June 16, 2024

In a matter of hours, the Michigan football team went from very possibly the best version of itself in the program’s proud history to the nationally lampooned “Cheaters and Best.”

Did an elaborate sign-stealing network of agents — or just one low-level staffer, a former Marine Corps officer with a design on domination of the college football world — really turn Jim Harbaugh’s disappointing product of 2020 into back-to-back Big Ten champions and Buckeye beaters in 2021-22 and the nation’s No. 2 team in 2023?

That’s the question that matters most to me, a Michigan alum who has passionately followed this team’s ups and downs for nearly 25 years now.

But the question that should matter most to the NCAA investigators who have Harbaugh firmly in their crosshairs is not whether the Wolverines have benefited from stolen signs. Of course they have. So have most other teams and it is not against the rules.

What the NCAA has to do now is find proof that Michigan went beyond the accepted methods of decoding signs, like sending a staffer or someone even loosely affiliated with the program to a future opponent’s game and acquiring intelligence in-person.

Apparently — few of even the most ardent college football observers knew this until Thursday — the NCAA disallowed in-person advanced scouting in 1994 because the schools didn’t want to pay the spies’ freight any longer.

If the NCAA Keystone Kops are able to gather the evidence that Michigan broke that rule, then it’s a bad look for the Wolverines and they’ll pay for that mistake. If Harbaugh is implicated as knowing, then the punishment will worsen dramatically and he will be sent to the social media gallows as a self-righteous fraud. Some of his many critics are already there, but I’d encourage them to wait for facts before hanging the man.

Harbaugh released a statement Thursday that said he did not have knowledge of sign-stealing techniques that broke NCAA rules (funny enough, responding to the allegation in that straightforward way may end up being another violation in his growing ledger).

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh stands in front of his players before a game against Penn State in 2018.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh stands in front of his players before a game against Penn State in 2018.

(Leon Halip / Getty Images)

Right now, we don’t actually know much beyond the fact the NCAA has started an investigation — and anonymous coaches from across the Big Ten are giddy about it, along with national media who have disdain for Michigan or Harbaugh or both.

We also know that the aforementioned former Marine officer, Connor Stalions, whose name was leaked to ESPN’s Pete Thamel on Thursday night as a key to the investigation, was suspended with pay by Michigan on Friday. A suspension with pay is not an admission of guilt, by the way.

But here’s what I know with utmost certainty: The events of the last day are straight out of the NCAA’s playbook, and I don’t need to steal any signs to know which tried-and-true play we’re seeing unfold before us.

Step 1: Establish a target.

Now, why would Jim Harbaugh, the wholesome, football-loving, church-attending, steak-eating and whole-milk-chugging guy, become a target of the people running the cartel of American sports-playing universities?

Because he’s been a royal pain in the NCAA’s butt since coming back to the college game to coach his alma mater in 2015. He began by living in the gray area of the rule book to stage satellite camps all over the country, even in the Southeast, purportedly to spread his gospel of football’s importance to young men, but his detractors saw it as a strategy to boost Michigan’s brand with recruits. Then, he was one of the most vocal proponents of players getting to transfer more freely.

Most recently in August, without prompting, Harbaugh launched into an impassioned speech about why football players should receive a cut of the TV revenue they help generate.

“I don’t think this current system is going to survive,” Harbaugh said. “The status quo is unacceptable. That’s my opinion.

“When student-athletes call it a game, corporate-types call it a business. When the student-athletes call it a business, the corporate-types call it a game. … We are where we are. We have to try to make it work. We have to try to make it better.

“What I don’t understand is how the NCAA, the television networks, the conferences, the universities and coaches can continue to pull in millions and in some cases billions of dollars of revenue off the efforts of college student-athletes across the country without providing enough opportunities to share in the ever-increasing revenues.”

This came after Michigan had announced its three-game suspension of Harbaugh to start the season, the school’s response to an NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations that occurred during the COVID dead period. Within that process, the NCAA accused Harbaugh of lying to investigators about what he knew.

So then, after the school made its effort to quiet that storm, Harbaugh took aim at the golden goose — control over all that TV money, the most important vestige of the dying age of “amateurism.”

The NCAA likely wasn’t done with Harbaugh before that statement. After it, when someone came forward with accusations that Michigan has been elite at stealing signs in recent years, the NCAA had fresh ammo that had to be used.

Step 2: Start an investigation.

Step 3: Make sure the investigation leaks to reputable national reporters like Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger and Dan Wetzel.

Step 4: Sit back and watch the public shaming of your target and establish your narrative across millions of clicks, while your target is not allowed to respond due to the ongoing investigation.

Step 5: Pursue evidence that will support your desired result enough to make a notice of allegations. During this period, also stay hopeful that taking the investigation public will bring more accusations forward.

Step 6: Prolong the investigation as long as you want. Even if you haven’t found enough convincing evidence of rule breaking, the dark cloud will hang over the target in perpetuity.

USC understands very well what I’m describing here. Once NCAA leaders decided that USC football under Pete Carroll was a target, it was going to find whatever evidence it needed to tie someone on Carroll’s staff, assistant coach Todd McNair, to the improper benefits received by Reggie Bush from prospective agents. With the Trojans, the NCAA was not going to take no for an answer.

Have Harbaugh and Michigan risen to that level? We’ll find out in the next, oh, what, three to five years?

One of the most fascinating subplots here is whether Harbaugh will wait to find out at Michigan or decode this situation as one last sign he needs to make another run at a Super Bowl ring. I could also see him being stubborn and sticking around to keep poking the bear and maintain the culture he’s built at Michigan through whatever the NCAA throws at him. That said, will the university, usually quick to bend to the whims of the cartel with self-imposed sanctions, stand by him long-term? We’re still waiting on that long-rumored contract extension.

If you listen to connected USC folks discuss the NCAA penalties that crushed their program as I have, Michigan should go ahead and prepare for the worst — regardless of what is revealed about its sign-stealing operation.

Bingo Blitz Credits Farming Strategies: Success Tips
Coin Master Spins Farming Strategies: Insights from Pros
genshin impact redeem codes january 2023 mobile matters
Get Free Zems on ZEPETO: Tips and Tricks
match masters arena 7 funny game like paper clash royale what
TikTok Coin Generator Safety Tips
Unlimited Gems in Brawl Stars: Myth or Reality?
new cheats dragon city free gems mod generator freemind
free family island hack cheats unlimited rubies and energy
how to get diamonds in hay day tips tricks youtube
tutorial how i get unlimited diamonds in litmatch app youtube
myths of moonrise codes september 2022 g7r
Boost Your TikTok Influence with Free Coins
Unlocking TikTok Coins: Insider Techniques
Comment obtenir légalement et rapidement des pièces gratuites sur TikTok
Maximiza tus Ganancias de Monedas TikTok con Estos Consejos
Coin Master Free Spin Generators: Fact or Fiction?
Insights from Pros: Coin Master Free Spins Farming Strategies
Avakin Life Avacoins Farming Demystified

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *