When news surfaced that the NCAA was investigating the Michigan Football program and head coach Jim Harbaugh it sounded severe.
A potential suspension for Harbaugh, a Level I violation potentially being thrown his way for allegedly lying or misleading investigators.
Everything since hasn’t passed the sniff test.
For starters, Michigan self-reported these violations to the NCAA.
The NCAA’s draft notice of allegations claims Harbaugh met with two recruits during the COVID-19 dead period and texted a recruit outside of an allowable time period. Other allegations include having an analyst perform on-field coaching duties during practice and having coaches watch players work out on Zoom.
Michigan isn’t disputing that Level II violations occurred, which aren't nearly as serious. The main issue is the NCAA's pursuit of Level I penalties against Harbaugh.
Where do things stand now? It sounds like Harbaugh will fight tooth and nail when it comes to the NCAA calling him a liar.
Per Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel, Harbaugh has refused to sign any document or publicly state that he was ever untruthful with the enforcement staff.
Harbaugh “has maintained he didn’t recall the events when first speaking with investigators but that he was never purposefully dishonest.”
Two meetings reportedly occurred this week between Harbaugh and the NCAA, and as Wetzel put it, battle lines have been drawn. Here’s a breakdown of where things stand after the meetings.
- The NCAA and Harbaugh held firm and refused to back down from their positions.
- The NCAA said Harbaugh lied.
- Harbaugh said he merely forgot otherwise insignificant actions. An impasse resulted.
- Harbaugh is not expected to back down and would likely mount a ferocious defense against any allegation he purposely lied.
The NCAA wants Harbaugh to blink and he’s not going to.
The situation is bizarre considering that part of the offence is rumored to be because Harbaugh took two recruits for cheeseburgers at The Brown Jug, a hole-in-the-wall joint that isn’t extravagant and can be defined as blue-collar.
There’s no indication Harbaugh ever denied he met with recruits, and not recalling something is a lot different than being on the record and saying a flat-out falsehood. With the number of recruits Harbaugh speaks with and meets with on a yearly basis, not immediately recalling something like this isn’t the smoking gun the NCAA is making it out to be. It sounds like a big and tasteless nothing burger.
Wetzel says the NCAA doesn’t have detailed evidence that Harbaugh knowingly lied. The NCAA either lacks that information or it simply doesn’t exist.
It sure sounds like the NCAA doesn’t have anything on Harbaugh to lay a Level I violation down on him, yet they want him to dig his own grave with an admission of guilt. Did Harbaugh’s action or lack of recollection create a major competitive advantage for the football program? That’s a big no.
What’s also in the favor of Harbaugh is who’s reportedly representing him in this matter, Tom Mars.
Mars has challenged the NCAA and its power structure on multiple occasions, and it ultimately ends with the NCAA changing course and walking away in defeat with its tail between its legs. In recent years, no one has been a bigger and more justifiable thorn in the side of the NCAA than Mars.
NCAA’s bloodlust for Harbaugh comes at a time when there are plenty of egregious things happening that they aren’t actively investigating. For example:
- Florida quarterback recruit Jaden Rashada requested a release from his national letter of intent after a $13 million name, image, and likeness deal fell through. The deal, arranged with the Gator Collective, could lead to Rashada suing the collective and the athletic department. The NCAA has been reluctant to regulate NIL and has been trying to pass the buck to congress. Rashada’s situation is a symptom of the NCAA’s incompetence.
- Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi claimed two schools offered North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye $5 million in NIL money to transfer. Maye’s coach Mack Brown said the same. Maye is staying at UNC, never entered the transfer portal, and any contact from outside schools would violate NCAA rules and would be considered tampering. Yet the Harbaugh story is the one dominating the headlines? Great job, NCAA. Great work.
We’ll see how long the NCAA stands its ground going after Harbaugh. The ground they’re standing on really seems like quicksand. The NCAA is embarrassing itself, and the sooner they change course the better. The NCAA is a joke right now, a punchline, and perhaps Harbaugh defending himself is the reality check the NCAA needs.