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Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh to serve 3-game suspension to open season for NCAA recruiting violations

NCAA Football: Michigan Spring Game

Apr 1, 2023; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh on the sideline during the Spring Game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will serve a three-game suspension to start this season as part of self-imposed penalties for NCAA recruiting infractions.

The suspension announced Monday will take Harbaugh off the sideline for the second-ranked Wolverines’ home games against East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Green. He will be permitted to coach the team during the week, as per NCAA rules.

“While the ongoing NCAA matter continues through the NCAA process, today’s announcement is our way of addressing mistakes that our department has agreed to in an attempt to further that process,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said. “We will continue to support coach Harbaugh, his staff, and our outstanding student-athletes. Per the NCAA’s guidelines, we cannot comment further until the matter is resolved.”

“I will continue to do what I always do and what I always tell our players and my kids at home, `Don’t get bitter, get better,’” Harbaugh said in a statement.

The Wolverines are coming off its second straight Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff appearance under Harbaugh, who is 74-25 in eight seasons at his alma mater.

Michigan had proposed a four-game suspension as part of a negotiated resolution to the case with NCAA enforcement staff, but the association’s committee on infractions reportedly declined to accept that proposal. Without confirming the status of the negotiated resolution, which was submitted by Michigan to the NCAA last month, the NCAA put out a terse statement in response to reports that the settlement was in danger of not being accepted.

“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, NCAA vice president of hearing operations, said in a statement. “It is not uncommon for the COI to seek clarification on key facts prior to accepting. The COI may also reject an NR if it determines that the agreement is not in the best interests of the Association or the penalties are not reasonable.”

The cheeseburger mention is in reference to speculation by Michigan fans that gained traction online that the alleged infractions were related to Michigan coaches paying for a recruit’s lunch during a dead-period visit.

Michigan self-imposing a penalty does not end the case. It is unclear whether Michigan has even received an official notice of allegations from the NCAA. Without a negotiated resolution, the case would need to go before the committee on infractions before a ruling is handed down.

That whole process could take months to complete and would likely stretch into 2024. Schools usually self-impose penalties as a way to get out in front of the NCAA, show cooperation, and mitigate some of the damages of an eventual punishment.

The investigation involved impermissible texts and calls — including some by Harbaugh — to high school prospects during part of a pandemic-related dead period for contact with potential recruits. The NCAA also was looking at whether a member of Michigan’s off-field football staff violated rules by doing on-the-field coaching during practice.

The negotiated resolution Michigan submitted to the NCAA also included one-game suspensions for offensive coordinator and line coach Sherrone Moore and tight ends coach Grant Newsome. The status of those penalties is also unclear.

Harbaugh previously told NCAA investigators in multiple meetings that he would not agree to an unethical conduct charge for not being forthright, according to two people familiar with the situation. The people spoke earlier this year to the AP on condition of anonymity because details of the investigation have not been shared.

Harbaugh has flirted with the NFL after each of Michigan’s last two postseason runs only to recommit to the school where he played quarterback in the early 1990s.