A potential consensus decision in an NCAA infringement case involving Michigan’s football program fell through this week after the NCAA required head coach Jim Harbaugh to say he lied to investigators, multiple sources told Sportzshala Sports.
According to sources, Harbaugh admitted that his program committed four Level II violations, as originally claimed by the NCAA. He also apologized to the university for what happened. However, he refused to sign any document or state publicly that he had ever lied to law enforcement.
The 59-year-old man claimed he had no memory of the events when he first spoke to investigators, but never deliberately lied.
Earlier this month, the NCAA submitted a draft notice of charges citing four Tier II violations. According to sources, these include meeting two recruits during the COVID-19 dead period, texting a recruit outside of the allowed time frame, analysts on-field coaching during practice, and having coaches watching players practice via Zoom, according to the sources. .
The NCAA defines Level II violations as resulting in “a less significant or extensive recruiting, competitive, or other advantage.” They are further referred to as “systemic violations that do not amount to a lack of institutional control”.
Punishments are usually minor.
However, the NCAA alleges that during the investigation, Harbaugh lied to law enforcement about these violations, itself a Level I violation. That’s what turned the case into a more serious case.
Under NCAA bylaws, a Tier I violation can result in a six-game suspension and significant recruitment restrictions. In the past, coaches have been fined for exemplary reasons, making their job difficult.
In two meetings this week, the NCAA and Harbaugh held firm and refused to back down from their positions. The NCAA said the coach lied. The coach said that he simply forgot about minor actions. It turned out to be a dead end.
All this happened in an eventful time of the football program. The Wolverines lost to TCU on New Year’s Eve in the semifinals of the college football playoffs. He finished a 13–1 season that saw Michigan make the playoffs, win the Big Ten, and defeat Ohio State for consecutive years.
A few days later, Harbaugh’s name resurfaced on various NFL head coaching jobs, including with the Denver Broncos, to whom he spoke. The NCAA infraction case then came to light, and Harbaugh remained humble about returning to his alma mater for a ninth season.
Earlier this week, Harbaugh and the university said he would return for the 2023 season, but the looming NCAA case remained. In addition, joint offensive coordinator Matt Weiss was suspended Tuesday as police investigate an allegation that someone at Schembechler Hall accessed the university’s email accounts without permission.
As far as the NCAA case is concerned, for now the front line is drawn.
Harbaugh is not expected to back down and is likely to defend himself furiously against any accusations he deliberately lied to. Harbaugh is known for his stubbornness both as a player and head coach in the NCAA and NFL.
In addition, it is generally difficult to prove that someone knowingly lied without detailed contemporary evidence, which sources say the NCAA either lacks or simply doesn’t exist.
The NCAA may abandon its attempt to obtain this recognition and resolve the case otherwise, however, it has given no indication that it will do so. An NCAA penalty, even a short suspension, for Level II violations without admitting lying might be acceptable to Harbaugh. According to sources, there will be nothing related to the recognition of dishonesty.
Or, the NCAA may proceed with a full review of the case and issue a Notice of Charge. A drawn-out infringement case will take at least a year, possibly more, meaning Harbaugh could coach the entire 2023 season, where the Wolverines are once again national title contenders.
Michigan also had to make a decision about whether or not it should go to the wall supporting its coach against the NCAA. In the past, collaboration has often been the path of least resistance for schools, but over the past decade, the NCAA has lost significant credibility and power.
Public opinion has turned its back on amateurism in general—and therefore the NCAA rules that flow from it—as well as a process of infringement that has failed to punish high-profile cases with far more serious recruiting charges. Initial public support was largely on Harbaugh’s side, and whether or not this should be a consideration for law enforcement officials, the reality is that it’s not 2003 or even 2018 anymore.
So, is the NCAA still going all-in trying to prove Jim Harbaugh lied? Does Michigan back their coach and tell law enforcement to grind the sand and prove it?
Or can it still be decided before an epic battle unfolds between one of the most powerful, popular, and wealthy college athletics institutes, one of football’s most famous coaches, and a weakened governing body that, even with diminished prominence, could do everything. still have power?