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Michigan Football: A good, bad and ugly 13-0

By Donovan Gibbs, Staff Writer

On Saturday, Nov. 25, the Michigan Wolverines defeated their hated rivals Ohio State 30-24 at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The victory not only improved their record to 12-0, but punched their ticket to Indianapolis for the BIG 10 Championship Game. The win against the Buckeyes extended their winning streak against Ohio State to three straight, the first time the Wolverines have done that since 1995-97. Although the Big House was packed with 110,615 fans that Saturday, one big name responsible for Michigan’s newfound success was stuck at home: Their Head Coach Jim Harbaugh.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images and Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

Where was Jim Harbaugh? He was suspended by the NCAA for what many saw as a surprise; sign stealing. According to Yahoo Sports, Michigan allegedly had people attending games of future opponents as well as possible College Football Playoff opponents to gather information on signs used to call plays on offense and defense. This operation has been going on since 2021, which was coincidentally the year that the Wolverines made their first College Football Playoff berth. 

In response to the wave of extreme allegations, Jim Harbaugh had this to say.

“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,”(ESPN) the eight-year head coach said in a statement.

Harbaugh also said he and his staff would “fully cooperate with the investigation” and that he doesn’t “condone or tolerate anyone doing anything illegal or against NCAA rules.”

Due to all these harsh allegations, the NCAA put their foot down and suspended Coach Harbaugh for four games and fellow staff members Sherrone Moore and Grant Newsome for one game.

“Playing without your head coach there on the sideline is a rough challenge for any athlete. In a sport like football, a head coach can motivate you to make a comeback when your team is losing and can help you keep your focus when your team is winning,” freshman business administration major Hayden Tennis said. “As a fan of Michigan, I’m happy to see we have been able to keep winning without Coach Harbaugh out there and I hope this scandal doesn’t leave a big asterisk on this otherwise successful season.”

This sign-stealing operation is a violation of NCAA Bylaw 11.6.1, which states: “Off-campus, in-person scouting of future opponents (in the same season) is prohibited.”

The central figure of this scandal would be staff member Connor Stallions, who resigned on Friday, Nov. 3. He bought tickets for games against Notre Dame, Arkansas State, Toledo, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Maryland and Penn State, all teams on Michigan’s schedule this season. He also purchased tickets to at least 12 Ohio State games over three seasons, according to ticket records obtained by The Columbus Dispatch.

“Scouting is a huge aspect of college football and sports and in general, our job is to find information and prepare so we can have the edge going to gameday. Most of the scouting we do is through film study,” LIU Offensive Assistant Ryan Alexander said. “What Michigan and Connor Stallions did was wrong 100 percent but to say other teams not only in that conference but around the country aren’t doing similar things in regards to scouting opponents isn’t so far off as well. It will be interesting to see if this investigation brings any other Power 5 to light.”

Harbaugh’s suspension went smoothly as Michigan was to remain undefeated during that time with major wins over Penn State and Ohio State. Harbaugh would make his return against Iowa in the BIG 10 Championship, helping lead the Wolverines to a 26-0 victory over the Hawkeyes. The win secured their spot as the number one overall seed in the College Football Playoff. Michigan will be looking to use this opportunity to silence the noise of doubters after another 13-0 season and their ticket punched into the 2023 College Football Playoffs.

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