Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh details concern about 'free agency' in college football

One day after announcing that Michigan and Ole Miss worked together to grant former Rebel quarterback Shea Patterson immediate eligibility with the Wolverines, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh sang a slightly different tune.

While on their team field trip to France, Harbaugh was asked how he feels about easing transfer restrictions on college athletes and how both parties could potentially work together -- like Michigan and Ole Miss did -- for the betterment of the student athlete.

"There's gotta be something," Harbaugh said, according to Detroit News. "Maybe the school pays back the other school. Say a school like Michigan gets a player from Eastern Michigan or Central Michigan or transfers, maybe you have to pay the scholarship back or maybe it counts as an extra scholarship. Just so it doesn't become free agency in college football. That's the thing I would worry about."

What Harbaugh is suggesting sounds similar (and comparable) to "cash considerations" that exist in Major League Baseball trades, and it comes on the heels of Michigan working things out amicably with Ole Miss to help Patterson become eligible in 2018 in Ann Arbor through an amendment to transfer requirements passed earlier this year.

"The University of Mississippi promptly reached out to the University of Michigan, to discuss how these new standards could impact the University of Mississippi's support of a transfer student-athlete's desire to compete immediately at the University of Michigan," the statement released by the two schools earlier this month read. "The University of Mississippi and the University of Michigan have worked together over the last several days in conjunction with the NCAA national office staff, and with a focus on the best interest of the student-athlete, to put forward a new waiver application. That new application was submitted this week by the University of Michigan and supported by both schools."

Despite finding a way to get Patterson eligible, Harbaugh hopes that his path is the exception, not the rule.

"Maybe things got a little tough, maybe things got a little hard. It's usually better to stick it out, it's usually better to stay at the place you are and see something through," he said according to the report from the Detroit News. "I don't think we want to send the message in college football if it's not working out, or if it's getting tough or hard, go somewhere else."

In December, though, Harbaugh's actions somewhat contradicted his words. Despite college football free agency being a concern and players fighting through the adversity being his desire, reports surfaced shortly after Patterson, safety Deontay Anderson and other players were granted permission to transfer that a Michigan plane landed in Oxford, Miss., and that the fourth-year coach of the Wolverines took some players to IHOP.

Different times call for different measures, and you can't blame Harbaugh for heavily recruiting players who essentially became free agents. But what he's more likely referring to is the wording of the amendment that allowed Patterson to play in 2018. The eased restrictions essentially allow any player who is academically eligible, has met degree requirements and has "mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete's control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete" to move, as long as the school he or she is transferring from doesn't object.

Mitigating circumstances, for Patterson, included the NCAA hammer -- that included a two-year bowl ban -- coming down on Ole Miss. But the vague nature of the new policy does allow plenty of wiggle room.

College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, analyst for CBS Sports HQ and host for the SiriusXM college... Full Bio

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