ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Jim Harbaugh is used to being busy on Saturdays in the fall.
When No. 2 Michigan plays East Carolina on Saturday at the Big House, though, Harbaugh will have some free time.
Harbaugh will start serving a three-game suspension, imposed by the school in an attempt to lessen eventual punishment for breaking NCAA rules, when perhaps the best college team he has coached kicks off the season.
Harbaugh said going to his son’s game might be an option for his afternoon activities, adding he didn’t know if he would watch his team play on TV — or not.
“It’s uncharted waters,” he said
Harbaugh was knocked out of games as a quarterback at Michigan and in the NFL with a broken arm along with knee and shoulder injuries, but he said this blow hits different.
“I’ve heard people comment that it’s a slap on the wrist,” he said. “It’s more like a baseball bat to the kneecaps.”
Harbaugh’s game-day roll will be filled by defensive coordinator Jesse Minter against the Pirates.
“When you’re the head coach during the game, you’re the guardian of victory,” Harbaugh said. “That’s a tremendous responsibility.”
Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore was suspended by the school for one game due to violating unspecified NCAA rules. Harbaugh said quarterbacks coach Kirk Campbell will call plays in place of Moore and an analyst will be elevated to fill out the game-day coaching staff.
“It puts a little bit of a chip on our shoulder for coach Harbaugh,” Minter said. “We certainly want to play well for him.”
Even without Harbaugh, the Wolverines are facing East Carolina with many of the players who helped them win two straight Big Ten titles and earn consecutive bids to the College Football Playoff.
“I’d rather them sit some of their players out,” Pirates coach Mike Houston said.
WALKING THE PLANK
Michigan is favored to win by five plus touchdowns, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
While East Carolina has had a lot of relative success lately, it lost a lot of key players from last year’s team.
The American Athletic Conference team is coming off an eight-win season that included a victory in the Birmingham Bowl, which marked the program’s first postseason game since the 2014 season. A 2021 bowl appearance was called off due to COVID-19 issues.
Houston’s fifth team at the school has just four starters back on offense and six returning on defense.
The Pirates will break in a new quarterback after Holton Ahlers threw for 28 touchdowns and ran for six more last season, giving him 97 touchdowns through the air and 25 on the ground over five seasons. Keaton Mitchell, who ran for 1,452 yards and 14 touchdowns, is gone as are 1,000-yard receivers Isaiah Winstead and C.J. Johnson.
Houston, who didn’t release his depth chart, wouldn’t name a starting quarterback.
“We know who’s going to take the first snap and everybody else will find out on Saturday,” he said.
SHOW THEM THE MONEY
Harbaugh opened his weekly news conference, reading from handwritten notes on multiple pages for 5-plus minutes to share his opinion that student-athletes should share in the revenue generated in college athletics.
“The current status quo is unacceptable and won’t survive,” he said. “We capitalize on the talent, we should pay the talent for their contributions to the bottom line.”
FACING BIG NAMES
East Carolina has a history of facing Power Five programs, particularly from the ACC and SEC in recent years.
The Pirates nearly upset No. 13 North Carolina State in last year’s opener at home before missing kicks and losing by one point, falling to 13-64-1 against ranked teams. They’re 2-32 against top-10 teams and 0-11 against opponents in the top five.