best fits the violation because: (1) it preserves the ability of the University’s football student-athletes to continue competing; and (2) it recognizes that the Head Coach embodies the University for purposes of its football program.”

In a statement issued Oct. 19, Harbaugh denied any involvement in stealing signs.

“I do not have any knowledge or information regarding the University of Michigan football program illegally stealing signals, nor have I directed staff members or others to participate in an off-campus scouting assignment,” he said.

“I have no awareness of anyone on our staff having done that or having directed that action.”

So far, only former staff member Connor Stalions has been tied to allegations of in-person scouting and sign stealing.

Michigan suspended Stalions with pay on Oct. 20, pending the outcome of the investigation, and he resigned on Nov. 3. Stalions has refused to cooperate with both internal and external investigations since then, ESPN and The Athletic reported last week.

Michigan is set to face Maryland on the road on Nov. 18 and end the regular season with No. 1-ranked Ohio State at home the following week.

–Field Level Media

Jul 26, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA;  Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti speaks to the media during Big 10 football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan cautions Big Ten against ‘rush’ to punishment

The University of Michigan responded to the Big Ten’s inquiry over alleged illegal sign-stealing, cautioning the conference not to issue a “premature” punishment against the program and/or head coach Jim Harbaugh, multiple media outlets reported on Wednesday.

Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti reportedly could hand out sanctions on Thursday.

Michigan’s response urged Petitti not to rush to judgment due to feedback from other Big Ten schools, arguing that a quick verdict would create an “indefensible precedent.”

Per Yahoo Sports, Petitti might issue a multi-game suspension for Harbaugh, who has denied having knowledge of any wrongdoing.

Yahoo got a copy of 10-page letter signed by Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel. The university maintains that former football staffer Connor Stalions ran a rogue operation that featured banned in-person scouting of upcoming opponents, arguing that no other Michigan coaches were aware of Stalions’ efforts.

The school also argued that other Big Ten programs stole Michigan’s signs, stating, “The conference should act cautiously when setting precedent given the reality that in-person scouting, collusion among opponents, and other questionable practices may well be far more prevalent than believed.”

Michigan is also lining up its legal defense for a potential fight. According to ESPN, the school’s response letter on Wednesday was a joint effort from Michigan’s Board of Regents, the university’s general counsel and outside counsel Williams & Connolly from Washington.

Multiple media outlets have reported that Stalions had purchased game tickets to watch Big Ten foes as well as several potential College Football Playoff opponents such as Georgia, Clemson and Alabama. Stalions also reportedly bought seats at numerous Big Ten games in areas where the opponents’ sideline signals could be viewed.

–Field Level Media

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh's college football program is being investigated for sign-stealing.

Big Ten serves Michigan notice of potential discipline

The Big Ten Conference formally notified the University of Michigan of potential disciplinary action pertaining to the football team’s sign-stealing scandal, school officials told media outlets Monday evening.

The notice of disciplinary action is an early step in the process written into the Big Ten’s sportsmanship policy.

“In the event it becomes clear that an institution is likely to be subjected to disciplinary action, the Commissioner shall notify that institution or individual at the earliest reasonable opportunity,” the policy says. “Under no circumstances shall the Commissioner comment publicly regarding either an investigation or disciplinary action without having first provided notice to any involved institution or individual.”

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee, said in a statement that he is not traveling to the Dallas area for this week’s rankings meeting “but instead will stay in Ann Arbor, attending to important matters regarding the ongoing investigation into our football program.”

Both signs point to a disciplinary ruling coming down the pipeline from Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti in the near future. The Athletic reported that officials expect a resolution by the middle of the week.

Connor Stalions, the football analyst identified as the person of interest at the center of the alleged sign-stealing, resigned on Friday after spending two weeks serving a suspension with pay.

Michigan is under investigation for allegations of impermissible off-campus scouting and sign-stealing. Multiple outlets have reported that Stalions had purchased game tickets to watch Big Ten foes as well as several potential College Football Playoff opponents such as Georgia, Clemson and Alabama. Stalions also reportedly bought seats at numerous Big Ten games in areas where the opponents’ sideline signals could be viewed.

In a statement via his attorney when he resigned, Stalions said he was not told by head coach Jim Harbaugh “nor any other coach or staff member” to break any rules, nor were they aware of his conduct.

Harbaugh has denied having knowledge of any wrongdoing. Michigan is planning to respond with legal action if the Big Ten chooses to suspend Harbaugh indefinitely, ESPN and The Athletic reported.

