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Michigan's Juwan Howard talks Franz Wagner decision, possibly commits NCAA violation

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
New Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard discussed recruiting target Franz Wagner on Tuesday, which could be an NCAA violation.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard offered an update on the recruitment of German prospect Franz Wagner on Tuesday.

And he might have committed a minor NCAA violation in the process.

During a radio interview on “Jim Rome’s Daily Jungle,” guest hosts and Michigan alums Randy and Jason Sklar ended the 14-minute segment with a question about Wagner and his looming decision to come play college basketball in Ann Arbor, or sign a professional contract with German team Alba Berlin.

Under NCAA rules, coaches are not allowed to publicly comment on an unsigned recruit.

Here’s how the exchange went:

Host: "There's a piece out there that people in Michigan know, a Franz Wagner, Moe Wagner's little brother who is out in Germany, and is deciding am I going to come stateside and have the experience of being a college player or am I going to go continue to play professionally in Germany and get my college education there and represent Germany in a way that I know they are making that push. He may be the piece that bridges the gap for you. How hard are you — and, by the way, feel free right now to announce that he's going to commit right here on the air if you want to — how hard are you working that situation to try and get a guy like that?"

Howard: "Our communication has been great. Right now, he is dealing — he's making decisions if he's going to play with his national team, to represent his country in the World Cup championship tournament. I highly recommend that he does because that's a chance of a lifetime. It's a dream that I'm sure like a lot of college athletes would love to do at some point in their careers, whether you're playing basketball, soccer, baseball, whatever. You love to have that chance to wear your country colors, stand on that podium and present that flag if you become one of those medalists whether it's gold, bronze, silver, whatever. At the end of the day, we've been communicating on whenever that process is over with, we'd love to have him on campus, wear a Michigan jersey just like his brother, at some point compete for the University of Michigan and help this team in many ways possible and become a student-athlete here at the university."

Host: "I think that's the tact to go because you're not pushing him right now and saying, 'Give us a decision right now.' You're giving that kid the rope he needs."

Howard: "That'd be unfair to him. I think it'd be very selfish of us if we try to pressure him in that way."

Host: "It takes a player to know a player. I hope he recognizes how much care you're putting in. You hear that Franz Wagner? If you're listening in Germany and I don't know if he is."

Howard: "I don't know if I'm allowed to say his name because of NCAA rules."

Host: "You aren't. I said it. We said it. You didn't say his name."

Per NCAA rules, Howard appears to have violated bylaw regarding comments before commitment.

According to the bylaw, “before the signing of a prospective student-athlete to a National Letter of Intent or an institution's written offer of admission and/or financial aid or before the institution receives his or her financial deposit in response to its offer of admission, a member institution may comment publicly only to the extent of confirming its recruitment of the prospective student-athlete. The institution may not comment generally about the prospective student-athlete's ability or the contribution that the prospective student-athlete might make to the institution's team; further, the institution is precluded from commenting in any manner as to the likelihood of the prospective student-athlete committing to or signing with that institution.”

The infraction is a Level III/secondary violation and penalties include an institutional fine ranging from $500 to $5,000 and public reprimand, among others. If Michigan self-reports the violation, it’s possible no punishment will be levied.

Of course, Howard’s comments wouldn’t be a violation if Wagner already has signed with Michigan. When asked if the program has received any signed paperwork from Wagner, a Michigan spokesperson said, “we don’t have anything to announce at this time.”

Wagner, a 6-foot-9 wing, was being pursued by former coach John Beilein and took an official visit to Michigan shortly after Beilein left for the head job with the Cleveland Cavaliers in May.

However, Howard has picked up where Beilein left off and the Wolverines have remained a possible landing spot for Wagner, despite the coaching change. Two weeks ago, Wagner told German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost that he wanted to pick between Michigan and Alba Berlin “very soon.”

While Howard offered no updated timetable for Wagner's decision, the World Cup will take place from Aug. 31-Sept. 15 in China. If Wagner elects to play with his national team, Germany's first game would be Sept. 1 in Shenzhen.

More: Cole Bajema reaffirms commitment, 'all in' on Michigan after coaching change

Tuesday wasn't the first time Howard has misspoke when it comes to recruiting. During his introductory news conference in May, he announced incoming freshman and signee Cole Bajema had recommitted to the program and was going to sign his letter of intent again.

However, Bajema never asked for his release and never decommitted from Michigan like former signee Jalen Wilson did. And if Bajema had, Howard's comments would've been a violation.

"Recruiting is going to be a challenge because I have to first understand all the rules and I want to continue to make sure that this culture does not take a step back," Howard said in May. "I will learn and get into that rulebook of NCAA rules as far as what you are allowed to do and what you're not allowed to do. That's going to be one of the biggest challenges and, to my understanding, there are a lot of rules out there."

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins