From the Sidelines


By now, everyone has heard about the sign stealing saga going on at the University of Michigan.  Every day more and more comes out about this elaborate effort to steal signs of opponents of Michigan by members of the U. of M. staff.  To the average person, sign stealing goes on all the time in all team sports, and is considered part of the game.  In most instances, that is true, and is accepted.  However this goes much deeper than that. Sign stealing during games is accepted; sign stealing by using video, travel, and other means is strictly prohibited.

ESPN reported Tuesday that Coach Conner Stalions, the alleged mastermind of the operation, purchased tickets to 12 of the other 13 Big Ten schools; the one that didn’t find its name in the records doesn’t have access to StubHub and other secondary markets. He is not a smart man because leaked text messages to others have been found, and he bragged about his work at U.M.! ESPN also found out that Stalions had purchased tickets for schools outside the Big Ten that were in the College Football Playoffs, or playoff contenders. He also bought tickets to the 2021-2022 S.E.C.(Southeastern Conference) title games.  In total, Stalions purchased tickets to more than 35 games in 17 different stadiums, used a network of at least 3 people in different parts of the country who were forwarded these tickets.

There is a lot more coming out, such as Michigan planned to send scouts to 40 games of 10 opponents at a cost of $15,000. As many as 8 games were for Ohio State.  Photographs of people it believed (the investigative firm hired to look into this) were scouts for Michigan, including students and interns inside the football program. How did this firm get access to computers used by Michigan coaches, and who hired them, is yet to be answered.  “All I know is that no reputable private investigative firm is going to sit down with the NCAA and show them information without being able to explain how they acquired it”, a person familiar with the Michigan case told ESPN.

As you can see, this is a deep, well thought out, sign stealing program that has been put together.  The NCAA prohibited this kind of operations involving in-person advanced scouting in 1994, because not every school could afford it.  Yet, a deep- pocket school like Michigan could…..and apparently did, even though it is against the rules.  Why? Is it because Jim Harbaugh had made Michigan just average until 2021, and he and the staff felt the need for this subterfuge?  Why blatantly go against the rules that were 27 years old unless you are desperate?  Now the question is what to do about it?!

More comes out each day it seems, and makes a punishment for these crimes more and more difficult. Do you make Michigan stop playing games this year?  That is a big loss of revenue to the other teams they were to play, so that is not right. Do you immediately suspend all the coaches involved? That really is not fair to the athletes. Do you wait till the end of the year and force the coaches to quit? That would not hurt Harbaugh in the least, he wants and NFL job anyway. Should the A.D. be fired also?  Should Michigan get the NCAA death penalty at the end of the year?  That is pretty harsh, and destroyed the only team to receive such punishment, The S.M.U. Mustangs, and on Feb. 25th, 1987, the team was prohibited from football for 2 years, effectively destroying the program.  Yet, institutionalized cheating went on at S.M.U., and it looks like the same thing is going on at Michigan.

However, the Big Ten and the NCAA must do something if all of this is true, and it looks more and more like it each day.  I have no answer for this.  I am so disappointed in a school like Michigan that thinks it has to do anything like this to win.  Jim Harbaugh remember is still under investigation because of rules violations during the Covid-19 dark period, such as not cooperating with the investigation, too many coaches, Illegal contact with athletes, and using video.  The university suspended him the first 3 games this year for those violations, but the NCAA is still investigating them, and will rule sometime in 2024 supposedly.

How much more is the University going to take from Jim Harbaugh?  This latest violation is very serious, and will tarnish this fine school. I asked in my previous column on this is Harbaugh crooked or stupid? Stupid seems to be winning for me because he KNEW he was already being investigated, yet, allows this to continue on his watch?  Don’t tell me he didn’t know, that is beyond belief with what we know now. This involves many and is a terrible look for Michigan.  I have no idea what is going to happen. Whatever it is though, it will set the Michigan program back a long time.  Jim Harbaugh is not worth it.  He needs to be suspended at least for now, along with the other coaches involved, and the A.D. That is the only current fix I can see.  That’s the way I see it…….from the sidelines.