Just when the hamburgers started to cool off, Michigan football is back under the heat lamp. Jim Harbaugh's Wolverines program is being investigated by the NCAA for possibly stealing signs, as well as violating other rules such as advanced, in-person scouting. Again, stealing signs is not illegal, only frowned upon. However, the advanced scouting part of this is not good. It has been a rule since 1994.
Michigan is the No. 2 team in the nation and well on its way towards a third straight Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff appearance. While this team has pulverized its opposition all year long, we are questioning the legitimacy of that. Then again, Michigan's schedule has been Charmin soft of this point. They still have to play the likes of Ohio State and Penn State in-division. Their biggest threats of getting to Indianapolis for a third year in a row meet on Saturday in Columbus.
So while this story is just now being leaked, it is way too early to say if any of this is true, or if it will stick with Michigan. It is not like the NCAA can be trusted either. However, if the Wolverines are caught breaking some serious rules with in-person, advanced scouting, that might cost Harbaugh his job, or the massive contract that was supposedly in the works for him. Oh, this is going to be so spicy!
As expected here is how the college football world reacted on X, what was once known as Twitter.
College football world reacts to Michigan's sign-stealing scandal
Reports have surfaced that a few teams on Michigan's schedule have expressed concerns that the Wolverines might be stealing signs. One team that looks to be in that group is the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Greg Schiano has his team on the verge of achieving bowl eligibility already, but even he seemed flustered by how the Michigan game went to hell in a hand basket for his team previously.
While the Wolverines are being labeled the Big Ten's version of the Houston Astros, did they even really need to do this? They have played nobody of substance in the non-conference for yet another season. Outside of Rutgers, how many bowl-caliber teams have they beaten? Of course, Michigan fans will try to flip this on Michigan State's head on the news that the Spartans tried to duck them.
If this scandal proves to be true, we all wonder how deep the rabbit hole goes. I mean, Michigan was horrific during the 2020 COVID season. Harbaugh had not beaten Ohio State as the Wolverines' head coach prior to 2021. Not to say Michigan was cheating since two seasons ago, but just imagine doing all that, only to lose a winnable national semifinals game to Max Duggan and the TCU Horned Frogs...
I think this emerging scandal does one thing above all else. It will take the noted redmeat eater that is Harbaugh and turn him into a nervous bird. The way he handled the hamburger scandal that cost him three games this season was odd to say the least. He was unnecessarily combative in that situation. Again, that was hamburgers. This is sign stealing. It makes you wonder if he will be fight or flight here.
Harbaugh has won everywhere he has been, from FCS San Diego, to Stanford, to the NFL's San Francisco 49ers to now at Michigan. He may have one more shot at leading an NFL team again, especially after playing flirt with his former 49ers colleague Kwesi Adofo-Mensah about the Minnesota Vikings gig two years ago during National Signing Day. He hired Kevin O'Connell instead.
Frankly, this emerging scandal adds even more pressure on Harbaugh entering the heart of Big Ten play. He is a strong head coach, but this could lead to him cracking. With news that Michigan might have been stealing signs, I would think it would give other contending teams like Ohio State and Penn State even more firepower to knock off the two-time reigning champion in their Power Five league.
This is an emerging story, but the first wave of reactions regarding Michigan have been as advertised.