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The NCAA has a shady pattern of behavior against Michigan and Jim Harbaugh

The NCAA’s campaign against Michigan Football continues.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Conference Media Days Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan football team has dealt with noise all year long — throughout the offseason and then throughout the regular season.

  • Back in January of 2023, Michigan received a draft of an NCAA Notice of Allegations — Michigan acknowledged some Level II allegations occurred such as texting during the COVID-19 recruiting dead period. They acknowledged analysts performed on-field coaching and coaches watched workouts via Zoom.
  • In July, just one day before Big Ten Media Day, news leaked that Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and the NCAA were working towards a resolution that was expected to see him suspended four games. However, there wound up being no resolution and Michigan self-suspended Harbaugh for the first three games of the season. Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said it was a “way of addressing mistakes” Michigan agreed to “in an attempt to further that process.”
  • Now, on Dec. 20, the beginning of the early signing period for the 2024 recruiting class, it’s been reported the NCAA has finally handed Michigan a Notice of Allegations and is charging Jim Harbaugh with a Level I violation.

It’s important to note that Harbaugh’s being charged with a Level I violation because the NCAA believes Harbaugh allegedly lied or misled investigators. However, Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel reported in January that Harbaugh “has maintained he didn’t recall the events when first speaking with investigators but that he was never purposefully dishonest.”

The NCAA and its timing feels incredibly shady and suspicious. They leak news the day before Big Ten Media Day, they leak news yet again at the beginning of the early signing period and less than two weeks before Michigan plays in the Rose Bowl against Alabama. It’s easy to connect the dots and see the plausibility and high likelihood that the NCAA's intentions are to inflict damage on the program in roundabout ways.

Would there have been a fundamental difference in how the process plays out if the NCAA had waited to present the Notice of Allegations until after the season? No. Michigan will have 90 days to respond, and from there the NCAA has 60 days to respond to Michigan. In short, there won’t be a resolution for months. Instead, the NCAA made itself the story on a day when the lifelong dreams of young men came true by signing their letter of intent to play football for the University of Michigan. The NCAA acts as if it cares about the student-athletes, but they’ve always cared about themselves more — both monetarily and emotionally.

The year is now 2023 and it’ll soon be 2024, and we’re talking about violations that occurred back in 2020. Let that sink in for a minute. What makes things all the more ridiculous is the NCAA has glaringly broken its own rules in regard to this investigation.

Derrick Crawford, NCAA Vice President of Hearing Operations, released a statement about the investigation in August, breaking an NCAA bylaw in the process.

  • Crawford divulged what the infractions are about: “Related to impermissible on and off-campus recruiting during the COVID-19 dead period and impermissible coaching activities.”
  • Crawford also said what the case isn’t about: “Not a cheeseburger.”

NCAA BYLAW 19.3.1: Public Disclosure

THE COMMITTEE ON INFRACTIONS (COI) AND THE INFRACTIONS APPEALS COMMITTEE SHALL NOT MAKE PUBLIC DISCLOSURES ABOUT A PENDING CASE UNTIL THE CASE HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED IN ACCORDANCE WITH PRESCRIBED PROCEDURES. However, if information concerning a case is made public, the parties [NOT THE COI] may confirm, correct or deny the information made public.”

The NCAA has put its spin on the allegations since last January while Jim Harbaugh and Michigan are forbidden from talking about an ongoing investigation. This allows the NCAA to shape the narrative and create the perception. That doesn’t sound fair or reasonable, yet here we are.

If the NCAA was wise, instead of the crumbling and decaying organization that it is, they'd keep quiet for a bit and gear up for what should be a great College Football Playoff — Michigan vs. Alabama in the Rose Bowl, Washington vs. Texas in the Sugar Bowl. We should be talking about football, not a minuscule nothing-burger from 2020.