Report: Outside firm gave NCAA evidence of Michigan’s sign-stealing scheme to trigger investigation


The NCAA’s inquiry into a sign-stealing scheme by Michigan’s football program was triggered by an outside firm’s investigation, which turned up videos of and documented plans and budgets for impermissible scouting of the Wolverines’ opponents.

The Washington Post, citing two people familiar with the matter who were not identified, reported Wednesday the firm obtained computer drives maintained and accessed by multiple Michigan coaches.

The firm presented evidence to the NCAA last week that suggests Connor Stalions, the low-level staffer suspended by Michigan on Friday, was not the only person on staff aware of the scheme, according to the report.

A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Associated Press that an outside firm provided the NCAA with evidence, including photographs, videos and documents, that initiated the association’s investigation.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because no one was authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

It was unclear who hired the firm to investigate Michigan.

The NCAA informed the Big Ten Conference, which then notified Michigan’s future opponents. Both Michigan and the Big Ten acknowledged the investigation last week.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who served a three-game, university-imposed suspension earlier this season for an unrelated and still unresolved NCAA violations case tied to recruiting, has denied any knowledge or involvement in impermissible scouting of opponents.

Michigan has declined to comment further, citing an ongoing investigation.

No. 2 Michigan (8-0) has won the Big Ten title and appeared in the College Football Playoff each of the last two seasons. The Wolverines are off this week.

NCAA rules do not directly ban the stealing of signs, but there are rules against using electronic equipment to record an opponent’s signals and in-person, advanced scouting of future opponents in season.

There are also rules against unsportsmanlike or unethical activities by coaches, and head coaches are generally considered to be responsible for violations that occur under their watch.

Stalions appeared to be purchasing tickets to the games of Michigan’s opponents and sending people to obtain video of the sideline signals used for calling in plays. There are images and video from Michigan games over the past two seasons with Stalions on the sideline, standing near Wolverines coaches.

Stalions was hired in 2022 as part of the recruiting staff.

Multiple Big Ten schools have found records of tickets being purchased to their games in Stalions’ name over the past three seasons, and records show tickets purchased in Stalions’ name to the last two SEC championship games.

The Washington Post reported the outside firm presented to NCAA officials photographs of people investigators believed to people acting as scouts for Michigan, including current students interning with the football team. The photos showed these people seated at games of Michigan opponents this season, aiming their cellphones at the sidelines.

The Post reported the firm told the NCAA that cellphone videos from the games were uploaded to a computer drive accessed by Stalions and other Michigan assistants and coaches, though there was no evidence presented to the NCAA directly linking Harbaugh to the impermissible scouting and sign-stealing scheme.


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