BRONCOS

Could NCAA investigation drive Jim Harbaugh to the NFL — and perhaps the Broncos?

Jan 6, 2023, 12:26 AM | Updated: 12:31 am
Jim Harbaugh...
(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Jim Harbaugh might have something else compelling him to the NFL: the specter of NCAA investigation.

Thursday night, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports reported that Michigan faces an NCAA investigation for potential rules violations during Harbaugh’s stewardship of the program. The potential violations included a charge leveled specifically at Harbaugh.

According to Wetzel, the NCAA will investigate Harbaugh for “failing to cooperate with investigators.” That is a Level I violation, per NCAA bylaws.

According to the NCAA, Level 1 violations are considered to be those that:

  • Seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of college sports;
  • Provide or are intended to provide a substantial recruiting, competitive or other advantage;
  • Are a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit.

Wetzel reported that Harbaugh’s violation was as follows:

Harbaugh misled NCAA investigators when confronted with questions about the Level II allegations. A Level I violation could lead to significant recruiting restrictions or even a suspension for a number of games.

According to The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach, the NCAA’s formal notice of allegations arrived in Ann Arbor on Thursday night.

The news of the NCAA circling came on the heels of the Michigan football Twitter account issuing a quote from Harbaugh that read in part:

As I stated in December, while no one knows that the future holds, I expect that I will be enthusiastically coaching Michigan in 2023.

NCAA investigations can take months or years to conduct. Therefore, the threat of punishment for Harbaugh and the Michigan program is a distant one. It would appear unlikely to affect the Wolverines’ 2023 season, in which they are expected to contend for the College Football Playoff once again.

However, there is a history of NFL coaches beating the posse out of town. In 2010, Pete Carroll left USC for the Seattle Seahawks not long after the NCAA punished his Trojans program. Twenty-eight years earlier, Ron Meyer departed SMU for the New England Patriots following one NCAA punishment and with others to follow, which eventually led to the NCAA issuing its first and only I-A/FBS level “death penalty” punishment to the Mustangs program in 1986.

The accusations against Michigan don’t appear to reach those levels. But they could still be enough to compel Harbaugh — who interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings last January — to look for an NFL landing spot.

To that end, author John U. Bacon — who has written multiple books about Michigan football and knows Harbaugh well — told sports-radio station WYRD-AM/FM in Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C. that Denver would be third on Harbaugh’s list among the currently vacant NFL jobs.

The Broncos have the wealthiest ownership group in the NFL. In theory, they can outbid anyone. But they also have residence in the AFC West and four games a year against teams led by Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.

But they might offer Harbaugh a golden parachute — and a chance to win a Super Bowl he has coveted for three-and-a-half decades, since his playing days.

***

Broncos

Sean Desai...
Andrew Mason

With Brian Flores out of mix, Broncos’ focus turns to Sean Desai

With Brian Flores taking the Vikings’ defensive-coordinator job, current Seahawks assistant Sean Desai appears to be set to join Sean Payton’s staff.
1 day ago
Sean Payton...
Cecil Lammey

Orange and Blue Today – February 6, 2023

In This Episode: Cecil Lammey and Andrew Mason break down the latest news and notes for the Denver Broncos. Follow @CecilLammey
1 day ago
Greg Penner...
Will Petersen

Both Greg Penner and George Paton deny Broncos wanted DeMeco Ryans

Sean Payton joked he was talking with Penner and Paton all along, and Ryans must've been communicating with Broncos part-owner Sir Lewis Hamilton
1 day ago
Sean Payton...
Andrew Mason

Details, toning down social media and hating your rivals: Sean Payton said exactly what Broncos Country needed to hear

Sean Payton vowed to focus on the details -- including getting the plays in on time. "I don’t anticipate having the crowd count down a play clock," he said.
1 day ago
Sean Payton...
Will Petersen

Payton speaks on how he’ll use Wilson’s strengths, brings up a karaoke bar

Nathaniel Hackett was perhaps making Russell Wilson run plays he didn't want to or wasn't prepared for; Sean Payton won't be doing that
1 day ago
Drew Brees and Zach Strief...
Jake Shapiro

Broncos to hire longtime Sean Payton player to coach offensive line

Denver has their man to rebuild the Broncos upfront, Sean Payton is expected to bring in Zach Strief to coach the offensive line
1 day ago
Could NCAA investigation drive Jim Harbaugh to the NFL — and perhaps the Broncos?