Since the news first broke in mid-late October, the Michigan Wolverines sign-stealing scandal is the college football controversy that everyone is talking about.
As an NCAA investigation into allegations that the Wolverines engaged in “off-campus scouting and signal stealing” in contravention of NCAA bylaw 11.6.1 continues, what has happened so far and what is happening right now?
Michigan Sign-Stealing Scandal: Timeline of a College Football Controversy
Oct. 17, 2023: An outside investigation firm presents evidence of the Michigan sign-stealing operation to the NCAA. The evidence centers around computer files and videos that multiple members of football staff — including coaches — had access to.
Oct. 18, 2023: The NCAA informs the Big Ten and Michigan that they have opened an investigation into allegations that the program had contravened the rules that states “Off-campus, in-person scouting of future opponents is prohibited.”
Oct. 19, 2023: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh issues a statement insisting that:
“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,” he said on Thursday. “I have no awareness of anyone on our staff having done that or having directed that action.”
Oct. 20, 2023: Connor Stalions, the man in the middle of the Michigan sign-stealing scandal, is suspended without pay by the Wolverines, “penned the conclusion of the NCAA investigation.
MORE: Who is Connor Stalions?
Oct. 23, 2023: ESPN reports that Stalions purchased tickets for more than 30 games over a three year period, citing sources from 11 different schools across the country. A later report puts the number “at least 35” with the Michigan analyst visiting 17 stadiums.
Oct. 25, 2023: The Washington Post reports that sources expect the Michigan sign-stealing operation to cost more than $15,000. The report includes the information that the Wolverines were expecting to have individual at over 40 games across 10 opponents on the Michigan football schedule.
Oct. 26, 2023: ESPN reports that NCAA enforcement staff have arrived in Ann Arbor as part of the investigation into the Michigan sign-stealing scandal.
Oct. 27, 2023: A former DIII football player and coach alleges he was paid to attend Big Ten games by Stalions. Those games included at Rutgers and Penn State in 2022, plus the Nittany Lions game against UMass this season.
The source, as reported by ESPN, also claimed to have a ticket for the game between Indiana and Penn State but didn’t plan to attend in the wake of the Michigan sign-stealing scandal.
“I didn’t like it, but it’s a gray line,” the former player and coach told ESPN. “You can call me naive, but no one is reading the bylaws. I’m not a contractual lawyer. … I just felt like if you’re not doing it, you’re not trying to get ahead.”
Oct. 31, 2023: After images circulate on social media of an unknown man bearing vague resemblance to Stalions on the Central Michigan Chippewas sideline during their game against Michigan State, the MAC program issues a statement.
“We are in the process of determining the facts surrounding them,” Central Michigan athletic director Amy Folan said of the photographs. “As this process is ongoing, we have no further comment at this time.”
Nov. 4, 2023: Stalions, the analyst in the middle of the Michigan sign-stealing scandal, quits the university, issuing a statement via his attorney that suggests his decision is entirely to avoid distraction to the football program. He does, however, issue a defense — or alibi if you will — for the Wolverines head coach.
“Connor also wants to make clear that, to his knowledge, neither Coach (Jim) Harbaugh, nor any other coach or staff member, told anyone to break any rules or were aware of improper conduct regarding the recent allegations of advanced scouting.”
Nov. 6, 2023: Central Michigan University athletic director Folan, via The Detroit News, announces the school is cooperating with the NCAA as the investigation into the Michigan sign-stealing scandal continues.
“Central Michigan continues its review of the matter in cooperation with the NCAA. As this is an ongoing NCAA enforcement matter, we are unable to provide further comment at this time.”
Nov. 6, 2023: The Big Ten notifies Michigan that the program could face discipline, citing the Big Ten sportsmanship policy and the NCAA’s head-coach responsibility bylaw. The Wolverines are given 48 hours to respond.
Nov. 6, 2023: In fast moving developments, it emerges a former employee at a different Big Ten program told Michigan that he’d been paid to steal signs from the Wolverines during the 2022 college football season. According to a report by the Associated Press, this person shared the documents produced with the University of Michigan as part of the ongoing scandal.
MORE: Connor Stalions Fired
Nov. 6, 2023: Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, a member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, recuses himself from the second rankings meeting to focus on the ongoing NCAA investigation into the sign-stealing scandal. In a statement issued to the media, Manuel says:
“I will not be traveling to our weekly meeting in Dallas but instead will stay in Ann Arbor, attending to important matters regarding the ongoing investigation to our football program. I look forward to being back in the room with my fellow committee members next week, and every week through the end of this season.”
Nov. 7, 2023: Rutgers, Ohio State, and Purdue are named by multiple outlets as the programs that actively engaged in sign-stealing operations against Michigan.
Nov. 8, 2023: Michigan responds ferociously to the Big Ten notification with a 10-page document that contains the line:
“From what we can tell, your email largely relies on rumor.”
In another, somewhat threatening excerpt, Michigan refers to the earlier report that other programs in the conference have been stealing the Wolverines signs. The letter urges:
“The conference should act cautiously when setting precedent given the reality that in-person scouting, collusion among opponents, and other questionable practices may well be far more prevalent than believed.”
Jim Harbaugh Suspended
Nov. 10, 2023: The Big Ten announced a three-game suspension for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Following the news and their subsequent investigation, the Big Ten announced Harbaugh would be suspended from in-game coaching but permitted to coach during the weeks,
Harbaugh would be suspended from in-game coaching in games against Penn State, Maryland, and Ohio State.
Nov. 10, 2023: The University of Michigan filed a temporary restraining order to potentially allow Harbaugh on the sidelines of at least the game at Penn State. As of Saturday morning, November 11, 2023, no decision has been made on the TRO.
Harbaugh’s status remains unknown for the game at Penn State in Week 11.