As a punishment for Jim Harbaugh’s postgame comments about the officiating in his team’s loss at Ohio State on Saturday, the Big Ten office fined the University $10,000 and issued a public reprimand to Harbaugh.
The penalty is a minor one for Harbaugh, who makes more than $9 million per year, according to USA TODAY. It’s also the Big Ten’s standard response to an offense like Harbaugh’s. Most recently, former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini faced the same penalty for criticizing a pass interference penalty after a game against Iowa.
Harbaugh spent most of his postgame press conference Saturday lamenting the officiating, saying he was “bitterly disappointed.” The Big Ten ruled that the comments violated its sportsmanship policy, which requires “all contests involving a member institution to be conducted without compromise to any fundamental element of sportsmanship.”
On the second-to-last play of double overtime Saturday, on 4th-and-1 from Michigan’s 16-yard line, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett took a hit and dove forward toward the first-down marker. The officials ruled that Barrett made the first down, prolonging the game, and the Buckeyes won on the next play.
“There wasn’t a first down,” Harbaugh said, holding his hands out and adding, “by that much.”
He continued: “I am bitterly disappointed with the officiating today. That spot, the graphic displays, the interference penalties. The one not called on us on Grant Perry, clearly was being hooked before the ball got there. And the previous penalty they called on Delano Hill, the ball’s uncatchable and by the receiver. So I’m bitterly disappointed in the officiating. Can’t make that any more clear.”
Harbaugh also believed that the officials missed multiple holding and false-start penalties against Ohio State. Near the end of the third quarter, Harbaugh drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of his own by arguing and breaking his headset in frustration.
An Athletic Department spokesman had “no additional statement following tonight’s news from the Big Ten.”
PLAYOFF PRIMER: The chances of Michigan making the College Football Playoff after losing to Ohio State on Saturday are very small. We’ll start to find out how small on Tuesday night.
The playoff committee will release its weekly rankings to set the stakes for the final weekend of the season. The Wolverines came in at No. 3 in last week’s poll and should fall from there after the loss, but how far they’ll fall is unclear. The slim margin and the fact that the game was on the road should help Michigan’s cause.
Alabama has been No. 1 in every edition of the rankings and should be again after beating No. 13 Auburn on Saturday, 30-12. The Buckeyes should stay at No. 2 after winning Saturday, making them a near-lock for the playoff since they don’t play this weekend.
After that, Michigan needs some help. No. 4 Clemson appears poised to move into the Wolverines’ old spot after trouncing South Carolina, 56-7. The Tigers are heavy favorites in the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech this weekend.
No. 5 Washington also scored a convincing victory against Washington State on Friday. If the Huskies can take care of business in the Pac-12 Championship Game against Colorado, they should snag the final spot in the playoff and leave Michigan on the outside looking in.
If they can’t, the door is open for another Big Ten team — either Michigan, Wisconsin or Penn State. The sixth-ranked Badgers and seventh-ranked Nittany Lions, both 10-2 like the Wolverines, play in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday night, earning another chance to prove themselves. Wisconsin can likely move past Michigan with a win in that game, while the Nittany Lions will have a harder time considering the Wolverines beat them in September, 49-10.
All of this, of course, is subject to the decision of the committee, which is what makes Tuesday so important. If Michigan can hold firm in the top four or five, the Wolverines can hope chaos this weekend vaults them into the playoff, as unlikely as the odds are.
AN EARLY AWARD LOOK: Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown is one of five finalists for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s best assistant coach, as recognition for his unit’s terrific season.
In Brown’s first season, the defense ranks second in total defense, first in passing defense, 14th in rushing defense and second in scoring defense. The Wolverines are also the best in the country at stopping third-down opportunities.
The other four finalists are also coordinators: Alabama’s Jeremy Pruitt (defense), Clemson’s Brent Venables (defense), Colorado’s Jim Leavitt (defense) and Pittsburgh’s Matt Canada (offense). The Broyles Foundation will present the award on Dec. 6.