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Sunday, May 26, 2024

NCAA Made Empty Threats to Jim Harbaugh over Lawyer’s Twitter Posts

  • Harbaugh’s attorney continued posting about the NCAA after receiving a warning note.
  • He also said the NCAA asked for thousands of texts and personal emails on a day’s notice.
Melanie Maxwell – USA TODAY

The NCAA issued an ultimately empty warning to Jim Harbaugh’s attorney in October that threatened to suspend the coach if his legal counsel didn’t stop posting unsavory comments on social media about its ongoing investigations into Michigan football for recruiting violations and sign stealing.

“Under no circumstances will any institution or involved individuals be allowed to make a public statement in their defense until the NCAA has finished tarnishing their reputation,” attorney Thomas Mars posted days before the letter.

Dave Roberts, who chairs the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, penned a letter to Mars in late October, CBS Sports first reported. Roberts wrote that the committee “will consider appropriate penalties, including immediate suspension of your client.” He warned that there would “not be any further admonitions,” but Mars continued posting, and the NCAA never followed through on its threats to Harbaugh.

“… the NCAA finally cracks down on one of the most egregious and unforgivable recruiting practices in college sports: leaving cookies and snacks in a prospect’s hotel room,” Mars jabbed on X in February, months after receiving the letter.

On Tuesday, the NCAA and Michigan came to an agreement over the recruiting violations, but one coach did not participate, leaving that part of the case open. If Harbaugh is that coach—and it has been reported that he misled investigators—he is not required to cooperate with the NCAA now that he coaches in the NFL, per CBS Sports.

“The Chair’s letter of reprimand was totally uncalled for and offered more than a glimpse of how the decision makers in this case felt about Jim Harbaugh,” says Mars in a statement to Front Office Sports.

Outside of the NCAA’s condemnation of his attorney, Harbaugh did spend much of the 2023 season suspended. He missed the first three games of the season for school-imposed sanctions related to the recruiting violations case, and later was suspended another three games by the Big Ten for an assistant’s sign-stealing scheme. Despite the turmoil, his team won Michigan’s first football national championship since 1997.

NCAA’s Puzzling Investigative Tactics

On top of the empty threat, Mars said the NCAA pursued other head-scratching methods during the investigation.

Mars told CBS Sports that the NCAA asked for all of Harbaugh’s texts and personal emails over the past two and a half years, and wouldn’t limit the request to communications only related to Michigan athletics, meaning it wanted more than 6,000 emails and at least as many texts in the next 24 hours. “At which point I said, ‘OK, you’re not getting any of them,’” Mars said.

Mars also said he raised a conflict of interest because Roberts works as a special advisor to the president at future Big Ten competitor Southern Cal, where he also served as interim athletic director and VP of athletics compliance. The attorney said he did not receive a reply.

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