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Weekday mornings on Michigan Radio, Doug Tribou hosts NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to news radio program in the country.

Reports: NCAA likely to suspend Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh takes the field with his team prior to the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football semifinal playoff game against TCU, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Rick Scuteri/AP
FR157181 AP
Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh is heading into his ninth season leading the Wolverines. According to multiple reports, an NCAA investigation will result in a four-game suspension for Harbaugh this fall as part of a negotiated settlement.

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh is facing a four-game suspension for breaking NCAA rules over improper contact with recruits, a person with knowledge of a proposed settlement between the school and NCAA enforcement told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Michigan recently submitted a negotiated resolution to the NCAA in a case that has been in the works for about two years. The NCAA's committee on infractions must approve the resolution, a process that typically takes about 30 days. The details were confirmed by a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement is not finalized. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

“We are continuing to work cooperatively with the NCAA staff on an enforcement matter,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement. “At this time, we cannot comment further on any aspect of the matter.”

The Wolverines are coming off two straight Big Ten championships and two College Football Playoff appearances, and are expected to enter the season as one of the highest ranked teams in the country.

The person with knowledge of the situation said Michigan offensive coordinator and line coach Sherrone Moore and tight ends coach Grant Newsome are also facing one-game suspensions. The proposed suspensions for Harbaugh and his assistants would be only for game day, the person said.

Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News also independently confirmed the likely suspension in an article published Tuesday. She joined Michigan Radio Morning Edition host Doug Tribou to discuss the NCAA investigation and how the suspension could play out.

"It's sort of a standoff and this is why you have a negotiated resolution."
Detroit News sportswriter Angelique Chengelis on the dispute between the NCAA and Michigan's Jim Harbaugh over whether Harbaugh lied to investigators

Doug Tribou: These allegations by the NCAA have been public since January. For people who haven't been following the story, could you give us a summary of the alleged level two violations? Those are typically more minor violations that triggered the investigation in the first place.

Angelique Chengelis: It was impermissible contact with recruits during a COVID "dead period." And that was different than typical, obviously. It was 2021, the NCAA kept extending and extending the dead period because of the COVID pandemic. And Michigan allegedly had impermissible contact with recruits. And among those charges is that that Jim Harbaugh bought hamburgers for a recruit at the Brown Jug [restaurant in Ann Arbor] during this period. And then that's what this all stems from.

DT: The bigger issue for the Wolverines is what the NCAA calls a Level 1 violation. And the NCAA is accusing Harbaugh of lying to its investigators. What have your sources told you about the dispute there?

AC: His camp is saying he simply didn't remember. It was not, "He was not trying to mislead investigators. He did not lie to investigators." This was simply he didn't recall when they asked him specific things about these impermissible visits. And, I think that the the negotiated resolution [between Harbaugh, U of M, and the NCAA] will have more details in there ... when that comes out. It's sort of a standoff and this is why you have a negotiated resolution.

And with it will come a four-game suspension [for Harbaugh] and a one-game suspension for Sherrone Moore, Michigan full offensive coordinator. He was not the full offensive coordinator at the time of the infraction. And [tight ends coach] Grant Newsome is also potentially facing a one-game suspension. But he was a graduate assistant at the time, and I think that there's still probably some efforts from the Michigan side to somehow work with the NCAA on that and not allow Grant to be suspended for a game.

DT: As we mentioned, Harbaugh is facing a four-game suspension. When would you expect that to be served if that comes to pass? And who would fill in as head coach?

"[O]ptics-wise, would it look good for Michigan to say, 'Okay, Jim Harbaugh is going to serve a four-game suspension, but we're going to give him a huge boost, more lucrative contract?'"
Detroit News sportswriter Angelique Chengelis on the possible effects of the investigation on Harbaugh's contract negotiations

AC: I believe it would be the first four games, which, if you're a coach facing suspension, those are probably the best options. I mean, it wouldn't be late in the season against Penn State and Ohio State. Michigan has what I think everybody would generally agree is a cupcake schedule in four games at home [in September]. East Carolina, UNLV, Bowling Green, and then the Big Ten opener against Rutgers.

Harbaugh's suspension will not be during the week. He'll be able to coach practice. He'll be there. It's essentially a 24-hour suspension. So, no contact on Saturday with the team. But you do have to find a head coach. And with Sherrone Moore's one-game suspension, not sure what that game would be.

Maybe the way Jim Harbaugh does things — remember last year with the quarterback competition, he gave Cade McNamara the first game, he gave JJ McCarthy the second game — maybe you use this as an opportunity to give these coaches a chance to basically audition.

DT: In the story you published Tuesday, you note that contract negotiations between U of M and Harbaugh for a long-term deal have been held up because of this NCAA investigation. What could all this mean for Harbaugh's future in Ann Arbor?

AC: That's a great question. I know that Michigan fans are saying, "Well, this is a nothing burger. This is a nothing burger." Well, I mean, it isn't. And he will have to serve a four-game suspension. Now, optics-wise, would it look good for Michigan to say, "Okay, Jim Harbaugh is going to serve a four-game suspension, but we're going to give him a huge boost, more lucrative contract?"

I think that would be really tough to do. The few times I've talked to Ward Manuel about this, you know, his response is, well, he has a contract. And obviously he does, he got a renegotiated contract after the 2021 season. I do think it would make it very difficult for Michigan to give him an extension and a bigger contract in light of the headlines [Tuesday, Wednesday] and the four-game suspension.

DT: And Jim Harbaugh is scheduled to speak [Thursday] at the Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis. We'll see what he has to say then. Angelique, thanks a lot.

AC: My pleasure.

Further reading:

"Michigan's Harbaugh could be facing 4-game suspension in NCAA investigation" by Angelique Chengelis for The Detroit News.

Editor's notes: The University of Michigan holds Michigan Radio's broadcast license.

Some quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the full interview near the top of this page.

Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Public staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Katheryne Friske is the weekend morning host and producer for All Things Considered.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
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