Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy shows support for suspended coach Jim Harbaugh with 'Free Harbaugh' shirt

Michigan football players sent a clear message to their school before the first game of the regular season: They want their coach back. A number of Michigan players wore shirts in support of Jim Harbaugh, who was suspended for the first three games of the season.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy made the loudest statement, wearing a shirt that read "Free Harbaugh" during warmups.

McCarthy's shirt appears to be a regular Harbaugh shirsey. Harbaugh's name and No. 4 appear on the front of the shirt. But McCarthy wrote the word "FREE" on a piece of tape and placed it above Harbaugh's name.

Other Michigan players reportedly warmed up while wearing No. 4 Harbaugh shirts.

And if players weren't wearing those specific shirts, they found other ones featuring Harbaugh's name.

The team's Harbaugh tribute carried over to the game. Before calling their first offensive play, Michigan's entire starting offense held up four fingers as a way to acknowledge Harbaugh.

Michigan self-imposed a three-game suspension for Harbaugh in August. The suspension came with Harbaugh in the midst of an NCAA investigation after he allegedly held meetings with two recruits during a COVID-19 dead period. Harbaugh is also accused of texting a recruit outside a contact period. Harbaugh was reportedly dishonest when questioned by the NCAA about those violations. The NCAA's investigation is still ongoing, and Harbaugh could face further punishment once it concludes.

With Harbaugh sidelined, a number of Michigan coaches will get a chance to lead the team. Harbaugh named four different coaches who will serve as the team's head coach while he's suspended. Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter will coach the team against East Carolina on Saturday.

Michigan, which enters the season ranked No. 2, will take on ECU, UNLV and Bowling Green during Harbaugh's absence. He will be eligible to return against Rutgers on Sept. 23.