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Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Reportedly Facing NCAA Probe over Alleged Infractions

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 5, 2023

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 05:  Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh prior to the college football game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on November 5, 2022 at SHI Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NCAA has been investigating Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan football program, according to The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach.

Per Auerbach and Austin Meek, the NCAA may be looking into one of Michigan's analysts coaching players as well as text messages in violation of the rules. The program self-reported the allegation of improper coaching.

Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel added that Harbaugh is facing a potential violation "directly for failing to cooperate with investigators," which would be a Level I violation.

According to Wetzel, a "Level I violation could lead to significant recruiting restrictions or even a suspension for a number of games."

This comes as Harbaugh's future remains a major storyline.

During the last NFL coaching cycle, he interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings on national signing day. After he didn't get the job, he said he didn't expect to entertain any more overtures from the NFL.

However, Harbaugh is once again a subject of speculation.

ESPN's David Newton reported Tuesday the 59-year-old spoke with Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper about their coaching vacancy, a conversation that reportedly didn't rise to the level of a formal interview.

On Thursday, Harbaugh issued a statement saying he was "aware of the rumors and speculation over the past few days." He added he expects to be "enthusiastically coaching Michigan in 2023."

Michigan Football @UMichFootball

A Michigan Man through and through.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoBlue?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoBlue</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZLZiCSw8AG">pic.twitter.com/ZLZiCSw8AG</a>

Saying he "expects" to return to the Wolverines leaves him with just enough room to maintain a level of plausible deniability in the event he does bolt to the NFL. He didn't definitively state he'll maintain his role.

In general, you can understand why a successful college coach might prefer the NFL.

Leading an elite Power Five program is a year-round job between the season itself, spring and summer practices, and hitting the recruiting trail. The advent of the NIL era and the transfer portal effectively require coaches to recruit their best players all over again as well, lest their stars leave for greener pastures.

With the specter of an NCAA investigation looming, Harbaugh could feel the timing is even better to transition back to the pro coaching ranks.