Michigan assigns 4 assistants to head coaching duties while Jim Harbaugh serves 3-game ban

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – In a classic Jim Harbaugh move, Michigan announced a plan to rotate head coaching duties among four assistant coaches while Harbaugh serves a three-game suspension to open the season. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter will serve as head coach for Michigan’s season opener against East Carolina.
  • Special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh will handle head coaching duties in the first half of Michigan’s Sept. 9 game against UNLV, with running backs coach Mike Hart leading the team in the second half.
  • Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore will be the acting head coach Sept. 16 against Bowling Green.
  • Strength coach Ben Herbert added the title of associate head coach, and Michigan announced Jack Harbaugh will continue in his role as assistant head coach.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

What he said

“I’m certain that all will be impressed with the four coaches’ ability to direct and manage the game,” Jim Harbaugh said in a statement. “It’s been well documented that we have a very talented coaching staff and I believe that all 10 assistant coaches will be head coaches in the near future. They are all capable of leading a team at an elite level. I know that everyone will handle their responsibilities and help our players to be the best version of themselves on and off the field this fall and beyond.”

What’s the reasoning behind this approach?

Harbaugh said recently he expected five members of his staff to get head coaching jobs in the near future. This is his way of backing it up by giving four coaches the chance to lead the team while he serves a school-imposed suspension related to alleged recruiting violations.

Michigan prioritized opportunities for its assistant coaches ahead of continuity, and that’s sure to become a talking point if the Wolverines struggle in any of their first three games. The mechanics of having four head coaches, including two in the same game, could be tricky. The Wolverines probably wouldn’t be doing this if they opened against three Power 5 opponents, but they can afford to try it against East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Green.

Harbaugh isn’t afraid of unconventional moves, as he showed last year by alternating starting quarterbacks in Michigan’s first two games. This appears to be his way of turning an unpleasant situation into an opportunity for up-and-coming coaches on his staff.


Michigan self-imposed a three-game suspension for Jim Harbaugh following alleged recruiting violations within the football program. Michigan was considering the self-imposed suspension after a negotiated resolution between Jim Harbaugh and the NCAA was not approved by the Committee on Infractions earlier this month.

By self-imposing penalties, Michigan could mitigate future punishments handed down by the NCAA.

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(Photo: Aaron J. Thornton / Getty Images)

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