Harbaugh: Fickell is 'erroneous,' Michigan didn't thwart Hudson's eligibility with Cincinnati

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh takes exception to how he and Michigan have been represented in comments by Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell regarding the NCAA's denied immediate eligibility of former Wolverine James Hudson, now with the Bearcats.

Harbaugh, at the conclusion of a preseason camp update with reporters Tuesday night, spoke at length about Fickell’s remarks in a story regarding the Hudson transfer published by The Athletic on Tuesday. Hudson, who arrived at Michigan as a defensive lineman and then switched to offensive tackle, transferred from Michigan last fall. In Tuesday's story Hudson’s mother, Glenda, said Michigan had undermined Hudson’s transfer waiver.

In May, James Hudson posted on Twitter that his waiver had been denied and indicated he had mental health issues and had been afraid to speak up about them while at Michigan.

In May, Hudson posted on Twitter that his waiver had been denied and indicated he had mental health issues and had been afraid to speak up about them while at Michigan.

Fickell said in the story that Michigan “didn’t back the waiver. They can say what they want to say, but the only thing they said that was positive was that if the NCAA chooses to make (Hudson) eligible, then they would accept it — that they didn’t have an angle. They are just trying to cover their ass. They can say they didn’t undermine it, but they didn’t work to help the kid out.”

Harbaugh said Tuesday night Michigan did not block Hudson’s waiver appeal. He was asked where that narrative had originated.

“Coming from Luke Fickell. He’s erroneous, erroneous,” Harbaugh said Tuesday night. “Michigan did not block the waiver. We wish James Hudson well. That is not in the coaches’ hands, it’s not in the university’s hands, it’s not in his hands. The way the process works right now, those waivers are decided by the NCAA.”

Fickell, according to the Athletic story, said he spoke with Harbaugh this year about Hudson.

“I called him to say that I don’t know what’s going on with all these waivers, but I know James is here,” Fickell said in the story. “Are you guys going to be vindictive against him, or do you want to help this kid?”

Harbaugh refuted the Fickell statements in the story.

“I read Luke Fickell’s comments and unless I’m reading them wrong or mistaking them, I believe he’s under the impression these waivers are decided coach to coach in some kind of deal fashion,” he said Tuesday night. “That is not the understanding that I’m under. I’m under the understanding that the NCAA decides these waivers. Unless he has something he can bring forth and share and enlighten us and the entire football world, I would really like to know what that is because he called me in March and asked me about, specifically, he wanted to know about the position switch that James was switched from defensive line to offensive line. I told him, ‘Yeah, after two weeks of practice watching James at defensive line, I personally, not other coaches, I went up to him and said, James, I think you’ve got the body type to be a really good offensive tackle. We don’t mandate what positions players play at the University of Michigan. You can compete at whatever position you want, do you want to try it out?’ He did.

“Turned out that he was really good at that offensive line position. That’s what I told Coach Fickell, exactly the way it happened when I talked to James on the field that day. And then coach Fickell tried to coach me on how to say it different. I told him, ‘Coach, I believe in telling the truth. Forthright. Honest. What I told James, what I tell you, what I tell compliance is going to be the truth.’ He asked the question in the article, ‘What’s most important? Your personal beliefs, or what’s in the best interest of the kid?’ I can answer that. What’s most important is the truth. If he’s questioning what my personal beliefs are, then that’s what I believe in. I believe in being forthright, honest and telling the truth. I’m astounded he’s gotten to where he’s at by not knowing the answer to that question.”

Harbaugh was asked what Fickell wanted him to agree on.

“He tried to coach me into saying it differently, not saying it that way,” Harbaugh said. “And I told him, ‘I’m not going to lie. I’m going to tell the truth.’ (He) didn’t like the version I was giving.”

The coaches have not spoken since earlier in the year, Harbaugh said.

“That was the one time that he called in March,” he said. “I even told him in March, I said, ‘Coach, my understanding of this is you seem to think this is some kind of coach-to-coach-we’re-going-to-work-a-deal here, and that’s not my understanding of how this process works.’

“It didn’t work that way when Shea Patterson was transferring from Ole Miss to the University of Michigan. I was told I wouldn’t have any involvement in it. That would be the two compliances departments would talk, the NCAA would decide the eligibility of Shea Patterson. You asked me on several occasions, ‘What do you know about Shea Patterson?’ I don’t know anything. I’m not involved in it, you can go back and look at your notes. I wasn’t involved in it, didn’t talk to his lawyer, didn’t talk to his family. Whatever the NCAA decides will be what happens. We like Shea being here whether he’s eligible immediately or whether he has to sit a year in residence.”

Last month at Big Ten media days, Harbaugh said he was in favor of a one-time transfer for football players, no questions asked. Later during an appearance on ESPNU he continued speaking on the topic of transfers and said that players who transferred can’t just say they have a mental health issue to be granted immediate eligibility. Harbaugh did not mention Hudson by name when he made those comments.

As far as Fickell is concerned, however, Harbaugh reiterated Michigan had nothing to do with the NCAA’s decision not to grant Hudson immediate eligibility.

“He keeps trying to make it about Michigan has blocked the transfer waiver, or Michigan has somehow decided not to grant this waiver,” Harbaugh said of Fickell. "And again, that’s not how this process works in my understanding. As it related to the waiver, I didn’t write the waiver. Our compliance asked me one question. They asked me the question of, 'Tell us about how did the process happen with James switching from defensive line to offensive line?'

“The same thing I told you just now, I told James on the field that day and I told Coach Fickell. That’s the only part I’ve been asked to talk about by our compliance department. Whoever I deal with I’m going to be honest. If he’s asking what my personal beliefs are in a different way, that’s well-documented. My personal beliefs on this are, a football player should have a right they’ve never had, which is they should be able to choose which school they attend and where they play football and have the one-time ability to transfer schools. That’s how I personally feel about this issue, that’s well-documented. And I do believe that’s in the best interests of the young men who play football and play any other sport in college. It’s their decision to make and their family’s decision to make.”


Twitter.com: @chengelis