Jim Harbaugh: I would say it's good to be back, but I never left (0:45)Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh explains why it is important for him to be back with the team after serving a three-game sideline ban. (0:45)
Harbaugh is set to return to the sideline Saturday night for the Big Ten championship against No. 17 Iowa after serving a Big Ten-imposed three-game suspension that stemmed from a prohibited signal-stealing operation led by former staff member Connor Stalions.
The third-ranked Wolverines won all three games during Harbaugh's latest suspension, which was limited only to game days.
"My emotions, my focus has been with the team the entire time," Harbaugh said Sunday. "It's been a tremendous season, right in the exact position that we hoped for, that we worked so hard to be in. It's onward now. We've accomplished many of our goals, but not all of them yet. ... The next is winning the conference championship, so that's where our focus is.
"I would say it's good to be back, but I never left."
Harbaugh noted the enthusiasm on Sunday inside Schembechler Hall, Michigan's football building, after beating their archrival for the third straight time after losing 15 of the previous 16 games in the series. The ninth-year Michigan coach called safety Rod Moore's game-clinching interception of Kyle McCord in the final minute "one of the happiest moments of my life."
With the victory, Michigan became the first Big Ten team ever to win 30 consecutive regular-season games.
After watching Saturday's win, Harbaugh went to a local hospital to visit with offensive lineman Zak Zinter, who suffered a broken fibula and tibia in the game and underwent surgery Saturday night. The coach commended Zinter's toughness in dealing with the injury, which he described as "the best worst-case scenario."
Harbaugh also praised offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore, who stepped in as acting head coach during the suspension, and a "very, very special team" that he felt best exemplifies the famous quote from his coach at Michigan, Hall of Famer Bo Schembechler.
"The team, the team, the team -- it just rings so loud," Harbaugh said. "It was not one guy. All guys, the entire team, the way they played, and it was offense complementing the defense, the defense complementing the offense, the special teams as well. Everything was really run clean and precise, highly disciplined football, and a clean game, both sides."
Harbaugh reiterated his desire for college athletes to be paid, noting the number of commercials and other marketing leading up to and during the Ohio State game. He said he would continue to use his voice to advocate for athlete compensation, and said he would "take less money for the players to have a share," and encouraged other coaches to also use their platforms.
Michigan made history during Harbaugh's suspension by becoming the first program to win 1,000 games. The Wolverines' 1,002nd win would mark another milestone, as they have never won three consecutive outright Big Ten titles.
"It'd mean a great deal," Harbaugh said. "This team, it's a true team, selfless, they play for each other. If you're wondering what's in another man's heart on this team, it's about each other."
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz on Sunday said wide receivers Diante Vines and Kaleb Brown both "have a chance" to play against Michigan. The two have combined for 26 receptions, 276 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Iowa's offense has lost a number of key players to injury, including its two transfers from Michigan, quarterback Cade McNamara and tight end Erick All. The Hawkeyes lost to Michigan in the 2021 Big Ten title game.
"Whether it's the championship game, in 25 years, we've been underdogs an awful lot," Ferentz said. "It's not unfamiliar territory for us."