Ex-college football staffer shared docs with Michigan, showing a Big Ten team had Wolverines’ signs

by Madison Thomas
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Michigan football sign-stealing controversy

A previous staff member of a collegiate football team within the Big Ten disclosed on Monday that part of his duties included the appropriation of opponent teams’ signals. His revelations included a dossier, which he compiled using intelligence from various schools within the league, detailing the play-calling signals utilized by the University of Michigan during the previous season.

The informant, choosing to remain unnamed due to concerns over potential repercussions to his coaching career, admitted to passing these documents—comprising the Wolverines’ signals and corresponding play strategies, as well as evidence of communication with other Big Ten team staff members—to Michigan. In an interview with The Big Big News, the former staffer indicated that the dossier was the culmination of contributions from several coaches and programs within the conference. He justified his disclosure to Michigan last week as an attempt to support Coach Jim Harbaugh’s beleaguered team, which he believes is unjustly facing criticism due to the actions of one disreputable staff member.

This incident could constitute a breach of the Big Ten’s sportsmanship policies, potentially resulting in sanctions from the conference’s commissioner’s office. Michigan, which is already under scrutiny for alleged recruiting violations, might face additional disciplinary measures, as the university acknowledged receipt of a notice regarding potential action against them.

The second-ranked Wolverines, currently unbeaten with a 9-0 record and leading the Big Ten, are also under investigation by the NCAA for claims of illegal scouting and sign-stealing. Allegations have surfaced that a former lower-tier staff member, Connor Stalions, was involved in coordinating unauthorized attendance at rival games to videotape and decode opposing team signals.

Despite the shadow cast by this scandal, Michigan’s team remains focused on securing a third consecutive conference title and its first national championship since 1997. They are set to compete against ninth-ranked Penn State this coming Saturday.

The NCAA’s regulations do not explicitly prohibit sign-stealing, but they do bar in-person scouting. The accusations against Michigan imply a systematic, possibly well-funded operation. Harbaugh has publicly denied any involvement, and the university has pledged cooperation with the NCAA’s inquiry.

After being suspended by the university, Stalions tendered his resignation from Michigan two weeks later, with his legal representative emphasizing his client’s wish not to distract the team.

Michigan officials relayed the incriminating documents obtained from the ex-Big Ten staff member to the conference last Friday. This was confirmed by an anonymous source privy to the situation but unauthorized to discuss it publicly.

Subsequent to the document handover, University President Santa Ono and Athletic Director Warde Manuel convened with Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti. The conference has given Michigan a brief timeframe to address the allegations and evidence brought before them.

In a virtual meeting with conference coaches and athletic directors, Petitti discussed potential punitive measures against Michigan, with a focus on possibly suspending Harbaugh and other coaching staff.

President Ono has reached out to Petitti, requesting the conference to defer any decisions until after the NCAA’s findings are concluded. Despite calls from Big Ten coaches for immediate disciplinary action, the league has yet to commence its own investigation, as communicated in Ono’s email to Petitti.

Amidst this ongoing investigation, Manuel has declared his intention to abstain from participating in the upcoming College Football Playoff committee meeting.

Stalions, through his lawyer, has asserted that to the best of his knowledge, none of the Michigan coaches instructed anyone to engage in rule violations nor were they conscious of any inappropriate conduct concerning advance scouting. Harbaugh himself has previously served a suspension imposed by the university for a separate and unresolved case involving NCAA recruitment violations.

In other related developments, Amy Folan, the athletic director at Central Michigan, acknowledged the school’s ongoing investigation into whether Stalions was present on the sidelines during their season opener against Michigan State. Following the circulation of images on social media depicting an individual in Central Michigan attire at the game, the university has begun collaborating with the NCAA on this matter.

This article contains contributions from AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo. For more details on Larry Lage’s reports, visit https://twitter.com/larrylage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Big Ten sign-stealing controversy

What is the recent controversy involving the Michigan Wolverines?

A former Big Ten football program staff member disclosed documents indicating that he was tasked with stealing signs, which included compiling Michigan’s play-calling signals. These documents were shared with Michigan and have led to an NCAA investigation into possible sign-stealing and in-person scouting.

Has the University of Michigan acknowledged the sign-stealing allegations?

Yes, the University of Michigan has received notice of potential disciplinary action in light of the allegations and is cooperating with the NCAA investigation.

What are the potential consequences for the Michigan Wolverines following these allegations?

The Michigan Wolverines could face sanctions from both the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA, which might include disciplinary actions against the coaching staff and potential impacts on their current season’s standings.

What has been Jim Harbaugh’s response to the sign-stealing scandal?

Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, has denied any knowledge of the alleged sign-stealing scheme and has previously served a suspension for unrelated NCAA violations.

Is sign-stealing illegal in college football?

While sign-stealing itself is not prohibited by NCAA rules, in-person scouting and the manner in which the sign-stealing may have been conducted could violate NCAA regulations.

What actions has the Big Ten Conference taken regarding the allegations?

The Big Ten Conference is deliberating on the situation and has held discussions about potential punishments, with Michigan being given a short period to respond to the allegations.

What was the role of Connor Stalions in the Michigan football program?

Connor Stalions, a former lower-tier staff member, is alleged to have been involved in unauthorized videotaping and decoding of opponents’ signals and has resigned following a suspension by Michigan.

Is Central Michigan University involved in the scandal?

Central Michigan University is investigating whether Connor Stalions was present on their sidelines during a game against Michigan State and is cooperating with the NCAA.

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