The NFL won’t be an easy way out for Jim Harbaugh if he decides to return to the pros.
With the Michigan coach under fire after Wolverines employee Connor Stalions was suspended for an alleged illegal sign-stealing incident, it remains to be seen whether Harbaugh, who denied knowing about the alleged plot, will face a suspension.
If he does and wants to return to the NFL, the league would likely let Harbaugh serve a suspension. according to NFL.com.
Harbaugh, who has been Michigan’s head coach since 2015, served a school-imposed three-game suspension earlier this year for alleged recruiting violations during a COVID-19 restricted period and for failing to cooperate with investigators.
When former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor faced a five-game suspension for trading memorabilia for cash and tattoos, the NFL forced Pryor to serve the suspension after being drafted in the 2011 Supplemental Draft by the Raiders had been selected.
And when former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was suspended five games over the scandal and resigned to become a consultant for the Colts, Indianapolis kept Tressel out until Week 7.
Harbaugh, 59, interviewed for head coaching positions with the Vikings and Broncos over the past two offseasons.
As head coach of the 49ers, he led the team to three consecutive NFC Championship games and reached the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, losing to his brother John Harbaugh and the Ravens.
Harbaugh was asked in September about his interest in the NFL and he issued a response through Michigan’s media department saying, “My wife, my father or my brother, the people I trust the most, would be the only ones.” People I would talk to about my future, and we haven’t had that conversation.”
Harbaugh and his program reportedly personally scouted future opponents during the season, according to a report from Yahoo Sportssomething that has been banned in college for decades.
“I have no knowledge or information that the University of Michigan football program is illegally stealing signals, nor have I directed any staff or others to participate in any off-campus scouting operation,” he said in a statement. “I am not aware that anyone on our staff did this or led this action. I will not condone or tolerate anyone doing anything illegal or violating NCAA rules.”
The NCAA has not yet decided on punishment for the recruiting violations and failure to cooperate with investigators, and if the alleged sign-stealing case results in another violation among its staff, it could result in a longer suspension.
Harbaugh was a former NFL quarterback who played for the Bears, Colts, Ravens and Chargers.
Michigan is currently 8-0 this season and is ranked No. 2 nationally.