What Is College Football Probation?

    The national championship-winning Michigan Wolverines agreed to a probation handed down by the NCAA. What does it mean, and what's next for the program?

    Following a probe conducted by the NCAA, Michigan’s football program was placed on probation due to recruiting violations during Jim Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach. But what does that mean for the program, and are recruiting violations the only way a team can receive probation?

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    What Does College Football Probation Mean?

    Violating the NCAA’s rules and regulations can lead to a probation period, where the offending program must adhere to strict restrictions to ensure compliance. Essentially, the school will be under heavy surveillance by the governing body during this time.

    “You get watched more closely over that period to make sure you corrected the problems that led to the violations,” NCAA compliance expert John Infante told The Ames Tribune. “I think it’s every six months or so they have to file a report with the Committee of Infractions on their progress with complying with the probation.”

    Outside of Michigan, the most recent program forced into probation was Florida State in early January. Per Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger, offensive coordinator Alex Atkins drove a recruit and his parents to meet with a NIL Collective leader in the spring of 2022, resulting in numerous penalties.

    Atkins will be suspended for the first three games of the 2024 season, and the Seminoles will lose the following over their two-year probation:

    • 5% of their scholarships
    • seven official recruiting visits
    • 18 spring evaluation days
    • 1% of the athletic budget in the form of a fine

    FSU is prohibited from communicating with recruits for six weeks across the next two years and with transfer portal players between April 15-21. Additionally, the program must disassociate with the collective representative for three years and the collective itself for one.

    Perhaps the most notorious probation was placed on USC in 2010 following an investigation into Reggie Bush and basketball star O.J. Mayo for receiving improper benefits.

    The Trojans were placed on a four-year probation, were banned from bowl play for the 2010 and 2011 seasons, lost 30 scholarships over the next three years, and vacated their final two wins in 2004 (including the Orange Bowl) and all of their victories in 2005 (12).

    If that wasn’t enough, USC declared they would remove all items in Bush’s name from the campus, and the NCAA set a mandatory 10-year period where the school had to sever ties with the athlete.

    How Long Will Michigan Be Under College Football Probation?

    The Wolverines won’t face as stringent penalties as the two aforementioned programs, but they aren’t escaping scotch-free. The NCAA found Michigan conducted in-person recruiting during the COVID-19 dead period, had impermissible tryouts involving recruits, and exceeded the number of coaches allowed in practice.

    As a result, the program will endure a three-year probation, recruiting restrictions, and an unspecified fine. Michigan suspended Harbaugh for three games and new head coach Sherrone Moore for one to begin last season as part of a negotiated resolution with the NCAA.

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    Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement on Tuesday that the school “is pleased to reach a resolution on this matter so that our student-athletes and our football program can move forward.”

    The Wolverines are also under a separate ongoing NCAA investigation for alleged in-person, advanced scouting.

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