NCAA Investigates Michigan Football for Alleged Rule Breach

Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh denies any involvement or knowledge of allegations
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2023 9:57 AM CDT
NCAA Investigates Michigan Football for Alleged Rule Breach
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh watches before an NCAA college football game against Rutgers in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Sept. 23.   (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The NCAA is investigating the University of Michigan's football team, amid allegations of rule violations related to sign stealing. Yahoo Sports first reported Thursday on accusations against the Wolverines, with the Big Ten Conference confirming it had received notification Wednesday on them, said to involve alleged violations of one of its bylaws. That bylaw reads: "Off-campus, in-person scouting of future opponents (in the same season) is prohibited."

Yahoo notes that sign stealing itself—which involves observing signs, such as hand signals or other visuals, that opponents use to call offensive and defensive plays—isn't illegal, though it's a murky ethical area, and that the practice actually has a "long and colorful" history in college football. However, a team sending reps to attend future possible opponents' games in person has been prohibited for nearly 30 years. The Big Ten Conference noted in a statement that it notified Michigan State and other "future opponents" after receiving word of the NCAA probe, and that it "considers the integrity of competition to be of utmost importance and will continue to monitor the investigation."

Two teams, which haven't been named, tell Yahoo that they became aware the Wolverines knew some of their play signs. A big question on everyone's mind is whether head coach Jim Harbaugh may have been in on any sign stealing, an accusation he denied Thursday. "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, per the AP.

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Warde Manuel, Michigan's athletic director, has vowed full cooperation with the investigation, as has the university itself. Yahoo notes that Harbaugh and his crew were already the subjects of another NCAA probe involving other violations related to Harbaugh meeting with players during a "dead" period during the pandemic, watching player workouts on Zoom, and putting too many coaches to work during practices. That case is expected to be addressed after the 2023 season has wrapped up. (More University of Michigan stories.)

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