Every Saturday night, Ari Wasserman and David Ubben react to the weekend’s slate of games on “Hanggang Sabado.” On Monday, they visit the biggest takeaway from Saturday night’s immediate reaction. This week: Ari praised Michigan for its big win over Penn State but made it clear that no one feels sorry for the Wolverines.
Most of us have seen a short clip of Sherrone Moore breaking down on the field during her postgame interview following Michigan’s win over Penn State on Saturday afternoon. It’s intense.
In case you haven’t already, the Michigan offensive coordinator-turned-acting head coach started whining on television. He started by thanking God, then went on to express his love for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh — with the help of a few F-Bombs. Moore thanked university president Santa Ono, athletic director Warde Manuel, his players and the school’s alumni. But the most pointed message was directed at Harbaugh.
“I f—— love you, man,” Moore told Harbaugh through television cameras. “I love the s— out of you, man. We did it for you.”
Sherrone Moore’s post game interview is everything. Trembling
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 11, 2023
It’s understandable why Moore would be emotional. He was thrust into this role for the second time this year, and this time it was done at the 11th hour. Michigan was on a plane to State College when news broke that Harbaugh would be suspended amid this fraud investigation. The Wolverines are playing on the road against a losing Penn State team that is still trying to get into the Big Ten Championship Game.
Despite all that, Michigan clearly proved to be the better team and handed Penn State a demoralizing 24-15 loss.
No one is telling Moore not to be emotional. His team and his players won a hard-fought road game. They should be delightful. And Michigan fans have every right to feel extremely proud of their team.
But the rest of us? Let’s not let the tears and emotions coming from Moore and the rest of the Michigan team blind us from one indisputable fact: It’s Michigan’s fault.
Moore acted as if Harbaugh was in the hospital or dealing with some kind of tragedy beyond his control. Nope. Harbaugh was down the street from Beaver Stadium sitting in the hotel watching the Michigan game on television.
Michigan can say it won for Harbaugh while wearing shirts that read “Michigan vs. Everybody,” but this situation isn’t about the Wolverines battling through adversity or winning despite some horrible, random event. Michigan pays the consequences for breaking the rules, and there is an ongoing investigation into this sign theft scandal to see how deep it goes. Some may tell you this is a marginal competitive advantage, but others will tell you the Wolverines are flat-out cheating to win games this year and in the past.
Michigan should be punished, say 94% of CFB coaches in our poll. What else does it reveal?
Michigan is not a heartwarming story as it fights a legal battle to get its coach back on the sideline in time for the Ohio State game in two weeks. It is the Big Ten that holds the program accountable for infractions, punishing the head coach as the figurehead of the entire program.
Ono, the university’s president, posted on his public X account (formerly Twitter) Sunday morning: “Countless members of the University of Michigan family reached out to me over the weekend and I wish express my appreciation. Like any community, we face our share of challenges and difficulties. There are many such moments in our history. But as our team showed so clearly yesterday, we will respond to any challenge with a determination to do better and to emerge stronger. Go Blue!”
Challenges and difficulties? I guess so, if challenges and adversity can be self-inflicted. That’s the kind of social media post you’d expect from a university president after a tragedy.
Yes, there was some debate over whether the Big Ten should have suspended Harbaugh on Friday. I wrote after the announcement last week that my preference would be for the Big Ten and/or the NCAA to punish Michigan once the investigation is complete. The counterargument to that is that the Big Ten undoubtedly has enough evidence to discipline the program for cheating, but the punishment – agree or disagree – is weak. Harbaugh is suspended but can still recruit and coach the team all week? Whatever.
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Michigan is picking lawyers to fight it in court. While I understand the notion that the punishment was premature — again, I wrote that four days ago — I’m not sure the public should take the bait that Michigan is the victim here. You know how you don’t get punished? By not having the staffer develop an illegal sign-stealing scheme that included buying tickets for peers to record the signals of future opponents. Or by not having that staffer (probably) dress up in Central Michigan coaching attire and stand on the sideline for the Michigan State game.
The questions that still need to be answered are strong. How much does Harbaugh know? Does anyone else on the staff know? How much of a competitive advantage did Michigan get this year? I need the answers to those questions before the hammer comes down.
But Harbaugh is no victim.
And Michigan is no victim.
Don’t let the tears fool you. Michigan is no longer the lovable underdog trying to win a national title despite not recruiting like Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State. At least one person on the Wolverines staff went outside the rules in an attempt to get on the field of play.
That makes Michigan a villain.
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(Photo: Joe Robbins / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)