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Disaster: Inside the Michigan Sign Stealing Scandal

Maize & Blue Nation
Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh in a news presser.

Connor Stalions was just another Michigan staffer contributing to what was going to be considered a dream season for the 8-0 Wolverines before October. However, this month, which was once a fever dream for Michigan, has turned into a nightmare as the program has been swept up in an NCAA investigation taking the sports world by storm. With there still being many unknowns in this saga, this spotlight for Michigan is just the beginning as the NCAA, Jim Harbaugh, Connor Stalions, and the Big Ten Conference have been dragged into the public eye.

It’s important to note one thing: Sign stealing has been going on in college sports since the dawn of time. To say whether it’s ethical or not is a completely different issue, something that the NCAA is still trying to figure out by using the rules they implemented. To be clear, the NCAA has never directly banned the stealing of signs — some in the football world would just call that good scouting — however, Michigan runs into a problem with how they got the signs. According to NCAA Bylaw 11.6.1: “Off-campus, in-person scouting of future opponents (in the same season) is prohibited.” There are also rules that prohibit the use of technology which could also get Michigan in trouble. Based on current information, Michigan’s scandal may be elevated if they are found guilty.

Earlier in October, news broke that the NCAA was investigating Michigan on the grounds of illicit sign stealing. Many in the sports world were shocked, but because the NCAA has a tendency to drag out situations, there were no imminent expectations of what could be revealed by the NCAA investigation. However, it would later be revealed that Connor Stallions, an employed Michigan staffing and recruiting analyst, was placed at the center of this investigation; the NCAA even requested access to his laptop for further information. This led to the University of Michigan putting Stalions on leave with pay. Meanwhile, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who already has disagreements with the NCAA involving alleged recruiting violations, has denied knowing any illicit activity regarding scouting other teams during this season. 

Whether or not Harbaugh knew, it’s clear through reports this week that there was a scheme set up by Stalions; the only question is, how far does the rabbit hole go? Sources told ESPN that Stalions has purchased tickets to 11 different schools’ games, which would violate the NCAA’s bylaw on in-person scouting. The reports also claim that the NCAA has video of someone sitting in the seats Stalions purchased and filming with a phone. Once again, according to NCAA rules, using technology to steal signs is unallowed. Despite this large issue, another problem has emerged: not only did Stalions purchase tickets to Big Ten opponents’ games, but he also purchased tickets to possible College Football Playoff teams games, including tickets to both the 2021 and 2022 SEC championship games. Additionally, Stalions had tickets to this past weekend’s game, Penn State vs. Ohio State. Both teams are ranked and will play against Michigan later this season. 

Despite all the evidence, it seems as though this process is still in its beginning stages. In Michigan’s defense, it’s hard to believe that this is the only team to have a scheme regarding sign stealing. However, Jim Harbaugh’s rocky relationship with the NCAA, dating back to this summer, seems to be haunting him. The question still lingers of if Harbaugh had any knowledge of Stalions scheme; even more fascinating: Where did Connor Stalions get enough money to purchase those tickets? Even with more answers this week, there seem to be even more questions arising as the Wolverines barrel toward the National Championship.   

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About the Contributor
Julian Zolenski
Julian Zolenski, Staff Writer
Julian Zolenski is a Senior at Forest Hills Eastern. This is his second year being on the Hawk Herald Staff. Julian enjoys a number of different things about his busy life including working as a line cook, playing with his dog, and hanging out with his friends. Right now Julian has a dream of being a Sports Commentator. He intends to accomplish this goal by majoring in Broadcast Journalism in his college future. Julian knows this is a lofty goal, but he will not let anything stop him from accomplishing it.   
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