Author: Ava Bell
A scandal has arisen in Ann Arbor, MI after the University of Michigan’s head football coach, Jim Harbaugh, was suspended for the final three games of their regular season.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is investigating against the university’s team after being accused of sign-stealing, the act of paying people, such as staffers, to attend the games of past, future, or current opponents in order to steal the signs that their coaches use to communicate with their players on the field. Signs are used to communicate to players because unlike in professional football, college level players are unable to use communication devices inside their helmets to hear from coaches. The practice of sign-stealing was banned by the NCAA in 1994 after it was deemed as an unfair advantage.
On Friday, November 10th, 2023, the Big 10 Conference announced a violation of their sportsmanship policy. “As a penalty imposed on the institution, the University football team must compete without its Head Football Coach for the games remaining in the 2023 regular-season, effective immediately,” the statement said, “This disciplinary action shall not preclude the University or its football team from having its Head Football Coach attend practices or other football team activities other than the game activities to which it applies.” Harbaugh will be unable to attend games, however, will still be able to work with the players during the week.
University of Michigan football analyst Connor Stalions is at the center of this investigation and has since resigned from the University. In reference to Stallions resignation, he and his attorney told The Athletic that “I do not want to be a distraction from what I hope to be a championship run for the team, and I will continue to cheer them on.” According to ESPN, they have “confirmed that Stalions has purchased tickets to more than 35 games at 17 stadiums around the country. He has used a network of at least three people, who were forwarded the tickets to attend games.” Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh and Michigan have denied any knowledge of the sign-stealing scheme going on within their program both this season and in seasons past.
However, Big 10 Commissioner Tony Petitti took action in suspending Harbaugh now because the Big 10 has reason to believe violations have happened within this season. In another article from ESPN, Petitti states that “The goal of the scheme was to gain an unfair advantage by stealing the signs of teams that the University’s football team was due to play later in the season,” And that “Such misconduct inherently compromises the integrity of competition.” Petitti has also made it clear that this suspension was not made against Harbaugh himself, but instead against Michigan as it allows the athletes to continue competing in the season and also shows that the head coach represents the face of a football program such as this one.
The University of Michigan played their first of three games without Harbaugh on Saturday, November 11th against Pennsylvania State University where they won 24-15. Their final two games of the regular season will be against the University of Maryland on Saturday, November 18th and Ohio State University on Saturday, November 25th.
Tensions are rising as the University of Michigan has high odds of making it to the Big 10 Championship held on Saturday, December 2nd with or without the team and fans beloved coach. However, investigations by the NCAA are still in progress and will likely not be concluded until well after the football season ends. Decisions on if Harbaugh will be allowed back for the possible championship game have not yet been determined but leave people anxiously waiting for an answer.
For now, the rest of Michigan’s coaches, the staff and certainly the players must give the rest of their season the best they’ve got in order to make it to the championship game and come out strong on the other side of this scandal.