Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel has acknowledged receiving a draft of a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA informing that Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh and several staff members, some of whom are no longer on the staff, are facing serious Level I and Level II rule violations.
These alleged violations stem from impermissible contact with recruits during the NCAA’s COVID recruiting dark period which meant a program could not host recruits. A Level I violation has been levied against Harbaugh in the draft NOA for being dishonest through the NCAA’s investigation, according to a source close to the situation, and the Level II violations apply to coaches involved with the impermissible contact with recruits.
“Yesterday, we received draft allegations from the NCAA regarding our football program,” Manuel said in a statement Friday. “We have cooperated and will continue to cooperate with this investigation. Out of respect for the NCAA’s enforcement process, we will not offer further comments.”
These alleged rule violations occurred in 2021 and, as described by a second source close to the situation, are serious in nature.
The allegations emerge as Harbaugh, 59, weighs his coaching options and may explain why he has not definitely ruled out a return to the NFL. His name has already been linked with the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos.
According to his contract, a five-year extension that was signed last February, Michigan could fire Harbaugh with cause if allegations of Level I or Level II violations are proven true. Michigan can fire Harbaugh if “The NCAA or the Conference determines, or the University reasonably determines the Head Coach has committed a material violation of a material provision of the Governing Rules (including, without limitation, a Level I or Level II violation of NCAA rules .”
The contract also states if the university determines he has committed a violation of the NCAA rules, he “may be subject to disciplinary or corrective action … including, without limitation, termination of this Agreement.”
Harbaugh just completed his eighth season coaching the Wolverines and has enjoyed tremendous success the last two seasons. Michigan has gone 25-3, including back-to-back wins against Ohio State and in the Big Ten championship, but the Wolverines’ season has ended each year in the national championship semifinals, most recently a 51-45 loss to TCU last Saturday.
On Thursday, Harbaugh issued a statement through the Michigan football department reiterating what he said last month to reporters, that he plans to coach the Wolverines next season while also keeping the door open, suggesting he could leave for the NFL.
“I am aware of the rumors and speculation over the past few days,” Harbaugh said in the statement. “College and NFL teams have great interest in all our personnel, from players to coaches to staff, and I truly believe that is a testament to the strength of our University of Michigan football program.
“As I stated in December, while no one knows what the future holds, I expect that I will be enthusiastically coaching Michigan in 2023. I have spoken with President (Santa) Ono and Athletic Director Warde Manuel and appreciate their support of me and our program. Our mission as Wolverines continues, and we are preparing for the 2023 season with great passion and enthusiasm. As our legendary coach Bo Schembechler said, “Those Who Stay Will be Champions.”
With the reworked contract, Harbaugh made more than $10 million this year, including more than $2 million in performance bonuses and retirement contributions.
Now that the university and Manuel have received the draft NOA, Michigan has an opportunity to review the allegations. Then, the earliest the NCAA will deliver an NOA — the final word — to Michigan would be later this month or sometime next month.