The latest fallout in the ongoing battle between Michigan and the Big Ten saw a judge appointed to the case with a potential conflict of interest and current and former players tweeting out one-word responses after Jim Harbaugh’s suspension.
Following the suspension’s announcement, multiple Michigan football players tweeted out the word ‘Bet’ – in the modern slang context defined by Urban Dictionary as ‘something [a person] says when someone doubts him’.
Those players included current Michigan starting QB J.J. McCarthy as well as former Michigan QB and future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady.
All the while, the University of Michigan filed a temporary restraining order in Washtenaw County Trial Court to stop the suspension – with the Michigan Board of Regents and Harbaugh listed as plaintiffs and the Big Ten Conference and its commissioner Tony Petitti as defendants.
This led to the most interesting twist: the judge initially assigned to this case was the Honorable Timothy P. Connors – a University of Michigan graduate and a lecturer at the University of Michigan Law School.
Michigan football players – both past and present – rallied in support of coach Jim Harbaugh
Former Michigan Man Tom Brady tweeted out the same phrase as current Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy and many other Michigan players on social media Friday
The Big Ten suspended Harbaugh on Friday for the rest of the regular season in connection with an in-person sign-stealing scandal. The University of Michigan filed a restraining order in local county trial court in order to re-instate Harbaugh and to bypass the conference’s ruling.
That was first reported on by Detroit News sports writer Tony Paul, who added that ‘recusal might be incoming’.
Almost an hour later, it was revealed that the case was now in front of a different judge: Carol Kunhke, who also is a Michigan alumnus.
Their appointments pose many more questions than it does answers.
A number of things are not clear. For starters, Friday is a court holiday in celebration of Veterans Day. Saturday is not only a day where courts are closed, but it’s also actually Veterans Day so it’s typically unlikely that any kind of ruling would be passed down.
It’s not clear if Kunhke will also recuse herself from this case, as judges will typically step back from a case if the public could perceive judicial impropriety in a ruling. However, in the instance of an emergency, this could be overridden.
If she does choose to recuse herself, the Washtenaw County Trial Court will hand the case over to one of its other five judges. Of those five, three went to schools that are rivals with Michigan (two Michigan State alumni and one Notre Dame alumnus) while the other two went to the University of Toledo and New York University.
It’s not clear if the ruling in Michigan would be recognized in other states’ jurisdictions. The Wolverines’ next two games are on the road at Penn State and at Maryland. Additionally, the Big Ten is headquartered in Illinois – so a ruling against the conference in Michigan may not apply to remaining football competitions.
This begs the question of what Michigan’s hopes are with this petition. If their hope is to completely reinstate Harbaugh for the team’s final three regular season games, it’s not guaranteed that Pennsylvania and Maryland will recognize the restraining order stopping the suspension.
The case was initially given to the Honorable Timothy Connors (L) but it was re-assigned to Judge Carol Kuhnke. Both Connors and Kuhnke are alumni of the University of Michigan.
However, it’s likely that if it’s ruled in favor of the school and Harbaugh, he could be back on the sidelines for Michigan’s final game of the season: at home against Ohio State.
There are other key points to take into account. For starters, it’s not clear how Judge Kuhnke could rule in this matter.
She could also have the awareness to ask for time if she needs it to further examine the case – as there’s already little time before Michigan’s noon game against Penn State on Saturday to overturn or halt the suspension.
It also needs to be stated that Michigan has not expressly denied the existence of the sign-stealing scheme that Harbaugh has been accused of.
That’s something Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti pointed out in a letter addressed to the school on Friday.
Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti noted that the school hasn’t denied the scandal’s existence
‘The University’s November 8 response does not deny that the impermissible scheme occurred,’ Petitti’s letter read.
‘Instead, it offers only procedural and technical arguments designed to delay accountability.’
Additionally, while the University of Michigan begged the Big Ten to allow time for ‘due process’ to play out, the conference is not a government and doesn’t expressly have to follow the rules of due process before handing down a suspension or a ruling.
Instead, as Petitti states, he was shown plenty of evidence by the NCAA showing that ‘a significant portion of the rule breaking was proven’ and that the existence of a sign-stealing scheme was ‘uncontroverted’.