April 24, 2024

What Jim Harbaugh leaving Michigan means for NCAA investigations as Sherrone Moore takes over as coach

Michigan mentioned Sherrone Moore to succeed Jim Harbaugh, which answers the biggest question about the future of Wolverine football. Moore’s promotion as offensive coordinator comes after he went 4-0 as acting head coach in the 2023 regular season, first as one of a rotating cast of interim coaches and then getting the nod for the final three games as Harbaugh became a Big Ten duel. imposed suspension. He was instrumental in establishing Michigan’s championship identity as the offensive line coach, and now Moore takes over at a point where the Wolverines’ stock is as high as it has been at any point in the 21st century , after his first national victory. title win since 1997.

Moore also takes the helm as the program remains in the midst of two NCAA investigations. According to Dennis Dodd of CBS SportsThese ongoing investigations are a key reason why Harbaugh’s contract negotiations with Michigan include immunity from termination in the event he faces major NCAA violations.

However, Harbaugh is gone now. Moore has already served a one-game suspension as part of Michigan’s self-imposed penalties for the initial investigation, but there could be more penalties from that case that he now faces as head coach. There’s also a possibility that the NCAA’s second case, the sign-stealing scandal, will reach Moore’s doorstep as the Enforcement Division tries to determine how many Michigan coaches were aware of Connor Stalion’s personal ban. scouting schedule.

Either way, Moore, now as head coach, will have to guide Michigan through whatever sanctions or punishments the NCAA receives as a result of these two ongoing investigations. So what can we expect, and when will we see a resolution for the Wolverines?

Two NCAA cases on different timelines

Michigan received a formal notice of charges for the first case on December 20, 2023. The program was charged with four Level II violations for illegal recruiting and coaching during the COVID-19 dead period, and Harbaugh faces a Level I violation for misleading investigators . The school itself imposed a three-game suspension on Harbaugh at the start of the season, as well as a one-game suspension for Moore to try to mitigate the impact of potential penalties, but the NCAA Committee on Infractions rejected a negotiated resolution proposal. . That means the case will go through the NCAA’s legal process.

Then there is a second – and much more controversial – investigation related to banned off-campus scouting and sign stealing. The NCAA has not yet released official notice of the allegations, although reports of the scandal suggest more violations may occur.

One of these potential violations is a Level I violation for Harbaugh under the coach responsibility provision, which was updated in January 2023. The updated interpretation holds a head coach responsible for all actions of his/her staff that result in Level I violations. That updated provision on coach responsibility reportedly played a major role why Harbaugh’s agent requested that the language of his contract with Michigan be updated. So if Connor Stalions – the staff member who allegedly ran the banned scouting operation – or another assistant coach is charged with a Level I violation, Harbaugh could also be held liable.

Harbaugh playing the final three games of the 2023 regular season – wins against Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State – was the result of a penalty from the Big Ten for violating their sportsmanship policy. Michigan could argue that the suspension serves as a mitigating factor in this case, but officially it is the three-game suspension at the beginning of the season, not the end, that is tied to NCAA issues.

Possible punishments for Harbaugh

Individually, any of these investigations could have resulted in another suspension for Harbaugh in the 2024 season under the coach’s responsibility provision. But stacked together, the NCAA could have charged Harbaugh as a repeat offender, which is an additional Level I violation. Multiple Level I violations for a head coach have resulted in the NCAA issuing a show-cause penalty in the past.

The show-cause requirement significantly limits an individual’s ability to coach at an NCAA institution for a certain period of time, requiring that school to “show cause” for hiring an individual with a history of violations by allowing him agreeing to NCAA penalties. When the NCAA issued repercussions in the case of Tennessee’s recruiting violations, former coach Jeremy Pruitt was given a six-year show-cause that triggered a mandatory one-year suspension if he was hired before the show-cause expired. A show-cause does not prevent a coach from ultimately returning to an NCAA school; Houston men’s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson (five years), Auburn men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl (three years) and UCLA football coach Chip Kelly (18 months) all spent time away from college coaching during a show-cause period.

Kelly’s case is most similar to what Harbaugh faces. The penalties the NCAA could reasonably impose would likely last their entire time in the NFL, similar to how Kelly’s show case played out when he coached the Philadelphia Eagles and San Fransisco 49ers.

If Harbaugh was still at Michigan when he received a show-cause penalty or suspension that lasted an entire season, the school would have been forced to decide whether it was comfortable enduring an extended period with an interim coach first. . Harbaugh’s stay at Michigan might not have created additional exposure so much as an uncomfortable environment in which the university’s leadership had to stand behind a national championship-winning coach who could not coach due to NCAA violations.

It appears that Harbaugh’s departure to the NFL saved Michigan from having to make some of those tough choices. But it didn’t save the Wolverines from penalties in both NCAA cases.

What Michigan can expect

Michigan is well aware of the details surrounding the Level II recruiting and coaching violations from the initial investigation and will not be blindsided by the results of the legal process. With the self-imposed penalties already in effect, this case poses no real challenge to the legacy of the Wolverines’ recent success.

But there are many questions that need to be answered about the banned investigation into personal scouting and sign stealing. Will the NCAA be able to connect the alleged scheme to other members of the Michigan staff? Will any of these personnel still be employed by the Wolverines if the NCAA issues a Notice of Allegations?

We already saw a wave of shake-up in the staff with Stalion’s resignation and the firing of linebackers coach Chris Partridge two weeks later. While the school did not comment on the move or release details, the timing of Partridge’s dismissal fell in line with Michigan withdrawing from its legal challenge to Harbaugh’s three-game suspension at the end of the season. Partridge strongly denied reports of foul play on his part, but officially he can be considered another victim of the scandal.

According to ESPN, the Big Ten’s decision to punish Harbaugh under its sportsmanship policy stemmed in part from “information gathered in NCAA interviews.” Michigan’s change in tone from defiance to acceptance was not an admission of guilt, but implied that the NCAA’s case had enough evidence to be taken seriously.

Sending a staff member to home games of prospective opponents for the purpose of scouting and sign stealing is against NCAA rules. It’s wise to expect violations and penalties to come out of the case, but Michigan can take some solace in two things: First, many potentially involved in the scheme will be elsewhere. Second, the NCAA’s approach to the impact of penalties on current players has softened in recent years.

Post-season bans are becoming less common, eliminating the embarrassing situation in which current athletes – sometimes in the middle of a season – pay the price for a scandal that occurred before their arrival at the school. The coaching staff may have to deal with a few fewer scholarships or limited recruiting and scouting days, but the punishment likely won’t be a heavy burden on the current or future Wolverines.

The biggest X-factor here is vacated wins. It’s impossible for us to know the extent of the evidence until the notice of charges is released, but Michigan will likely do whatever it can to keep their championship run from being tarnished in the record books.

Michigan should (and likely will) demonstrate that the lead it gained from the banned scouting was not significant enough to call into question the results, pointing to late-season success after the 2023 scandal against the toughest teams on his schedule. That seems like a fair argument, but what matters is whether it’s enough for the NCAA, which may not be able to punish Harbaugh in the NFL but can still deal a crushing blow to the Wolverines in the record books.

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