Michigan has dominated opponents all season long and won a national championship with little difficulty on the field; however, the Wolverines have had to contend with a number of off-field distractions.
The most recent: Michigan is under investigation by the NCAA for allegedly using techniques prohibited by the association to steal opponents’ signs, a claim that the team has denied.
This season, the Wolverines have already run into trouble when head coach Jim Harbaugh was disciplined in relation to an NCAA probe concerning a minor recruiting infraction. The investigation began to center more on whether Harbaugh had lied to them than on the actual recruiting violation.
The investigation is still ongoing, despite Michigan’s attempt to put a stop to potential punishment by suspending Harbaugh for three games of its own.
This is everything you need to know about the accusations and the investigation’s current state that could ruin a candidate for a national championship.
Allegations of sign theft in Michigan
On October 18, the NCAA notified Michigan that it was looking into the possibility that the team visited opponents in person with the intention of stealing signs.
Interestingly, sign stealing is permitted as long as it isn’t done to provide coaches or players with information via electronics. However, within the same season, programs are not allowed to send anyone to scout a potential opponent in person. Since 1994, scouting opponents in person has been prohibited.
Two of Michigan’s opponents reportedly informed the NCAA that they were worried about the Wolverines possibly stealing signs, according to Yahoo.
Due to this, observers discovered an odd interview that Rutgers coach Greg Schiano gave during halftime when his Scarlet Knights played Michigan in September.
Halftime saw Rutgers trailing 14-7. “There are some things going on that aren’t right as well, so we’ll talk about how to handle it,” Schiano said to the Big Ten Network.
The Athletic revealed on October 19 that, although the program ultimately opted to play the game on October 21 against the Wolverines as planned, Michigan State had first considered canceling the game “out of concern for health and safety” of the players. Michigan triumphed in East Lansing, 49-0.
NCAA looking into football at Michigan
On October 19, the Big Ten issued a statement endorsing the NCAA’s probe into Michigan.
“The NCAA notified the Big Ten Conference and University of Michigan late on Wednesday afternoon that it was looking into claims that the University of Michigan football program had stolen signs,” the statement said.
Teams are not allowed to scout potential opponents in person during the season according to NCAA bylaw 11.6.1. The rule states that “off-campus, in-person scouting of future opponents (in the same season) is prohibited.”
Michigan is being investigated for scouting “possible College Football Playoff opponents,” according to Yahoo Sports, in addition to allegedly scouting opponents during the regular season. It’s unclear which teams the Wolverines may have watched.
It appears that the investigation is still in its early phases because the Big Ten stated that it was only informed about it on Wednesday.
Big Ten coaches want the conference to act immediately, according to a November 1 ESPN report, despite the ongoing NCAA investigation. According to a source cited by ESPN, “collectively, the coaches want the Big Ten to act — right now.” The source also said that during a call with the Big Ten, the “vast majority” of coaches voiced their displeasure.
Ryan Walters, the coach at Purdue, voiced his complaints in public, saying on his radio show, “What’s crazy is they weren’t allegations.” It took place. Video proof is available. You can track back on ticket purchases and sales.” Walters stated that he “knows for a fact” that Michigan constantly scouted his team.
Santa Ono, the president of Michigan, and Big Ten commissioner Tony Pettiti met in Ann Arbor, according to Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic in friday 10 nov
The NCAA shared its findings with the Big Ten, according to a Nov. 6 Yahoo Sports report, noting that the findings “do not connect the in-person scouting and recording of opponents’ sidelines to Harbaugh.” Nevertheless, Harbaugh received a penalty from the Big Ten on November 10, the day before Michigan’s matchup with Penn State.
Results of the Big Ten investigation
On November 10, the Big Ten declared that Michigan had engaged in an “impermissible, in-person scouting operation over multiple years,” in violation of the conference’s sportsmanship policy. According to a conference statement, Michigan was unfairly given a competitive advantage by the scheme.
The conference reiterated that Michigan’s infractions were not exclusive to a single season, characterizing them as “pervasive” and “systemic.”
Nonetheless, the conference was unable to uncover any proof that Harbaugh knew about the plot. Despite this, Harbaugh’s status as the head of the football program resulted in his suspension for the remainder of the regular season, which included games against Penn State and Ohio State.
Harbaugh is not allowed to watch games from the sidelines, but he is allowed to be with the team during the week. Shortly after the announcement, Michigan issued a statement expressing its displeasure with the fine. Later on Friday night, the university requested a temporary restraining order to prevent the suspension. But since the TRO hearing is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 17 at 9 a.m. ET, it won’t be granted in time for Harbaugh to lead the team against Penn state.
Athletic director of Michigan Warde Manuel spoke bluntly about Harbaugh’s suspension by the Big Ten in a statement. He stated that although the program is disappointed to learn of the accusations, it also feels that by suspending Harbaugh on Friday, the conference circumvented the proper procedure of conducting a thorough investigation.