The NCAA joined a separate investigation being conducted by Central Michigan over whether Stalions snuck onto the Chippewas’ sideline during their Sept. 1 season opener at Michigan State.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins tight end Moliki Matavao (88) celebrates after scoring on a 26-yard touchdown reception against the Colorado Buffaloes in the second half at Rose Bowl. UCLA defeated Colorado 28-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA, Washington to travel cross-country twice in 2024 Big Ten schedule

UCLA and Washington football will rack up frequent flyer miles in their first season in the Big Ten.

The Big Ten on Thursday released its football schedule for 2024, its first year as an 18-team league thanks to the additions of UCLA, Southern California, Oregon and Washington from the Pac-12.

Maryland’s home game against Michigan State on Sept. 7 will mark the first Big Ten game of the season, while Southern California will make its league debut on the road at Michigan on Sept. 21.

The Bruins — who fly to Hawaii and LSU in their nonconference schedule — will host Indiana on Sept. 14 for their first Big Ten game. But they’ll head to the East Coast twice in three weeks during October to face Penn State (Oct. 5) and Rutgers (Oct. 19).

Washington’s travel schedule is only slightly less taxing. The Huskies’ first Big Ten game comes Sept. 21 against Northwestern, but they will visit Rutgers on Sept. 28 and return east to face Penn State on Nov. 9.

The league ensured with its “Flex Protect XVIII” schedule model that 12 annual rivalries were protected. Also, teams based in the Eastern and Central time zones get to either play a home game or take a bye week after traveling to one of the four new West Coast teams for a game.

The Oregon-Washington game was added to rivalry weekend, taking place on Nov. 30. The same won’t be true for USC-UCLA because USC is hosting Notre Dame for its regular-season finale on Nov. 30. The California rivals will play Nov. 23 instead, and UCLA moved a nonconference game against Fresno State to Nov. 30 to accommodate.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix (10) drops back to pass against the Utah Utes during the first half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

Conference championship futures: No-brainer bets for Big Ten, Pac-12

The calendar has flipped to November, and it’s time to call our shots on the relative betting value featuring conference championships.

We have our top choices for three conference title-game winners, including what we believe is a Big Ten no-brainer.

CONFERENCE FUTURE BET NO. 1: The American Athletic Conference

Two schools, Tulane (ranked 24th in the first College Football Playoff rankings) and SMU, have led the AAC this season and are ranked among the top 50 college teams on the Action Network’s betting power rankings.

The seemingly inseparable pair are on a collision course to meet in the conference championship game, to be held Dec. 2 at the site of the regular-season champ.

SMU (6-2, 4-0 AAC) looks to exit the conference in style. The Mustangs will join the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Tulane (7-1, 4-0) won last season’s championship game over UCF and defeated Southern California 46-45 in the Cotton Bowl.

Can anyone stop the Green Wave? We believe SMU has the capability to do so.

The Mustangs have scored 189 points and surrendered only 36 through four AAC games. And they’re not the favorites to win the conference.

Tulane (+150 BetMGM) is the current betting choice. And there wasn’t a better story down the stretch of last season.

These teams are not scheduled to meet during the regular season, but the likely matchup in the title game could well be worth the wait.

The value, however, lies with SMU at +170.

The bet: SMU +170 to win the AAC title game.

CONFERENCE FUTURES BET NO. 2: The Pac-12 Conference

Oregon lost 36-33 to Washington in Seattle, but the Ducks are playing like the conference’s best team right now.

The Huskies struggled to beat Arizona State and Stanford, while the Ducks crushed Utah last week.

Oregon finishes its regular-season schedule with three of four games at home, beginning with Cal on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.

Oregon, the College Football Playoff committee’s No. 6 team, sits behind No. 5 Washington because of that Oct. 14 loss. But momentum is running rampant after the Ducks (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) trounced the Utes 35-6 last weekend in Salt Lake City. Utah had won 18 straight home games.

Although Oregon, ranked No. 3 on the Action Network power rankings behind only Georgia and Michigan, is the betting favorite to take the conference title game, the number (+110 at FanDuel and BetMGM) is a value.

The Ducks should be the betting favorite in the championship game in Las Vegas, so the current plus-money would be a nice price to be carrying on Dec. 2.

The bet: Oregon +110 to win the Pac-12 title game.

CONFERENCE FUTURES BET NO. 3: The Big Ten Conference

This will be short and sweet.

There are two schools that can win the Big Ten title, but only one will play in the conference championship game.

Barring an upset Nov. 11 in Happy Valley against Penn State, Michigan needs only to defeat Ohio State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 25 to clinch a spot in the title game.

And that championship matchup would likely come against one of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin or Nebraska, teams currently sharing the West Division lead with 3-2 records in the conference.

Expect a line such as Michigan by 28 or so.

Despite distractions from the sign-stealing controversy at Michigan, coach Jim Harbaugh has succeeded in convincing his team to focus its attention to the on-field product.

