Wednesday, July 17, 2024

NCAA investigates Michigan for alleged in-person scouting; Michigan State notified ahead of Week 8 game

Michigan is under NCAA investigation for allegedly scouting future opponents, in person, in order to steal signs. Two of Michigan’s opponents this season revealed to Yahoo Sports that they became aware the Wolverines knew their signs. Other allegations stem from incidents that allegedly occurred before the 2022 season, ESPN reports.

“Late Wednesday afternoon, the Big Ten Conference and University of Michigan were notified by the NCAA that the NCAA was investigating allegations of sign stealing by the University of Michigan football program,” the Big Ten said in a statement. “The Big Ten Conference has notified Michigan State University and future opponents. The Big Ten Conference considers the integrity of competition to be of utmost importance and will continue to monitor the investigation. The Conference will have no further comment at this time.”

A University of Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel vowed “complete cooperation” from the Wolverines athletic department as the NCAA continues its investigation.  

“I want to personally assure you that U-M Athletics will offer its complete cooperation to the NCAA in this matter,” Manuel said in a statement to CBS Sports. “At the University of Michigan, all of us are committed to the highest standards of ethics and integrity for all members of our community. This is the same expectation I have of all coaches, staff, and student-athletes.”

Michigan’s Week 8 opponent Michigan State has been notified of alleged in-person scouting. MSU interim president Teresa Woodruff called the allegations “concerning,” but they won’t deter plans for this week’s rivalry matchup. 

“As we look forward to the football game this Saturday, we are chagrined by the news of the NCAA investigation and we echo the Big Ten Conference’s commitment to integrity,” she said in a statement to ESPN. “The allegations are concerning, but will be handled through the NCAA’s processes. MSU has no further comment on that matter. The university is focused on supporting our own team and preparing campus for a safe game-day environment.”

At issue is NCAA Bylaw 11.6.1: “Off-campus, in-person scouting of future opponents (in the same season) is prohibited.” Sign-stealing itself is not technically against the rules unless it involves electronic equipment to record and inform players or coaches of signals during games. 

Teams are given access to a great deal of film in advance of matchups in order to scout the on-field football product. However, signs and signals would not be captured as part of the film study. Michigan allegedly had individuals at games of future scheduled opponents and potential College Football Playoff opponents to try to gain an illegal edge. 

The investigation comes on the heels of Michigan’s self-imposed three-game suspension for Jim Harbaugh for alleged Level II NCAA violations related to impermissible recruiting and coaching during the COVID-19 dead period. He is also accused of providing false or misleading information to the NCAA during its investigation. Harbaugh previously negotiated a four-game suspension with the NCAA, but the Committee on Infractions ultimately rejected the negotiated resolution. The case is now expected to go through the disciplinary process next year. 

Michigan has won the Big Ten and reached the College Football Playoff in each of the past two seasons. The Wolverines lost against Georgia and TCU in each of their first-round matchups. Michigan has won its first four Big Ten games this season by a combined 180-31. 

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