Jim Harbaugh is not present for Michigan’s season opener against East Carolina, but his presence has still been felt.
Quarterback J.J McCarthy let his thoughts be known on Harbaugh’s three-game, university-imposed suspension to start the season, which stemmed from an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
McCarthy showed up in warmups with a shirt that evoked a No. 4 Harbaugh jersey that the coach wore during his own tenure as a Michigan quarterback. The word “Free” was taped above Harbaugh’s name.
According to local media, several other Michigan players were wearing Harbaugh shirts, but only their quarterback added the word “Free.” McCarthy was later seen wearing the shirt as he went through his customary pregame meditation.
Then, when McCarthy led Michigan’s offense onto the field for its first drive, the unit lined up and held up four fingers — Harbaugh’s old jersey number — in another tribute to their coach.
Harbaugh and McCarthy are looking to lead Michigan to a third straight Big Ten title and hope to get further in the College Football Playoff after losing to Georgia and TCU, respectively, in the semifinals in each of the last two seasons. Michigan plays UNLV and Bowling Green over the next two weeks before Harbaugh is set to return from his suspension.
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