“I think our depth and the health of the team is pretty high right now,” he said. “Couldn’t ask for much better going into this stretch in November.”

The Wolverines, who have a matchup with Purdue on Saturday, boast plenty of offensive talent to go with a shut-down defense.

Quarterback J.J. McCarthy and running back Blake Corum are elite. McCarthy, No. 2 in current Heisman Trophy betting (Washington’s Michael Penix is first), passed for a season-high 287 yards and four touchdowns in Michigan’s 49-0 pummeling of in-state rival Michigan State on Oct. 21.

The defense has allowed 47 points through eight games — pure dominance.

The Buckeyes are terrific, but aren’t likely to be favored in Ann Arbor.

Michigan’s number (-105 at FanDuel) will not be so attractive after Nov. 11, assuming a Wolverines victory over Penn State. Grab this virtual even-money bet.

The bet: Michigan -105 to win the Big Ten title game.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes players celebrate with the Floyd of Rosedale after defeating the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Huntington Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Tradition preserved as Big Ten sets upcoming football opponents

The Big Ten revealed its revamped schedule of conference football opponents for the 2024-28 seasons, incorporating four new additions into schedules while maintaining traditional rivalries.

The conference is adding Southern California, UCLA, Washington and Oregon in 2024, giving the conference 18 teams all playing in one division. The top two teams will meet in the Big Ten title game at the end of the regular season.

The Big Ten is using what it calls the Flex Protect XVIII model, which keeps a combination of protected opponents and rotates in other opponents each year. Each university will play nine conference games and will face each opponent at least twice over the five-year time span.

The guaranteed annual protected matchups are Illinois-Northwestern, Illinois-Purdue, Indiana-Purdue, Iowa-Minnesota, Iowa-Nebraska, Iowa-Wisconsin, Maryland-Rutgers, Michigan-Michigan State, Michigan-Ohio State, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Oregon-Washington and UCLA-USC.

The conference previously made a run at the opponent schedule to account for the addition of USC and UCLA. But when Oregon and Washington left the Pacific-12 for the Big Ten earlier this summer, the conference had to start over.

The conference said annual travel by distance and time zones was a key consideration as was maintaining the “trophy” game traditions of the Big Ten.

“We added two more [teams], but that changes everything. We got to go back to the drawing board and do this rotation again,” Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti said on a conference call. “We’re staying with a lot of the principles that were in place when we did the original announcement back with USC and UCLA being integrated, the core concepts, competitive balance, connecting the whole conference. Trying to be mindful of travel, all those things are still in place here, protecting the traditional rivalries, all of those things are in this process.”

Dates of the 2024 games will be announced at a later date.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA;  Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day watches from the sideline during the second half of the NCAA football game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium. Michigan won 45-23. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

Big Ten to require football game-day availability reports

The Big Ten Conference will require its members schools to submit a player availability report no later than two hours before each football game this season.

The conference announced the rule on Friday, less than week before Minnesota and Nebraska become the Big Ten’s first teams to kick off the season on Thursday in Minneapolis.

In addition, the conference said in a news release that it is teaming with U.S. Integrity “to enhance monitoring efforts and provide additional educational resources to help prevent student-athletes, coaches, and staff from engaging in prohibited sports wagering.”

Over the past few months, football and baseball players at Big Ten program Iowa were among athletes nationwide to have been implicated in betting scandals.

“The well-being of our students, coaches, and staff, as well as the integrity of our competitions are of paramount importance,” Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti said in the release. “Enhanced transparency through availability reporting and partnering with U.S. Integrity strengthens our efforts to protect those who participate in our games as well as the integrity of the games themselves. I’m grateful for the collaboration of our schools, coaches, and administrators.”

During the football season, any Big Ten team that doesn’t report its gameday injury and availability report will be subject to discipline from the conference.

U.S. Integrity partners with a number of pro sports leagues and college conferences to provide protection against fraud and corruption related to betting.

–Field Level Media

Jul 17, 2023; Nashville, TN, USA; SEC commissioner Greg Sankey  talks with the media during SEC Media Days at Grand Hyatt. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Sankey: SEC not ‘reaching’ for any more schools

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey said Tuesday that his league is not aiming to add any more member institutions amid the latest round of realignment.

The SEC will welcome Texas and Oklahoma in 2024, a domino initially toppled in 2021 that caused a massive shakeup of the college sports landscape. Two years later, the Pac-12 faces a likely collapse, once eight of the 12 members leave for the Big Ten and Big 12.

Sankey admitted to a “tinge of sadness,” if not necessarily regret.

