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Michigan meets with refugees as part of Italian Spring Break trip

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Michigan is in Rome for Spring Break and Jim Harbaugh determined an act of charity would be the Wolverines’ first item of business upon landing on Italian soil.

After landing in Rome at 9 a.m. local time, the Wolverines immediately headed to the Borghese Gardens, where they distributed backpacks filled with blankets, shirts and shorts to refugees.

“What an experience,” quarterback Wilton Speight told the Toledo Blade. “I saw on the itinerary that we were going to have an opportunity to meet some refugees, but I didn’t know it was going to be like this where we could dive into each other’s lives and teach each other a thing or two about our background, our culture, our favorite sport. It’s been a cool experience.”

And for those wondering, Harbaugh has not reduced his Harbaugh-ness while overseas. In fact, the dollar-to-euro conversion may have actually increased it.

Jim Harbaugh and Michigan football will meet Pope Francis during Rome trip

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Everybody fretted about it back in January when it was first announced, but the Michigan Wolverines really are heading to Rome for spring practice this month.

While a large number of football teams across the country are wrapping up their spring practices on Saturday, Jim Harbaugh and company will actually be getting ready to leave for Italy a few hours later. There are three workouts scheduled for next week in the city but a large amount of time for the players, coaches and staff members tagging along is being devoted to touring the historic sites around the area.

In addition to the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain and other tourist mainstays on the agenda for the Wolverines, one unique opportunity will take place next Wednesday: they’ll meet the pope.

“I want it to be the greatest experience of our players’ lives up until this point,” Harbaugh told the Big Ten Network last Saturday. “It’s going to be a great educational experience, and we have tickets to see the Pope give a papal address on the 26th of April.”

Harbaugh, who is a devout Catholic, and the rest of the Michigan team will apparently take in Pope Francis’ weekly audience, in addition to touring the rest of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square. It’s not every day a college football team meets the pope and hopefully there will be plenty of cameras around to record what ever the Michigan football coach says to the pontiff.

Harbaugh has said that he wants to keep up the international trips with future endeavors to South Africa, Japan and Israel among other places. While those all sound fascinating, it will probably be hard to top meeting the pope.

Indiana won’t accept any player with history of sexual or domestic violence

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One Big Ten school is following in the SEC’s footsteps — and blazing its own path on top of it.

In April of 2015, the SEC voted to ban member institutions from accepting transfers who had been disciplined for serious misconduct at his previous school, with that defined as sexual assault, sexual violence and domestic violence.  In June of 2016, that same conference announced that it will be expanding its existing policy to include “dating violence, stalking or conduct of a nature that creates serious concern about the safety of others.”

According to the Indianapolis Star, Indiana has enacted a similar policy, with the Big Ten school barring a transfer from another institution from enrolling “who has been convicted of or pleaded guilty or no contest to a felony involving sexual violence.” Sexual violence is defined by the school as “dating violence, domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or sexual violence as defined by the Indiana University policy on sexual misconduct.”

IU’s policy also significantly expands on what the SEC’s current policy is, as not only transfers but “incoming freshmen” are a part of the ban as well.

“I think it’s new ground,” athletic director Fred Glass told the Star. “My hope is that we’re leading in this area, and maybe others will follow with, maybe not the exact same policy, but one that fits their particular institutions.”

The university also ensured that any appeals would be handled “outside the athletic department.” From the paper’s report:

It includes an appellate process, Glass said, acknowledging that “there’s always a chance that there’s going to be some person that gets caught up in this that shouldn’t, when you consider all the circumstances.”

But Glass also emphasized that any such appeal would go before a committee comprised of [IU faculty athletics representative Kurt] Zorn, IU general counsel Jacqueline Simmons and IU chief student welfare and Title IX officer Emily Springston.

“The key to that,” Glass said, “is those decisions are being made outside the athletic department.”

The Big Ten has allowed each member institution to institute — or not — its own policy on this issue.  Indiana is the first; whether other conference members follow suit will be interesting to see play out.

Jim Harbaugh: Wilton Speight starter for now; competition still on

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Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight did not have a terrific showing in the spring game last weekend, but head coach Jim Harbaugh says he is still the top quarterback on the depth chart coming out of the spring. That said, Speight could be under pressure to keep it once the summer rolls along and the 2017 season gets underway.

“It’ll always be (a competition,)” Harbaugh said when speaking to the media, according to a Detroit Free Press report from Mark Snyder. “Still over the course of the whole spring practice, Wilton on our depth chart, he’s No. 1. But it’s a meritocracy. By your effort and by your talent you will be known. That’s a good thing for our football team.”

Harbaugh’s comments are none to surprising. The 2017 season could be a slight step back for Michigan coming off a big step forward for the program in 2016, but Harbaugh has always been one to ramp up the competitive fire in the program. It has not led to a Big Ten division championship yet, but there is no question it has helped get Michigan back on the right track as a program. No position is considered safe under Harbaugh, who will focus on playing the best possible players at every position for a chance to improve as a team and win games. That’s his job, after all.

Speight played 12 games for the Wolverines last season. In those 12 games, Speight passed for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns while completing 61.6 percent of his pass attempts and was picked off seven times. Other options that could replace Speight if a chance is deemed necessary would include senior John O’Korn (who previously started at Houston) and Brandon Peters, who was also less-than-impressive in the Michigan spring game.

Michigan couple turns Jim Harbaugh’s surname into son’s first name

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This might be taking the whole fandom thing a bit too far.

Jim Harbaugh‘s hiring as Michigan’s head football coach a couple of offseasons ago has proven to be wildly popular among the football program’s fan base even as the Wolverines haven’t finished any higher than third in the Big Ten East during his two seasons.  Still, as Harbaugh appears to have the program headed toward a reemergence on the national stage, the former U-M quarterback is beloved by fans.

How beloved?  One Michigan couple from Sault Ste. Marie took the football coach’s surname and turned it into their son’s first name.

“Harbaugh Lee Fettig” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but to each his own I guess.