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Jim Harbaugh’s suspension by NCAA is absurd at a time when Tennessee’s paying players

This doesn’t pass the sniff test. The NCAA is really good at being bad.

Big Ten Championship - Purdue v Michigan Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Michigan Football’s season starts in a little over a month, and now there’s a report that head coach Jim Harbaugh won’t be around for their first four games.

Per Yahoo! Sports reporter Ross Dellenger, Michigan and the NCAA are “working toward a negotiated resolution that is expected to see Harbaugh suspended four games this season in penalties stemming from alleged false statements he originally made to investigators.”

  • Back in January the NCAA’s draft notice of allegations claimed 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.
  • Also back in January, Yahoo! Sports writer Dan Wetzel reported the NCAA didn’t have detailed evidence that Harbaugh knowingly lied and that “the NCAA either lacks that information or it simply doesn’t exist.”
  • Fast-forward to the present — Harbaugh will be reportedly suspended four games with offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore and tight ends coach Grant Newsome each potentially receiving a one-game suspension.

The NCAA’s punishment seems especially harsh considering Michigan self-reported these violations and Harbaugh’s reported stance back in January, per Dellinger, was that he didn’t recall the events when first speaking with investigators but that he was never purposefully dishonest.

Instead of giving Harbaugh the benefit of the doubt with violations that aren’t all that serious, the NCAA made what feels like a vendetta against Harbaugh, a public tarring and feathering.

Harbaugh’s reported suspension also comes at a time when there have been much more serious matters the college football world has had to digest. Northwestern Football is facing lawsuits for hazing allegations of a sexual nature, yet the NCAA hasn’t had a grandiose statement about the news.

And then there’s Tennessee, who recently was deemed guilty by the NCAA for paying players and paying for recruits' meals and hotel stays.

Per The New York Times, Tennessee had at least 110 impermissible hotel nights and 180 impermissible meals and regular cash payments of over $5,000 given directly to parents of recruits by former Tennessee Coach Jeremy Pruitt and others in the program.

Here’s the kicker — Tennessee avoided a postseason ban because of their “exemplary” response while cooperating with investigators. Tennessee was fined $8 million dollars and some scholarships will be taken away, but no coaches will be suspended. This isn’t whataboutism, this is WTF.

There are other instances where the NCAA has let major offenders off the hook, including former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer was suspended without pay for the first three games of the 2018 season for covering up domestic violence accusations made against former OSU assistant coach Zach Smith. A much more heinous violation morally and ethically, yet it was Ohio State that imposed this slap on the wrist of punishment, not the NCAA.

The NCAA doesn’t call balls and strikes. How they enforce punishments is simply arbitrary and absurd.

Another issue the NCAA hasn’t chosen to actively investigate is players receiving monetary offers from teams to entice them to transfer their way. For example, Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi claimed two schools offered North Carolina quarterback Drake May $5 million in NIL money to transfer. Maye’s head coach Mack Brown said the same. Yet Harbaugh’s the major headline, and for what?

There are big issues facing college football, and what Jim Harbaugh did or didn’t do isn’t one of them. It’s a big nothing burger. Programs are doing shady stuff via NIL, other programs like Tennessee are paying players, and Harbaugh is deemed the liar and cheat by an organization in the NCAA that’s on its last legs. It doesn’t make sense, and it never will.