Jim Harbaugh talks Friday hearing, Penn State win, how he learned about suspension, chickens

Harbaugh learned about Big Ten suspending him through social media

Jim Harbaugh speaks on Nov. 13, 2023, after Michigan's win over Penn State. (WDIV)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Jim Harbaugh covered a wide range of topics at his Monday press conference, including the upcoming hearing on Friday against the Big Ten, how he learned about his suspension, Michigan’s win over Penn State, and, of course, his chickens.

Friday hearing against Big Ten

Harbaugh made it clear at the start of his press conference that he couldn’t say much about the investigation, but he did say he looked forward to telling his side of the story on Friday.

A judge scheduled a hearing for Friday to determine whether Harbaugh’s suspension will be upheld through the final two games of the regular season. Michigan is trying to halt the punishment until the end of the NCAA investigation.

“I’m going to talk on Friday,” Harbaugh said. “Just looking for that opportunity. Due process. Not looking for special treatment. Not looking for a popularity contest. Just looking for the merit of what the case is. As a senior in high school, I had a civics class, and we talked about government, justice, and what I took away from that class is that you’re innocent until proven guilty. That was 40 years ago, but I’d like that opportunity.”

He was asked whether he’s going to speak at the hearing in front of the judge.

“I don’t know, exactly,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know exactly how it’s going to go. I’m going to be able to go, though. I don’t know if I’m going to be -- that’s not my dance floor. I’m not an attorney. Always wanted to be. Watched a lot of shows. Watched Judge Judy a lot, and always kind of felt like it’d be cool to get up there and thunder away at a jury like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. Or be a judge, like Judge Judy, but, alas, I did not go to law school, so this will be the first time I’ve ever really been in this situation.”

How he found out about suspension

The Big Ten happened to announce Harbaugh’s suspension on a court holiday while the Wolverines were on the team plane to Penn State, so they didn’t find out until they landed in Happy Valley.

Harbaugh confirmed that the Big Ten did not tell Michigan before leaking the decision to the media. He found out just like everybody else.

“Just, somebody showed me their phone,” Harbaugh said. “Via social media.”

He said athletic director Warde Manuel was unhappy about how the information was relayed to Michigan from the conference.

“Warde was pretty upset,” Harbaugh said. “He was on the plane, too. He was pretty upset that he heard it through social media and not the office, the Big Ten office.”

Support from Michigan leaders, fan base

Harbaugh talked several times about the support of leaders at the University of Michigan and the fan base as a whole.

“The support of President (Santa) Ono and the board of regents, Warde Manuel, is greatly appreciated, as is the tremendous support of our alumni, fan base, towards our incredible football team,” Harbaugh said. “There is already so much to be thankful for. ‘Who’s got it better than us?’ is what we like to say. Nobody.”

He said the adversity has “galvanized” the Michigan community, from the athletic director to the university president to the large alumni base.

“Tremendous support,” Harbaugh said. “Warde has been 10 toes down. He’s standing right here with us. His support, President Ono’s support, the board of regents. I said, our team is already galvanized. They’re connected. They’re together, but boy, I’m feeling a galvanized Michigan -- university, alumni network, and all the alums. Largest living alumni body in the world for any school. And the fan base, which goes coast to coast and worldwide, really being galvanized. That’s a tremendous thing. That’s a monumental thing, when you think about it. Everybody fighting like the team we’re supposed to be. That’s going to be tough to beat.”

Moore will coach if suspension continues

Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore coached Michigan on Saturday in Harbaugh’s absence, and that will be the case again if the suspension is upheld.

“There’s nobody that doubts Sherrone Moore and his dedication, his connection, his commitment to the team, so that’s my pick,” Harbaugh said.

And yes, Harbaugh heard Moore’s emotional postgame speech after the Penn State win.

“I was like 5 inches from the TV to watch that,” Harbaugh said. “It was beautiful. I’ll remember that, too. … I’m going to remember what Sherrone said.”

Running the ball against Penn State

Harbaugh spoke about the team’s offensive game plan, which included running the ball on every single official play in the second half. The only time J.J. McCarthy threw a pass after halftime, Penn State was flagged for interference.

“I think it was necessary,” Harbaugh said. “In our wins against Penn State, whether it was in 2021 when Hassan Haskins carried the load, last year we rushed for over 400 yards, and then this year, 230 and some change. Just what we felt necessary to offset what Penn State really wants to do defensively, and makes them play not the kind of game they really desire to play. What’s best for us.”

Kenneth Grant

Michigan defensive tackle Kenneth Grant had the most impressive play of the game, catching a Penn State running back from behind despite weighing 339 pounds.

Harbaugh smiled and said that’s one of the best plays he’s ever seen.

“Kenneth Grant running down a running back in that game, I mean, I was up on my feet,” Harbaugh said. “It was one of the best plays of the season, that play by Kenneth Grant. Maybe one of the best plays ever, compared to the play Justin Smith made against the Eagles my first year coaching at the 49ers. It was a ‘guardian of victory’ type of play. Kenneth was dominant. He was the real tone-setter right from the first series. He’s playing great, only a sophomore, tremendous.”

Harbaugh’s chickens

Harbaugh mentioned that whenever he feels a strong emotion -- like frustration, anger, or even happiness -- he finds something to work on, like feeding the chickens.

A reporter asked, “Do you really have chickens?” Turns out it’s true, and Harbaugh really likes to talk about them.

“I do have chickens,” Harbaugh said. “I have chickens. That was COVID, the COVID year, 2020, Easter. Went to the Tractor Supply -- that was before they even shut things down. Went to Tractor Supply, got the chickens, brought them home for Easter and, just little chicks. ‘Here, kids.’ They loved them. They loved those chickens for about a week, the chicks, and then the chicks became teenager chickens and then became adult chickens -- all hens, egg layers.

“I’m the one who takes care of them, and the respect that I have for chickens -- I know there was a time when I said that a chicken is a nervous bird and I don’t eat chicken, I only eat meat. But I was dead wrong. I stand corrected.

“These chickens are low maintenance and high production. They lay an egg every 26, 27 hours, and they need water, they need food, and then I play with them, too. I let them out in the yard. We run around, and they’re happy to see me. They’re happy to see me. There’s times when I’m doing good things for other people and they’re not as happy to see me as my chickens are. So it’s good for my mental health, as well. And I get fresh eggs every day.”

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.