The NCAA is investigating Michigan football amid sign-theft allegations

The NCAA is investigating the University of Michigan football program amid allegations of sign stealing, the NCAA announced Thursday.

“UM Athletics will offer its full cooperation to the NCAA in this matter,” athletic director Ward Manuel said in a statement Thursday. “At the University of Michigan, we are all 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.

The Big Ten approached Michigan State on Wednesday, ahead of this weekend’s matchup between the rivals in East Lansing, with what the league described as “credible evidence” that the Wolverines have successfully stolen the banners called for by opposing teams’ coaches this season.

The NCAA is investigating Michigan “regarding a possible violation of rules regarding scouting opponents in person,” according to an industry source familiar with the matter. Per NCAA Regulations 11.6.1, scouting future off-campus opponents in person (in the same season) is prohibited. A problem with the bylaw means a case will likely continue through the traditional violations process.

Manuel spoke with conference commissioner Tony Petitti on Wednesday. According to a source familiar with the allegations, as of Thursday afternoon, the evidence collected by the conference had not yet been provided to Michigan.

The Big Ten alleges that Michigan, said one source familiar with the claim, is using a “wide net” to steal opposing teams’ signs. The league told Michigan State that it reviewed film indicating that UM was aware of the play the opposing team was going to make before the play occurred.

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“The Big Ten Conference considers the integrity of competition to be of the utmost importance and will continue to monitor the investigation,” the league said in a statement Thursday.

Upon learning of the pending investigation, Michigan State initially warned the Big Ten that it might consider not playing Saturday’s game out of concern for the health and safety of its players, according to two sources familiar with those conversations. On Thursday morning, MSU confirmed it would play the game. Michigan’s upcoming opponents have been notified of the allegations and the games are expected to go ahead as planned, an industry source said Thursday.

“As we look forward to Saturday’s football game, we are saddened by the news of the NCAA investigation and reiterate the Big Ten Conference’s commitment to integrity. These allegations are troubling, but will be addressed through the NCAA’s processes. MSU has no further comment on this matter.” The university is focused on supporting our team and preparing the campus for a safe gameday environment,” a statement from Michigan State Interim President Teresa Woodruff said.

The NCAA does not prohibit sign stealing, unless the team intercepts in-game electronic communications. But it has a long history, with decades of accusations and allegations in college football.

Most notably, in 2020, Clemson was described as Best sign stealing program in college football. before To the sugar bowl 2020Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables “always seems to know exactly what the other team is doing.”

Both Washington and Utah accused Arizona State coach Todd Graham of stealing signs in 2015. At halftime of a 2014 game, Kansas State coach Bill Snyder accused Auburn of stealing signs. A year ago, Florida State accused Auburn of stealing signs in the BCS Championship game. The list goes on.

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The question facing Michigan is whether these latest allegations go beyond just stealing signs on the field.

Michigan is currently under an NCAA investigation for a series of Tier II rule violations related to recruiting during the coronavirus hiatus and statements provided to NCAA investigators. Coach Jim Harbaugh served a three-game suspension imposed by the university.

– The athleteNicole Auerbach and Austin Meek contributed to this report.

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(Photo by Jim Harbaugh: David Berding/Getty)

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