Fresh off a win against Ohio State, the University of Michigan football team is preparing to play the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game this weekend. Wolverine head coach Jim Harbaugh will be back with the team on game day, having served a three-game sideline ban imposed by the Big Ten over a sign stealing scandal.
While the Big Ten has closed its probe, a larger NCAA investigation is still ongoing. Speaking at the Detroit Economic Club (DEC), University of Michigan President Santa Ono says he takes the matter seriously.
“This is an academic institution, to be frank,” says Ono. “Ethics and integrity are central and core to what we do — it’s a cornerstone to a great university.”
Listen: University of Michigan President Santa Ono comments on Michigan football scandal
It’s alleged that Connor Stalions, a team analyst who has since resigned, ran a spy network to film opponent sidelines for advanced scouting purposes over a two-and-a-half-year period. Yahoo Sports reports there’s evidence of a school donor helping to fund that effort.
In his DEC address, President Ono said individuals “found to have been involved or to have transgressed proper process” for cooperating with the investigation have been let go.
The university recently parted ways with position coach Chris Partridge, but no official reason was given at the time. The same Yahoo report had claimed the NCAA had evidence of a Michigan coach attempting to destroy evidence.
Despite the noise, Ono praised the Wolverine football team for completing an undefeated regular season despite the surrounding circumstances. He adds that Jim Harbaugh has his support.
“He is a great coach and means a lot to the institution.” — Santa Ono, University of Michigan
“Coach has talked to me about that situation and has said that he knows nothing about what happened, and I trust him,” said Ono. “He’s a man of honor – everyone who knows him knows that.”
NCAA laws state that it’s a coach’s job to maintain a culture of compliance. Michigan football can still be punished by the association regardless of whether Harbaugh knew about the sign stealing.
Ono says he hopes Jim Harbaugh will be the school’s football coach next year but stopped short of a full guarantee.
“We have to wait and see what happens with all these investigations,” said Ono. “He is a great coach and means a lot to the institution.”