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Sports Authority

Moxley: Michigan’s trip to Rome was unethical

| Monday, May 1, 2017

After the NCAA decided to ban trips for sports teams while schools are on academic breaks, University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh decided to take advantage of the opportunity to go on one last vacation with his team before the rule goes into effect. He chose not to go to Florida this year, but instead took the team to Rome for spring break. The team was able to afford this trip thanks to an “undisclosed donor.”

There are fans who love the fact that the team was able to go on this trip and learn more about one another, while the program also experienced a significant amount of media exposure — helping with Michigan’s recruiting. According to Harbaugh, the squad was “cultured” via trips to the Colosseum, Vatican and Spanish Steps. The topic that has been least focused on during this excursion, surprisingly, is football. The team held just three practices in a week’s time because Harbaugh claims this trip was more about bonding as a team and learning, because “not all learning is done in a classroom.

However, this trip was actually Harbaugh’s course of action to show the NCAA that he does not agree with their recent decision and will wholeheartedly go against the NCAA’s wishes.

It is ridiculous and unacceptable that the representative of a well-known university and coach of a highly-ranked football team would blatantly disregard a rule that the NCAA established in order to maintain fairness between NCAA teams. Instead, Harbaugh took it upon himself to say “nope” to the NCAA and flaunt the exorbitant amounts of money that the University of Michigan receives from donors — anonymous at that — to spend on an unnecessary trip halfway across the world right before the rule goes into effect.

Since Harbaugh always complains about other schools using unethical recruiting tactics — typically schools in the SEC — his recruiting tactics must be squeaky-clean, right? Wrong. Harbaugh decided to take his team and early enrollees on a trip to Rome for free, and recruits named this trip as a selling point for them.

On top of this, Harbaugh also recently tried to hire high school coach Michael Johnson Sr., whose son happens to be one of the best quarterbacks in the next recruiting class. While Johnson ended up taking a position at Oregon instead, Harbaugh still offered Johnson a coaching position in order to recruit his son.

Paul Finebaum, SEC Network radio host and occasional speaker on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” summed up this recent situation with Harbaugh bluntly: “He is an evil genius. I think he’s one of the smartest people I’ve run into in a long time. … But this is wrong. It may not be illegal by NCAA standards and bylaws as of this moment, but to me, it’s cheating. It’s blatantly disregarding the spirit of the NCAA rule. We all know why he’s doing it. … I don’t know why the media celebrates Jim Harbaugh for disregarding the NCAA rule book and doing things [that] in my mind are unethical.”

The trip to Rome was just the latest of Harbaugh’s sneaky, unethical recruiting tactics, consistent with his desire to stir up controversy and to be the center of media attention. If the NCAA continues to stand by and let Harbaugh push the limits of the NCAA guidelines, we will surely see more questionable recruiting techniques and pampering of current players in the future from Harbaugh’s camp.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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