We reported last week on recent allegations that the University of Michigan football team has been stealing signs from upcoming opponents to gain an edge over them. The allegations came at a time when the Wolverines were dealing with the fallout from COVID-19 recruiting violations. One staffer was accused of cheating.
This week, there have been new developments in the case. Media reports claim that Connor Stalions bought tickets for nearly a dozen games in order to scout the signals of teams. The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach & Austin Meek reported on Monday that Stalions had purchased tickets for seven Wolverines Big Ten opponents in the past three years.
Auerbach and Meek reported that “purchasing tickets for a game against an opponent is not a violation of NCAA rules. However, using these tickets to scout another team would be a breach of the NCAA rule banning in-person scouting on campus.” They added, “Multiple Big Ten sources expressed frustration over Stallion’s alleged behavior and the elaborate nature and extent of his efforts. Coaches believe this goes beyond legal in-game signs stealing and subsequent gamesmanship.”
ESPN reported on Tuesday that Stallion also purchased tickets for games outside of the Big Ten to scout the signals of other teams. There is evidence that Stallion attended even more Big Ten matches. Mark Schlabach and Pete Thamel wrote that ESPN sources told them on Tuesday that Stallion bought tickets to games at four other schools that were either playing or in College Football Playoff contention outside the Big Ten.
Sources told ESPN that there is also evidence of Stallion fans purchasing tickets for the SEC championship games in 2021 and 2022. According to sources, the tickets for the SEC title game were bought on the secondary market.
Schools all over the country check ticket records to see if Stallion’s name appears. It’s not enough for staff to purchase a ticket and watch the match. What they do during the game is what makes the difference.
Thamel and Schlabach reported that “a source told ESPN Tuesday that the NCAA had received at least one hour of video evidence showing a person sitting on a seat who appeared to be videoing the home sideline using a smartphone.” “Stallions bought the ticket for this seat.” Sources say that the video will be used to prove the electronic devices used by the signal-stealing ring as part of an investigation.
In a press release, the Big Ten stated that “the integrity of competition is of the utmost concern.” The NCAA investigation is still ongoing, so the conference cannot comment.
Other coaches have commented on the scandal. Deion Sander, head coach of the University of Colorado, was asked by a reporter for his opinion. He said that it doesn’t matter whether a team steals signs or not if they can prove themselves on the field.
Sanders stated, “Everyone is trying to gain an edge.” You could get someone’s entire game plan by mail. “You’ve got to stop this.”
He concluded, “You still have to play the game.”
Kirby Smart, the head coach of the University of Georgia, who coached the Bulldogs, which were allegedly among the teams that Stallions watched at the two last SEC Championships games, commented on the scandal in his weekly press conference.
Smart told The Athletic’s Seth Emerson, “I’ve never heard anyone go to the games and watch and film or do all those things that people talk about.” “I’ve never heard of anyone who’s done it. I have never been asked as a coach to do this or know anyone who has done it. I’ve never heard of it.”
Smart and his team put up a white sheet in order to block out other people’s view of the team signals. Other teams also do this. He told the media that he did not suspect anything when the Bulldogs faced the Wolverines at the College Football Playoff semi-final game in 2021.
Smart told reporters some cases of sign theft are not surprising. “But (at Michigan), what they’re talking about is different from stealing them. The people are talking about coming to film us. We’ve done all we can to conceal the signals, delay the calls, and put up signs. “I don’t remember anything about the Michigan game which makes me think this.”
The Wolverines have had an amazing season. Michigan is currently ranked second in both the Associated Press Top 25 poll and the AFCA Coaches Polls. Sports reporters, anchors, and analysts are all rooting for Michigan to win the championship. The team is talented enough to win without cheating.
Meek, a columnist for The Athletic, writes that “the investigation has yet to be completed, but it appears this could compound Michigan’s NCAA problems and land Harbaugh back on the sidelines again.” Anyone who paid attention to what Stallion was doing would have noticed the potential for controversy and scandal, which is the last thing Michigan wants as it pursues a championship.
The NCAA’s investigation into the University of Michigan players is still ongoing. However, one thing we know for certain: the players don’t deserve the possible consequences.