Sources: Michigan under NCAA investigation; Jim Harbaugh expects to stay

January 5, 2023, 8:59 PM

As  Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh reiterated his intention Thursday to remain with the Wolverines in 2023, the NCAA is investigating the program for alleged violations during the COVID-19 recruiting dead period, sources told ESPN.

The violations include alleged impermissible contact with recruits during the NCAA-mandated dead periods, as well as the use of a defensive analyst for on-field coaching activities, a rules violation. Sources told ESPN that Harbaugh's cooperation with NCAA enforcement staff during the investigation is also being examined. Harbaugh could face penalties that include a multigame suspension, sources said.

On Friday, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel issued a statement saying, "Yesterday [Thursday], we received draft allegations from the NCAA regarding our football program. We have cooperated and will continue to cooperate with this investigation. Out of respect to the NCAA's enforcement process, we will not offer further comments."

According to a source, the NCAA's draft of notice of allegations includes a Level I violation for Harbaugh not complying with or misleading NCAA investigators. Level I violations are the most serious and can lead to harsher penalties. The draft also includes four Level II violations, centered around the impermissible recruiting contact during the COVID period, according to a source. These violations are less serious and are the ones Harbaugh was asked about by NCAA enforcement staff.

NCAA bylaws require head coaches to monitor their staff and maintain an atmosphere of compliance within their program. Coaches who fail to do so are subject to penalties.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, when reached Thursday by ESPN, declined to comment. The Athletic and journalist John Bacon first reported that Michigan is under investigation by the NCAA.

Harbaugh, in response to reports about his potential return to the NFL, released a statement Thursday afternoon suggesting he will remain for a ninth season as Michigan's coach. ESPN's David Newton reported on Tuesday that  Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper had a conversation with Harbaugh about the open head-coaching position the team will have at the end of the season. Newton reported that the conversation was not characterized as an interview.

Harbaugh's statement Thursday echoed his comments last month when asked about rumors of him leaving Michigan for the NFL.

"As I stated in December, while no one knows what the future holds, I expect that I will be enthusiastically coaching Michigan in 2023," Harbaugh said in the statement. "I have spoken with [university] president Santa Ono and athletic director Warde Manuel and appreciate their support of me and our program."

He closed by quoting his former coach at Michigan, Bo Schembechler, by saying those who stay will be champions.

Harbaugh, 59, interviewed for the  Minnesota Vikings head-coaching vacancy in February but returned to Michigan. He told the Detroit Free Press that he informed Manuel that his NFL pursuit was a "one-time thing" and would "not be a reoccurring theme every year." 

Harbaugh has led Michigan to consecutive Big Ten championships and College Football Playoff appearances. Michigan has beaten rival  Ohio State in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1999 and 2000.

Harbaugh is 74-25 at Michigan, which lost to TCU on Saturday in the CFP semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl. Prior to Michigan, Harbaugh coached the  San Francisco 49ers from 2011 to 2014, going 44-19 with a Super Bowl XLVII appearance and three consecutive NFC championship game appearances.

ESPN's Tom VanHaaren contributed to this report.