Jim Harbaugh Sep 3, 2022; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh catches during warmups before the game against the Colorado State Rams on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. Mandatory Credit: Kirthmon F. Dozier-USA TODAY Sports

A repeated subject of conversation around college football realignment is that on-field outcomes usually seem to be far less important than dollars and cents. That’s motivated moves to add schools who have posted limited football success but are in important areas for conference networks and per-subscriber fees (including Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten), it’s inspired talk of schools getting “outside help” to find better conferences (including Florida State), and it’s led to realignment moves that seem to make limited sense geographically and for sports outside football (including this summer’s Pac-12 collapse, especially with Cal and Stanford to the ACC).

But the consensus has generally been that schools that have acquired a golden ticket to the “Power Two” of the Big Ten and SEC in particular are not not likely to leave unless forced. A report from Sports Illustrated‘s Michael Rosenberg challenges that, though. Rosenberg wrote Friday after the Big Ten unveiled discipline (a regular-season gameday suspension) for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh (over that alleged sign-stealing scheme) that the Wolverines’ board of regents discussed leaving the conference over any punishment for Harbaugh:

Tony Petitti has no idea how badly he just botched his job, but here is a hint: In a meeting last week, Michigan’s regents discussed possibly leaving the Big Ten if Petitti suspended coach Jim Harbaugh without what the school considered due process, a person familiar with those discussions told Sports Illustrated.

That may sound like an empty threat, but the fact it was even discussed should tell you how angry Michigan is right now about how Petitti has handled this. The process that led to Harbaugh’s three-game suspension was a clumsy execution of mob justice, and it is by no means over. Michigan is expected to take the Big Ten to court Friday night to try to allow Harbaugh to coach Saturday.

If Michigan was to actually try to leave a Power Two conference for anything other than the other one (the SEC), that would be remarkable. (And there’s been no indication that the SEC would accept the Wolverines.) And a move to a non-SEC conference would lead to a notable decline in annual TV revenue distribution. So this is unlikely to actually happen. But it’s certainly interesting to see this discussed.

[Sports Illustrated]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.