Michigan says Big Ten lacks authority to punish coach Jim Harbaugh in rebuttal to sign-stealing scandal

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Michigan has issued a response to the Big Ten’s notification of potential disciplinary action amid the NCAA’s ongoing probe into allegations of illegal sign-stealing. The 10-page letter, obtained by Yahoo Sports, contends that discipline from the Big Ten would constitute a “breach” of the conference’s handbook and that any specific punishment directed at coach Jim Harbaugh “would exceed the commissioner’s authority under the Sportsmanship Policy.” 

The letter also includes documents and pictures of Michigan’s signs that were allegedly stolen and shared by other Big Ten schools as part of its rebuttal against potential penalties levied by the conference. Disciplinary action, the letter states, would be disproportionate given this evidence. 

The Big Ten’s initial notice, filed Monday, came in response to findings shared by the NCAA. There has reportedly been widespread support among other Big Ten institutions for commissioner Tony Petitti to discipline Michigan. The university and Harbaugh are expected to take legal action against the Big Ten if a penalty is levied directly against Harbaugh, according to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. The Michigan coach has denied knowledge of illegal sign-stealing and vowed cooperation with NCAA investigators. 

Michigan, 9-0 and No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, travels to No. 11 Penn State in Week 11. 

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