An NCAA inquiry into potential Jim Harbaugh violations within the Michigan Wolverines football program is ongoing. Let’s establish the most important facts.
Several things happened this week.
On Tuesday, Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines began the first work week of 2023 on the outside looking in at the upcoming College Football Playoff National Championship thanks to an upset loss to the TCU Horned Frogs on Dec. 31.
Later that night, Yahoo was the first to report that the NCAA was investigating the Michigan football program for several possible violations related to team workout and recruiting procedures. The Athletic later confirmed further details, including that the NCAA had issued Michigan a customary Notice of Allegations. Upon receiving an NOA, a 90-day ticking clock begins for a university to deliver an official response.
Based on a preponderance of reporting, the potential NCAA violations making up the ongoing Jim Harbaugh investigation include four Level II (less severe) violations and one Level I (more severe) violation:
- Level II: Permitting too many coaches to participate in a team practice; ESPN reported that a defensive analyst was improperly used in a coaching capacity.
- Level II: Interacting with high school recruits during a designated “dead period;” it is understood that this allegation could result in multiple distinct violations.
- Level II: Improperly viewing live player workout sessions using digital means.
- Level I: Misleading NCAA investigators who asked about the alleged Level II violations.
If you’re quick to note that this Level I scenario is strikingly similar to what ended Jim Tressel’s decorated tenure with UM’s archrival Ohio State in 2011, you’re not wrong. Ultimately, it wasn’t the crime — it was the coverup. The former Scarlet and Grey boss, now 70 years of age, has not coached any level of football since then.
A key difference here? The NFL sharks weren’t swarming for Tressel like they very much are for Harbaugh, who played 14 years in the league as a quarterback and later coached the San Francisco 49ers for four seasons, earning a Super Bowl XLVII appearance as champions of the NFC. As things currently stand, the Denver Broncos have a coaching vacancy after firing Nathaniel Hackett on Dec. 26. With “Black Monday” now just days away, several more seats are set to open.
The extent to which NFL teams will actually care about what the ongoing NCAA Jim Harbaugh investigation uncovers cannot be known at this time, but if he is indeed found to have lied to investigators — there is surely a high bar to pass here in terms of a burden of proof, but not nearly the same as what it is in a court of law — it would mar the head coach’s standing in the annals of Michigan and Big Ten football history, and almost certainly hinder his ability to coach major college football ever again.
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