NCAA Investigates No. 2 Michigan Amid Sign-Stealing Allegations

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Jim Harbaugh, the football coach of Michigan, said he would fully cooperate with an NCAA inquiry into the claims against his team and denied any knowledge or involvement in a conspiracy to send personnel to opponents’ games in order to take their play-calling signals.

“I do not have any knowledge or information regarding the University of Michigan football program illegally stealing signals, nor have I directed any staff member or others to participate in an off-campus scouting assignment,” Harbaugh said in a statement.

Speaking to reporters, Harbaugh said that he and his staff will “fully cooperate with the investigation” and that he “condones or tolerates anyone doing anything illegal or against NCAA rules.”

No. 2 Michigan allegedly sent personnel to watch upcoming opponents’ games as well as potential opponents in the College Football Playoffs in order to obtain knowledge on the signs used to call plays on offense and defense, according to a report published by Yahoo Sports on Thursday.

Tom Mars, the coach’s lawyer, told ESPN that Harbaugh “was just as surprised as anyone else” about the probe.

The NCAA’s inquiry is centered on in-person scouting, a source told ESPN.

The NCAA Bylaw 11.6.1, which reads, “Off-campus, in-person scouting of future opponents (in the same season) is prohibited,” would have been broken if the Wolverines’ claims were accurate.

The NCAA told the University of Michigan and the Big Ten on Wednesday about the inquiry, and the conference said it had informed the Wolverines’ next opponents.

A source informed ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that Michigan was accused of similar infractions before to the 2022 season, which is also included in the NCAA’s inquiry. After being informed by the NCAA, prospective opponents have not stated that they are opposed to playing Michigan, sources told ESPN.

The NCAA, which stated it would not comment on the probe, has bylaws that forbid unsportsmanlike behavior and does not have rules expressly barring stealing signs. However, it does forbid advance scouting of opponents in person.

ESPN confirmed that U.S. Integrity, a Las Vegas-based company that keeps an eye on the betting industry, alerted its sportsbook clients about the Michigan controversy on Thursday.

According to a source who spoke with ESPN’s Pete Thamel, some Big Ten coaches this offseason supported investigating helmet communication as a means of generally improving sign protection. However, possible modifications to NCAA rules were postponed until after this season.

Since 1994, the NFL has been using helmet communication for signals; the initial version was only available for sideline communication.

On Saturday, Michigan (7-0) takes on Michigan State.

Michigan said in a statement that the inquiry would not affect the game.

This season, Harbaugh has already completed a three-game ban issued by the university due to allegations of recruiting crimes during the COVID-19 dead period and his refusal to cooperate with NCAA investigators.

Of those alleged violations, Michigan is still facing four Level II penalties, which are seen as less serious. It won’t be until 2024 when the NCAA issues its decision.