football Edit

Questions surround Harbaugh, Michigan amid sign-stealing probe

Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh (AP Images)

RELATED: What we know about the NCAA investigation into Michigan

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will not comment further on the sign-stealing investigation levied against his program, relying on a carefully worded statement instead, but there are certainly lots of questions to be answered.

The reporting of Ross Dellenger of Yahoo Sports and Pete Thamel of ESPN over the last several days lays out the scenario of staffer Connor Stalions purchasing tickets to at least 30 games at 11 different schools in an attempt to tape the sidelines of future opponents, an NCAA violation.

Teams are scouring surveillance video from their stadiums and there has been some discussion that one tape shows the person in the seat bought by Stalions pointing his cellphone at the sideline the entire game.

There has been reporting that Stalions bought tickets to the Penn State-Ohio State game last weekend on both sidelines but no one showed up in that seat on game day after the scandal broke. Michigan plays the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes in the closing weeks.


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In his statement, Harbaugh denies any knowledge of the sign-stealing operation, but it might not even matter. The NCAA has adopted a kind of guilty-until-proven-innocent mentality when it comes to these issues and holds the head coach accountable for the actions of everyone in his organization.

Through normal picture-taking at the Michigan-Ohio State game last season, Buckeye Huddle produced some interesting - and some would say damning - photos from the Michigan sideline. The links are provided here:

On top of all this, a curious comment made by Rutgers coach Greg Schiano at halftime of his team’s 31-7 loss at Michigan (the score was 14-7 at the time) earlier this season could bring this more into light. Coaches have talked to Dellenger and Thamel through their reporting and they seemed fully aware of what was happening from the Michigan camp.

“There are some things going on as well that aren’t right, so we’ll talk about how to handle it,” Schiano said.

There is a news clip (provided here that shows the Ohio State-Michigan game from last season.

Buckeyes QB CJ Stroud comes to the line, checks to the sideline for the play call. On the other sideline, Stalions is seen standing next to Michigan defensive coordinator Jesse Minter. Stalions is only looking across the field for the play to be called in. Once it is, Stalions yells something and points his finger up, followed by another staffer doing the same thing and numerous Michigan players following suit.

Maybe Michigan stole that sign legally during film study or earlier in the game. Or maybe Stalions knew it from holding his cellphone up at a previous Ohio State game and one-upping the Buckeyes that way.

Michigan has beaten Ohio State in back-to-back seasons (both by double digits) for the first time since 1999-2000.

As this investigation continues, here are some questions that need to be answered:

1. On a reported salary of $55,000, who was paying Stalions’ travel expenses to at least 30 games and who was paying for the tickets - some presumably quite expensive since he needed sight lines to the sidelines - and was he being reimbursed by someone on the coaching staff or at the university?

2. Who concocted this idea? Are we to believe Stalions completely, totally and without the knowledge of anyone on staff, construed this entire idea by himself and no one else knew or was told what he was doing?

3. Why did no one ask where Stalions was on the sidelines of some Michigan games presumably when he was off doing this recon mission that he hatched up totally by himself without the knowledge of anyone else on staff, only to reappear at some Michigan games within close proximity of high-level coaches holding multiple sheets in his hand?

4. Why would a staffer have such game-day access to Minter and offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore on the sidelines? There are numerous photos and now video of Stalions in very close proximity to the Michigan coordinators on different occasions. Why is Stalions the one with so much access - and so many laminated sheets in his hands at all times?

5. Are we to believe no one on the Michigan sidelines - Harbaugh or any of the coaches - didn’t see these strange laminated sheets held by at least one other staffer shown here (, where it shows a human figure gesturing in different formations? If this one staffer had this sheet, how many others did? Who created them? Who laminated them? Who distributed them?

There are so many more questions. Few answers, so far.

Michigan is currently sitting with the No. 13 recruiting class nationally, second in the Big Ten behind only Ohio State. The 2025 class is off to a great start with two big defensive commitments from four-stars Bobby Kanka and Chris Ewald. Five-star quarterback Bryce Underwood is a top in-state target from Belleville, Mich.

But a lot is unclear here as this investigation unfolds and possibly Harbaugh’s future in Ann Arbor becomes a part of this equation. Honestly, there are lots of issues that need to be addressed. Where Michigan football goes from here is certainly an unfinished and complicated story.