Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh heads up one of the most storied football programs in the country, but he still needs to recruit. Still, the NCAA took exception to his actions in buying cheeseburgers for players at a burger joint in Ann Arbor, which violated recruiting regulations. Things then escalated. The coach’s representatives and NCAA officials negotiated a four-game suspension to start the 2023 season that allowed him to run practices, but then the NCAA Committee on Infractions (COI) killed the deal.
“The Michigan infractions case is related to impermissible on and off-campus recruiting during the COVID-19 dead period and impermissible coaching activities — not a cheeseburger,” Derrick Crawford, the NCAA vice president of hearing operations, said in a statement to ESPN.
The COI apparently was unhappy with the coach’s level of cooperation with its investigation, believing Harbaugh lied to investigators. Lying is a potential Level 1 violation. There are also four level 2 violations against the program involving the number of coaches by having analysts instruct players during practice, having coaches watch players work out via Zoom, and texting a recruit during the dead period. The COI can reject a negotiated resolution and proceed to a hearing but generally seeks to negotiate.
For his part, Harbaugh acknowledges the Level 2 violations but refuses to admit he lied, claiming he didn’t remember the events in dispute when first approached. He says he was never purposely dishonest.
No telling if this will get resolved
The two sides have been at an impasse since the start of the year. Whether the coach lied or forgot, the inflammatory statement by Crawford implies guilt without due process. Moreover, some have also pointed out that coaches and their lawyers cannot comment on the case, yet Crawford went on the record. Finally, it’s a bad look for the rule-bound NCAA to negotiate an agreement and then take it back.
A former NFL head coach, Harbaugh could take a job with a pro team rather than deal with this dispute and its punishment.