Every Saturday night, Ari Wasserman and David Ubben react to the weekend’s slate of games on “Until Saturday.” On Mondays, they revisit the biggest takeaway from Saturday night’s instant reaction. This week: Ari commends Michigan for its big win over Penn State but makes it clear that no one is feeling sorry for the Wolverines.
Most of us have seen the brief clip of Sherrone Moore breaking down on the field during his postgame interview following Michigan’s win at Penn State on Saturday afternoon. It was intense.
In case you haven’t, the Michigan offensive coordinator-turned-acting head coach started bawling on television. He began by thanking God, then proceeded to profess his love to 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 said to Harbaugh through the television cameras. “I love the s— out of you, man. We did this for you.”
Sherrone Moore’s post game interview is everything. Chills
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 11, 2023
It’s understandable why Moore would be so 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 the plane to State College when the news broke that Harbaugh would be suspended amid this cheating probe. The Wolverines were playing on the road against a one-loss Penn State team still trying to claw its way into the Big Ten Championship Game.
Despite all of that, Michigan unequivocally proved it was the better team and handed Penn State a demoralizing 24-15 loss.
Nobody is telling Moore not to be emotional. It was his team and his players who won a hard-fought game on the road. They should be ecstatic. And Michigan fans have every right to feel an extra sense of pride in their team.
But the rest of us? Let’s not let the tears and the emotion emanating from Moore and the rest of this Michigan team blind us from one inarguable truth: This is Michigan’s fault.
Moore acted as though Harbaugh were in the hospital or dealing with some sort of tragedy outside of his control. No. Harbaugh was down the street from Beaver Stadium sitting at the hotel and watching the Michigan game on television.
Michigan may say it’s winning for Harbaugh while wearing shirts that read “Michigan vs. Everybody,” but this situation isn’t the Wolverines fighting through adversity or winning in spite of some terrible, random circumstance. Michigan is paying a consequence for breaking the rules, and there’s an ongoing investigation into this sign-stealing scandal to see how deep it goes. Some may tell you it was a marginal competitive advantage, but others will tell you the Wolverines were flat-out cheating to win games this year and in the past.
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Michigan isn’t a heart-warming story as it fights a legal battle to get its coach back on the sidelines in time for the Ohio State game in two weeks. This is the Big Ten holding the program accountable for transgressions, levying a penalty on the head coach as the figurehead of the entire program.
Ono, the university’s president, posted to his public X account (formerly Twitter) Sunday morning: “Countless members of the University of Michigan family have reached out to me over the weekend and I wanted to express my appreciation. Like any community, we face our share of challenges and adversity. There have been many such moments in our history. But as our team showed so clearly yesterday, we will respond to any challenge head on with a conviction to do better and to emerge even stronger. Go Blue!”
Challenges and adversity? I guess so, if challenges and adversity can be self-inflicted. That’s the type of social media post you’d expect from a university president after a tragedy.
Yes, there is some debate as to whether the Big Ten should have suspended Harbaugh on Friday. I wrote after the announcement late last week that my preference would have been for the Big Ten and/or the NCAA to punish Michigan once the investigation was complete. The counterargument to that was the Big Ten unequivocally had enough evidence to discipline the program for cheating, but the punishment — agree or disagree — was weak. Harbaugh is suspended but can still recruit and coach the team during the week? Whatever.
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Michigan is lining up lawyers to fight this in court. While I understand the notion that the penalty was premature — again, I wrote that it was four days ago — I’m not sure the public should take the bait that Michigan is a victim here. You know how you don’t get punished? By not having a staffer develop an illegal sign-stealing scheme that included buying tickets for peers to record future opponents’ signals. Or by not having that staffer (probably) dress up in Central Michigan coaching attire and standing on the sideline for the Michigan State game.
The questions that still need to be answered are robust. How much did Harbaugh know? Did anyone else on the staff know? How much of a competitive advantage did Michigan gain this year? I need the answers to those questions before the hammer comes down.
But Harbaugh isn’t a victim.
And Michigan isn’t a 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 even the playing field.
Because of that, Michigan is a villain.
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(Photo: Joe Robbins / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)