“Totally unethical” and “an assault on the rights of everyone (especially in the Big Ten) to be judged by a fair and complete investigation,” Manuel said of the suspension.
“My Big Ten AD colleagues and all of the Big Ten head coaches (some of whom have been accused of actively trading opponent signals) can celebrate that someone was “held accountable” today, but they should be concerned about the new standard of judgment (without thorough investigation) that has been unleashed in this conference,” Manuel stated.
Connor Stalions: who is he?
ESPN reports that as a result of the investigation, Connor Stalions, an off-field analyst for Michigan, has been designated as a “person of interest” by the NCAA. According to ESPN, as part of the investigation, investigators even attempted to access the Stalions’ computer.
Despite being a “low-level staffer” at Michigan and a retired captain in the USMC, Stalions is allegedly a key player in the NCAA investigation into the football program.
ESPN reports that “it was known in the building that [Stalions] spent much of his time watching television copies of opponents’ games, deciphering opponents’ signals.”
Stalions works in recruiting, but he has uploaded pictures of himself on the sidelines during games, standing next to two former Michigan defensive coordinators.
Michigan declared on Friday that Stalions had been placed on paid leave.
Other Big Ten coaches were well aware of the purported scheme and Stalions’ involvement, according to a report by Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger on October 20. One coach, who wished to remain anonymous, told the outlet, “We know what kind of s— you are doing and it’s f— up.”
Although it is not prohibited by NCAA regulations, programs are severely limited in what they can use. The NCAA is investigating whether the Stalions or anybody else connected to the Wolverines stole opponent signs using prohibited techniques.
More information about Stalions’ possible involvement in the case was revealed by ESPN on October 23, which stated that the team purchased tickets “for more than 30 games at 11 Big Ten schools over the past three years.”
ESPN’s Dan Murphy went on to say that the Stalions purchased tickets for the Week 8 Ohio State vs. Penn State game on both sides of Ohio Stadium, but that they were never used after last week’s revelation of the investigation.
Following the Stalions’ revelations, investigators went through previous game footage to look for any suspicious activity. One clip, from the Michigan-Ohio State game in 2022, gained a lot of attention on social media. Standing next to Wolverines defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, Stalions appears to be staring intently at the opposing sideline in a post by Columbus-based Adam King of WBNS television. He then starts to signal as players and coaches around him do the same.
Furthermore, following the discovery of video featuring an unidentified individual wearing sunglasses, Central Michigan announced that it is looking into the possibility that Stalions showed up on its own sideline wearing Chippewas attire during a game against Michigan State.
On November 3, Stalions tendered their resignation, citing a wish to avoid interfering with the show.
In football, what is sign stealing?
What precisely is sign-stealing, given that Michigan is being investigated for the manner in which it is alleged to have stolen signs, as opposed to sign-stealing per se?
Michigan is charged with scouting potential opponents to determine which signals match which plays rather than to get a sense of how they play. The Wolverines defense could gain a tactical advantage by anticipating an opponent’s play and knowing which signal goes with which play by keeping an eye on the field or the sideline.
There are no regulations preventing an opponent from deciphering a team’s signals and taking advantage of them if they are made clear. However, there are regulations prohibiting both using video to record signals and scouting potential opponents in person.
Any attempt to record, either through audio or video means, any signals given by an opposing player, coach, or other team personnel is prohibited, as stated in the NCAA rule book.
Michigan’s program may be disciplined by the NCAA if it is discovered that it employed illicit methods to intercept signals belonging to upcoming opponents.
Jim Harbaugh’s remarks about Michigan
In a statement issued on October 19, Harbaugh said he was unaware of any illegal sign-stealing by the University of Michigan football program.
According to Harbaugh, he has never given instructions to any staff member to scout off-campus, and he is not aware of any staff members who have done so.
The NCAA has the authority to prosecute Harbaugh even though he maintains that he was unaware of any sign-stealing scheme.
The NCAA bylaws state that a head coach is “presumed to have knowledge of what is occurring in his program and therefore, can be responsible for the actions of his staff and individuals associated with the program.”
The situation also holds true for other leagues and sports. A.J. Hinch, the manager of the Astros at the time, and general manager Jeff Luhnow received one-year suspensions from MLB in 2020 following an investigation into a scandal involving sign-stealing. The final report, despite the bans, found no proof that Hinch organized or even approved of the scheme, nor any indication that Luhnow knew about it.
Still, they were subject to harsh discipline due to their positions. That might apply to Harbaugh as well, as he was already the focus of an NCAA investigation.
A spokesman for Michigan issued a brief statement of its own, stating that the school is “fully cooperating” with the investigation and that it will not have an impact on the team’s matchup with Michigan State.
Michigan issued a statement following Harbaugh’s suspension on November 10th, expressing dissatisfaction with the ruling and declaring the school would be requesting a court order to postpone the ban.
Even though the Wolverines are still winning on the field, it doesn’t seem like the concerns about their program will go away anytime soon.