Michigan, Jim Harbaugh under NCAA investigation for alleged recruiting, practice violations

Michigan and coach Jim Harbaugh are under investigation for multiple rules violations by the NCAA, which sent the Wolverines a draft of a Notice of Allegations on Thursday. The allegations include one Level I violation against Harbaugh himself as well as multiple Level II violations, according to multiple reports. 

“Yesterday, we received draft allegations from the NCAA regarding our football program. We have cooperated and will continue to cooperate with this investigation. Out of respect to the NCAA’s enforcement process, we will not offer further comments,” athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement. 

The Level II violations reportedly include accusations that Michigan held practices with too many coaches on the field, contacted two prospects during the extended COVID-19 dead period, and observed practices via an unauthorized video feed. The Level I violation — which is the most serious accusation — is that Harbaugh misled the NCAA when it approached him with the allegations. 

A Level I violation could result in suspension and, in some cases, grounds for dismissal based on the language of the coach’s contract. In this case, the school could move to terminate Harbaugh’s contract, according to Yahoo Sports. 

Providing false and misleading information is a violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1, which deals with unethical conduct. Violations of this bylaw include obstructing an investigation or encouraging another person to lie. It is considered a “significant” violation, but is not always a Level I infraction. 

It’s rare that a sitting Power Five coach would be charged with misleading the NCAA, but there is precedent. When UConn received its notice of allegations in 2018, the NCAA said Huskies’ basketball coach Kevin Ollie “provided false or misleading information” regarding contact with the recruit. Ollie was eventually given a three-year show-cause penalty and fired by the school. 

The unethical conduct violation has its foundational base in the old phrase, “The cover up is worse than the crime.” But there is no language in the NCAA manual about it being an automatic Level I violation, so there is some gray area there. 

That’s the issue with a potential notice of allegations for Michigan: it may not be finalized at his point. Its contents are not certain until the document becomes public, and as with all cases, it’s what violations are alleged and what can be proven in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

On Jan 1, some of the language in 10.1 was folded into Bylaw 19.1.1, which deals with “severe breach of conduct” and “one or more violations that seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model.”

While it is believed Harbaugh’s alleged infractions occurred before Jan. 1, if he continued the violations after New Year’s Day, sources tell CBS Sports it would be more advantageous for the violation to be called “failure to cooperate in an NCAA enforcement … investigation.”

The news comes at a very interesting time for Harbaugh and Michigan. Harbaugh’s name has been connected to job openings with the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. Other openings in the pros could come up next week after the NFL wraps up its regular season.

The rumors were so strong that Harbaugh had to release a statement on Thursday addressing his current status with the program.

“I am aware of the rumors and speculation over the past few days,” said Harbaugh. “College and NFL teams have had great interest in all our personnel, from players to coaches to staff, and I truly believe that is a testament to the strength of our University of Michigan football program. As I stated in December, while no one knows that the future holds, I expect that I will enthusiastically coaching Michigan in 2023. I have spoken with president Santa Ono and athletic director Warde Manuel and appreciate their support of me and our program. Our mission as Wolverines continues, and we are preparing for the 2023 season with great passion and enthusiasm. As our legendary coach Bo Schembechler said … those who stay will be champions.”

That statement is even more ominous with the news that Harbaugh is under investigation by the NCAA. It not only leaves plenty of wiggle room for Harbaugh to take another job, but also suggests that his current status as the head coach of Michigan is in jeopardy for other reasons. One of those reasons could be the reported investigation. 

Michigan will have 90 days from receiving the Notice of Allegations to respond to the NCAA .

Harabugh is 74-25 with Michigan, earned two straight College Football Playoff appearances and won back-to-back Big Ten titles. He was 44-19-1 in four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (2011-14).

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