With all of the questions swirling around the unmitigated mess that is hovering over Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program, a program that some might think is on the brink right now, I have just one.
Why is Connor Stalions still unemployed?
If a “low level staffer” can turn a big time Big Ten program around in just three years why hasn’t the NSA at least hired this prodigy to crack highly covert military launch codes of some of the brash talking, nuclear launching, wanna be-dime-store third world powers that continue to threaten Homeland Security?
If what the other Big Ten coaches are alleging are true, then three years ago, when Harbaugh was this close to getting whacked as the head man of all things Wolverine, Big Jim, clever and brilliantly, under the guise of Scouting Analyst, “employed” an ex-marine, who didn’t know a football from a foot-long, to launch a massive one-man, highly advanced, digitally enhanced espionage program to decipher opposing team’s signs and signals, thus giving the Wolverines an unfair competitive advantage over power houses such as but not limited to Western Michigan, UConn, Hawaii and THE Rutgers University.
Since Stalions implemented his elaborate sign-stealing operation Michigan has gone 34-3, they’ve been to the last two College Playoffs and are headed to a third.
The Wolverines are currently 9-0 this season and have outscored their opponents by an average score of 40-7.
Last year they went 13-1 and outscored their opponents 40-16. In 2021 the Wolverines went 12-2 and outscored their opponents 36-17.
That’s three losses in three years and those losses came at the hands of the No. 8 team in the country, and twice to the number No. 3 team in the country. They’re winning games at a 92% clip. They currently have 19 players on the roster who will undoubtedly get drafted to play on Sundays and 11 players who have already been drafted in the last two years who are starting players in the NFL.
But, the most amazing part of the Stalions’ story is that until recently he claimed to be a volunteer assistant. This guy has master-minded the coup of all coups for Harbaugh and his program’s stunning resurrection the last three seasons and he’ll only get a 1099 for his work this year.
He was reportedly known in the program as a guy who used “Marine Corps philosophies and tactics” to identify “the opponent’s most likely course of action and most dangerous course of action.” Wow. That’s certainly a fancy way to describe the redeeming values of an iPhone.
As I’m writing this, a story just broke that reports that Michigan has sent documents to the Big Ten that the school believes shows three conference teams engaged in communication about the Wolverines’ signals in 2022, sources told ESPN.
The three teams involved are Rutgers, Ohio State and Purdue, according to the ESPN report.
Purdue, which faced Michigan in the 2022 Big Ten Championship Game, received offensive signals from Ohio State and defensive signals from Rutgers, according to ESPN’s sources.
Michigan beat Rutgers 52-17 on Nov. 5 and beat Ohio State 45-23 on Nov. 26, a game that clinched the East Division for the Wolverines.
NCAA rules do not prohibit in-game signal stealing but bar schools from off-campus scouting in advance of games.
Did Michigan break the rules? Of course they did.
Does everyone else break the rules? Of course they do.
The Wolverines just happen to be the ones who got caught this time around. Is it a stupid rule? Perhaps, but, if it’s a rule and it was broken then I’m okay if there are repercussions from it but not because other Big Ten coaches have been pressuring Big Ten Commissioner Tony Bettiti to impose immediate sanctions.
Under the Big Ten’s Sportsmanship Policy Pettiti does have the authority to impose penalties before the completion of the investigation by the NCAA but it would be somewhat unprecedented.
Late Wednesday, The University of Michigan responded to the Big Ten’s notice of potential discipline in a letter that reportedly warned Pettiti about overstepping his authority and rushing to judgment, insisting that he cannot discipline coach Jim Harbaugh under the conference’s sportsmanship policy for an alleged sign-stealing scheme that has seemingly shaken college football to its preverbal core.
Usually when one side issues a warning it comes with potential consequences. What are the consequences if Pettiti does suspend Harbaugh for a couple games immediately? Public scrutiny? Sleepless nights? Being unfriended on Facebook?
Harbaugh already served a self-imposed three game suspension to start the season and his team did fine without him.
At most, Captain Comeback is looking at a two game suspension this season. Anything greater than that falls under the serious offense policy and I highly doubt Pettiti will want to shake that tree without due process slowly winding its way through the investigatory channels especially in light of the fact that Michigan is undefeated and has a legitimate shot this year at winning its first National Championship since 1997.
“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,” the letter said.
Of course what would a good sports scandal be if the politicians didn’t get involved.
Petitti is now getting push back from 11 Michigan legislators. The Michigan lawmakers sent a letter to the commissioner on Wednesday, urging him to act prudently and refrain from making any premature measures against the state university.
So how does any of this affect Penn State Football? Funny you ask. The Wolverines are set to kick-off a showdown with the No. 10 ranked Nittany Lions on Saturday afternoon in Happy Valley.
It will be Michigan’s toughest test this season thus far.
Let’s face it, if Michigan wasn’t the number No. 3 team in the country, and undefeated right now, there most likely wouldn’t be so much urgency for the Big Ten to act impulsively to appease the other Big Ten coaches by imposing a penalty to the program or to Harbaugh.
It is amazing though, how slow the learning curve is for supposedly highly intelligent people.
Great teams who are accused of cheating usually don’t take it that well.
The mantra in those locker rooms or clubhouses is usually something like “oh yeah, we’re only this good because we’re cheaters? Ok we’ll just see about that.” Then they usually go out and smash everybody and eventually fill their jewelry boxes with weighty gold pieces.
The Astros went to the ALCS seven straight times and won two World Series in the wake of their sign-stealing scandal. The New England Patriots went on the add three more rings to their collection after the Spygate scandal back in 2007. Poking a bear who’s already destroying everything in its way isn’t always the best course of action.
Now, all of this craziness surrounding sign stealing and signal calling could be eliminated if college football would adopt the NFL system of a one way headset that allowed the coaches to talk directly to their quarterback.
But for a long time, the concern was about the logistics and cost. The NFL is one organization of 32 teams owned by billionaires, while college football at the Football Bowl Subdivision level has 10 conferences and 131 teams. Implementing it has been considered too complicated or expensive.
There’s also the issue of liability and football helmet manufacturers voiding their warranties if their helmets are altered.
But, CoachComm, the company that produces the coaching headsets for nearly all of Division I, has developed an additional helmet communication through the CoachComm system already in use. It has already been used in trial testing and has received rave reviews from the coaches and players that used it.
But until then we can all sit back and let the drama unfold and maybe come up with a catchier name than Stalions-Gate or Tainted Title-Gate or Good Witch-Hunting etc. If recent history tells us anything I think this one is going to turn out to be more like an Atta Boy Harbaugh. We shall see.