“I take responsibility where we’ve made moves,” Sankey told “The Paul Finebaum Show” on Tuesday. “But there was something different last week about the questions around the existence of the Pac-12 Conference, given its long and storied history.”

Sankey said his conference, which will stand at 16 schools as of next year, isn’t actively searching for more members.

There have been behind-the-scenes conversations regarding the recent changes elsewhere around the country. But a videoconference last week with SEC presidents and chancellors revealed a “really strong alignment with that group, very clear that there’s not something out there that we should be reaching for or engaging in,” Sankey said.

Last month the Big 12 agreed to add Colorado, which in turn led Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to follow while a Pac-12 media rights negotiation dragged on. The Big Ten swooped in to add Oregon and Washington, one year after plucking UCLA and Southern California from the Pac-12 and the Los Angeles media market.

Sankey said it doesn’t bother him that the Big Ten now stretches from New Jersey to California.

“We don’t need to be in four time zones to generate interest on the West Coast or really across the globe, and so that’s been a hallmark,” Sankey said. “Who knows what will happen, and that’s where I go back to one of my original statements: We’re always going to be attentive to what’s happening around us. And perhaps there’ll be some opportunity, but it needs to be a lot of philosophical alignment. And it’s not something where we’re actively out recruiting institutions right now.”

All of the change has left uncertainty over what the next move may be. The Atlantic Coast Conference has been linked to Cal, Stanford and SMU by multiple media reports.

There is also the question of the “Power Five” versus “Group of Five” conference structure if the Pac-12 dissolves. The College Football Playoff is supposed to expand to 12 teams in 2024, and the commissioners (plus outgoing Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick) agreed to a model wherein the six highest-ranked conference champions will qualify, plus the next six at-large teams in the rankings.

If the “Power Five” becomes a “Power Four” — or smaller — that model could be revisited.

“I think it’s wise for us to take a step back and reconsider what the format might look like given these changes and circumstances,” Sankey said. “We’ve not met on that, I’ve not had any meaningful conversations, but I think we have to acknowledge that it is on everyone’s mind pending the outcome of some of these additional membership movement pieces.”

–Field Level Media

Jul 21, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Washington State Cougars coach Jake Dickert speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Resorts World Las Vegas. tMandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State disappointed by Pac-12 peers, planning for future

Washington State is in danger of losing its place in a power conference with the Pac-12 literally falling apart this week.

Located in remote Pullman, Wash., the school is an outsider in the conference realignment game. It was banking on its fellow Pac-12 schools sticking together and reloading in the wake of the departures of Southern California and UCLA.

But instead, Colorado and Arizona are leaving for the Big 12, Arizona State and Utah have applied for admission to the Big 12 and Oregon and Washington are on the verge of leaving for the Big Ten.

Cougars president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun are disturbed with the actions of the other programs.

“We are disappointed with the recent decisions by some of our Pac-12 peers,” the joint statement from Schulz and Chun said. “While we had hoped that our membership would remain together, this outcome was always a possibility, and we have been working diligently to determine what is next for Washington State Athletics. We’ve prepared for numerous scenarios, including our current situation.

“With exceptional student-athletes, a strong Cougar tradition and incredible support from our fans, donors and alumni, we will chart the best path forward together.”

Washington’s impending move to the Big Ten hurts the most, as the Apple Cup football rivalry between the two schools is perhaps the premier college event in the state each year.

Earlier this week, Cougars football coach Jake Dickert sharply criticized the realignment landscape and the effect it will have on longtime regional rivalries.

“The old question of, ‘How long would it take TV money to destroy college football?’ Maybe we’re here,” Dickert told reporters. “To think, even remotely, five years ago the Pac-12 would be in this position, it’s unthinkable to think that we’re here today. And to think that local rivalries are at risk … to me, is unbelievable.”

Washington State, Oregon State, Stanford and Cal would be the Pac-12’s four remaining members if the rest of the departures become official.

The Cougars could be forced to take a step downward and consider a move to the Mountain West, a league that includes San Diego State, Boise State, Colorado State among others. San Diego State had been vying to join the Pac-12 before the latest round of turmoil.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; A Big 10 Championship logo is seen atop a yardage marker during the first half between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Northwestern Wildcats at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Big Ten voting to admit Oregon, Washington

The Big Ten is voting Friday to formalize the admissions of Oregon and Washington to the conference, multiple outlets reported.

The additions of the two current Pac-12 programs could happen as soon as 2024, according to earlier reports.

UCLA and Southern California are moving from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten in 2024.

Fellow Pac-12 schools Stanford and Cal could also be part of future Big Ten expansion plans, Yahoo Sports reported earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Colorado announced last week that it is leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 12 next year. Various reports have indicated that Arizona is on the verge of following the same path.

–Field Level Media