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Michigan football team scrutinized for sign-stealing

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Photo courtesy of Jeremy Bronson (CC BY 2.0 DEED)
Michigan football’s head coach Jim Harbaugh is suspended for three games due to the scandal.

Over the past few weeks, the football program at the University of Michigan has been in the spotlight for more than just their impressive winning streak. The Wolverines have stood at a 12-0 record, and with this, suspicions have arisen regarding impermissible scouting. 

Despite how technologically advanced the football industry has become, colleges stick to the basics by using simple signs to notify their team of upcoming plays. While stealing signs during a game is not against the rules, sending staff to additional games solely for that purpose is. The NCAA and The Big Ten Conference have been looking into illegal scouting claims formed against Michigan for over a month now.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh has denied all of these accusations, yet is still suffering the consequences. Tony Petitti, Big Ten commissioner, has suspended Harbaugh until the end of the regular season, and offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore is his temporary replacement. Harbaugh received a previous three-game ban for illegal recruiting during the COVID-19 dead period, making this suspension his second of the season. 

The current allegations against Michigan initially formed around low-level staffer and recruiting analyst, Connor Stalions. According to the Big Ten, he was purchasing tickets to the games of future opponents and sending people to record videos of that team’s signals. Once this news was released to the public, a series of evidence emerged. Multiple Big Ten schools said they found records of tickets purchased under Stalions’ name and surveillance videos of his scouts pointing their phones toward the field from their seats. Photos from the Central Michigan University vs. Michigan State game on Sep. 1 also suggest that Stalions was on the CMU sideline disguised in merchandise and sunglasses. On Oct. 20, Stalions faced a suspension from the NCAA.

Despite this proof, it is undetermined who or what actually prompted the NCAA to begin investigating. There is speculation that Ryan Day, head coach of Ohio State University, hired his brother’s private firm to run investigations on Michigan. If this is true, the firm illegally hacked into Stalions’ computer, took information concerning sign-stealing from his documents and sent it to the Washington Post. Despite this, Day has made an effort to not speak on the scandal, as much as Michigan fans are trying to drag him in. 

“Anything regarding that I’m not going to comment on today,” Day said during his media availability. “I don’t want to get into that right now.”

Day’s alleged involvement in this situation has fueled the heated rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan, making “THE Game” on Nov. 25, exceptionally contentious. In the highly touted matchup, Michigan pulled away with a victory on their home field, 30-24. 

As of now, Harbaugh’s suspension only applies to gamedays, meaning he can still coach at practices, and it only applies to the regular season, permitting him to return if the team qualifies for the postseason. The acceptance of his current suspension means that the Big Ten will end its investigation of Michigan’s sign-stealing allegations. The Wolverines will face no further punishment from the conference, but potentially more from the NCAA once their analysis is complete.


Photo Credit: “Michigan Football Spring Game” by Jeremy Bronson is licensed under (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Behind the Byline
Ava DeRose, Apprentice Editor
Ava DeRose is an Apprentice Editor for the 2023-2024 Wessex Wire. She enjoys going to the beach, playing field hockey and listening to music, especially country. She loves anything to do with summer, pumpkin spice and the holiday season. On the weekends, you can find her hanging out with friends and family or going out to eat!
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