Mystery solved: We wrote the blog post used in Harbaugh’s Big Ten letter

by Rushing McCarl LLP Nov. 10, 2023

Legal analysis written by Rushing McCarl LLP partner Ryan McCarl made national headlines this week. The analysis, which related to the Big Ten conference’s “sign-stealing” investigation into Michigan’s football program, went viral when attorneys for Michigan Football Head Coach Jim Harbaugh used a portion of it in their letter to the Big Ten.

McCarl wrote the analysis anonymously on the Michigan sports blog MGoBlog and has not until now identified himself as the post’s author.

When reports emerged that the Big Ten was planning to suspend Harbaugh in connection with the NCAA investigation, McCarl — a business-litigation attorney, author of Elegant Legal Writing, and lifelong Michigan fan who was an infant in Ann Arbor when Harbaugh was Michigan’s quarterback — couldn’t help but speak up. So he wrote an anonymous blog post on the Michigan sports blog MGoBlog explaining why Big Ten Commissioner Tony Pettiti had no authority to suspend Harbaugh under the Big Ten’s Sportsmanship Policy (as the Big Ten reportedly planned to do and, in fact, just did).

McCarl’s post apparently did not escape the notice of Harbaugh’s attorneys, who inserted a portion of McCarl’s analysis nearly verbatim in the November 8 letter they wrote to the Big Ten on Harbaugh’s behalf.

McCarl posted on MGoBlog that he didn’t mind and was glad to have contributed to the University of Michigan’s cause, but sports media outlets including Sports Illustrated and reporters including ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg learned of the attorneys’ use of McCarl’s anonymous analysis, and that became a story of its own. (McCarl has not contacted or been interviewed by any media outlets so far, and he has remained anonymous until this post.)


Conspiracy theories have spread about who wrote the MGoBlog legal analysis post, with many message-board posters on Reddit and elsewhere speculating that perhaps Harbaugh’s attorneys wrote the post. Not so. The author was Rushing McCarl LLP partner Ryan McCarl, a California-based litigator who wrote the book Elegant Legal Writing and has given talks about legal writing and strategy to audiences including the ABA Litigation Section and Texas Office of the Attorney General.

Although the firm didn’t seek or receive credit for its work, Rushing McCarl is proud to have contributed its services pro bono to Harbaugh’s cause. Go Blue!