NCAA has Harbaugh erring on side of caution

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh poses for a photo with an attendee of a satellite camp at Bishop Chatard high school in Indianapolis.

Baltimore — For a few minutes, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh wasn’t sure what to do.

Could he talk? Was he violating an NCAA rule?

Just before the start of the St. Frances satellite football camp on Monday at Baltimore’s Patterson Park, Harbaugh was caught in a moment of uncertainty — and erred on the side of caution.

He wanted to sign an autograph for an adult spectator at the camp, but wasn’t sure if it was in violation of NCAA rules. Last week, as Harbaugh kicked off his national tour of satellite camps of about 38 stops in 21 states, he took pictures with almost every camper and signed autographs.

Then he was told that by an NCAA compliance official that he couldn’t.

It’s been a back-and-forth tug-of-war between Harbaugh, the NCAA and several other college coaches about the satellite camps. The NCAA finally decided that Harbaugh could participate in the camps around the country, but there are several regulations in place — including whether he could sign autographs.

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Or talk to the media.

Harbaugh also had to consult with compliance staff members from UM and from the NCAA — and never arrived at a conclusion about whether he was within the rules to conduct a standard interview.

That’s the slippery slope that Harbaugh is walking with his controversial tour. But he’s making strides with parents and recruits, who are appreciative of the effort to bring the camps around the country instead of forcing recruits to travel to Michigan-hosted camps.

Harbaugh took all the red tape in stride, as he donned an orange Cal Ripken jersey — a hat tip to the local Baltimore Orioles — and then switched to a Ray Lewis Baltimore Ravens jersey midway through the afternoon camp.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh changed into a Ray Lewis Ravens jersey midway through Monday's camp in Baltimore.

Harbaugh’s first instructions to the camp participants: “The first rule is that you’re not allowed to get hurt.”

Coaches from several other schools assisted with the camp, including Alabama offensive analyst Mike Locksley, a former interim head coach at Maryland. While Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Harbaugh exchanged words via social media and separate interviews last week about having the satellite camps, Locksley was mainly low-key Monday, but did have a friendly handshake with Michigan assistant Tyrone Wheatley.

The afternoon camp preceded an evening camp at Patterson Park.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard