Hayes: Jim Harbaugh is laughing at the NCAA while leading Michigan's Playoff bid
This is either the greatest overreaction in the history of overreactions, or Jim Harbaugh is going out guns blazing.
Either way, Michigan just gave everyone the middle finger.
The same middle finger Harbaugh has been giving the NCAA for more than a year. And that, everyone, is where this thing begins and ends.
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This is about spite.
A childish, transparent and overreaching second run at a coach who embarrassed the NCAA the last time they had him square in their infractions sights — and you better believe the NCAA will do everything it can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The entire amateur model is on fire from every possible angle, and the NCAA is standing there with an empty squirt gun. But sign stealing, that’s where the Keystone Cops are drawing the line, baby.
This group of enforcement misfits — honestly, there’s no other way to say it — who have failed/botched/lost in court with nearly every single significant enforcement case, is coming after Harbaugh with an infraction that will be next to impossible to prove.
The idea that the NCAA is truly “investigating” Michigan for sign stealing — or even remotely cares about sign stealing — is utterly laughable.
If you really think the NCAA is going to make any sign stealing/competitive advantage allegation stick to any member of the Michigan staff — or any FBS staff — without video proof of in-person scouting (and sign stealing) of future opponents, you’re the same person who stood on higher moral ground with Michigan State when it was debating whether it would even play those dastardly cheaters from Michigan Saturday night.
Because if anything says we stand for honor and the spirit of the rule, it’s Michigan State.
They did play for the Paul Bunyan Trophy Saturday night at Michigan State — despite the teeth gnashing from the clean as the driven snow in East Lansing — and the college football world (and the NCAA) got Michigan and Harbaugh’s response: 49-0, capped by a TD in the final seconds.
Michigan, which may be the most complete team in college football, scored touchdowns the first 3 times it touched the ball. Michigan State, needless to say, didn’t.
Meanwhile, we have an “investigation” that will go nowhere without definitive video proof of future scouting/sign stealing to make anything stick. Which, of course, is completely opposite from the last time the NCAA took a run at Harbaugh.
That was 2020, when Michigan assistant coaches had illegal contact with players prior to return to play in the 2020 COVID season — and Harbaugh, the NCAA claims, lied to cover up the infractions.
The NCAA — which doesn’t discuss any investigation or the results of the investigation until it is complete — reportedly wanted to suspend Harbaugh for a significant percentage of games this season for lying to investigators. Harbaugh offered up 4 games, and the NCAA enforcement staff declined.
He then showed up at Big Ten Media Days in July and denied he did anything wrong, and said he couldn’t speak further on it.
Not long after that, Michigan announced Harbaugh would be suspended for the first 3 games of the season as part of self sanctions to the alleged violations. Michigan stood as Solomon, cutting the baby in half and suspending Harbaugh for 1 game less than his offer to the NCAA — while showing the NCAA it was serious about the allegations.
This, of course, made the enforcement staff want to puke.
What did Michigan think was going to happen? Did it really expect the NCAA enforcement staff, which spent months on an investigation to prove infractions that one NCAA source told Saturday Tradition were “undeniable,” to take their medicine and go away?
So now we fast forward to the NCAA’s 2nd swing at Harbaugh. I would be completely shocked if the NCAA has — or will somehow unearth — unequivocal video evidence that a Michigan staffer was scouting future opponents in a stadium, and stealing signs. It’s virtually impossible to prove without an admission of guilt from the staffer in question.
The NCAA knows this, but that doesn’t mean the noise of an “investigation” won’t be a distraction for a program zeroing in on a 3rd straight Playoff. For his part, Harbaugh — and I know this is going to shock you — denies any knowledge of his staff stealing signs.
He already used the “No, I didn’t” to the “Yes, you did” from the NCAA. Who knows if it will work again? What we do know is this won’t be a distraction to Michigan.
Maybe Harbaugh knows he’s on a short leash, and this season is it. Win the national title, and let it burn behind you — sort of like Pete Carroll at USC in the 2000s — as you ride off to return to the NFL.
Midway through the 3rd quarter of Saturday night’s game, after the Wolverines went up 42-0 on quarterback JJ McCarthy’s record 4th touchdown pass, the offense gathered on the sidelines and took celebration photos for the school’s social media production crew.
With 20 minutes remaining to play in a rivalry game.
They danced and pranced all night in East Lansing, intimidating the Spartans and flouting their largess at the expense of those hard-working men and women in the NCAA infractions office.
Penalties? We don’t need no stinkin’ penalties.
The only thing missing was the middle finger.