Michigan suspends football analyst, with pay, amid NCAA probe into sign stealing

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh stands on the field during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Minnesota Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, in Minneapolis. The NCAA banned in-person advanced scouting in 1994 in part because not every school could afford to do it.

Connor Stalions, a low-level Michigan football staff member, has been suspended with pay by Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel.

Stalions, identified by an ESPN.com report Friday as a “person of interest” in a newly opened NCAA investigation into an alleged illegal sign-stealing operation within Michigan’s program, is suspended pending the conclusion of the NCAA investigation, according to a statement from Manuel on Friday.


A source confirmed to The Detroit News that Stalions is the focal point of the investigation.

The NCAA has requested computer records from Stalions, according to the ESPN report, as the NCAA investigates a possible violation of NCAA Bylaw 11.6.1, which prohibits “off-campus, in-person scouting of future opponents.” In-game scouting and sign stealing are permitted.

On Thursday, the Big Ten confirmed the NCAA investigation in a statement and added it had notified Michigan State of the investigation. Michigan and Michigan State meet Saturday night at Spartan Stadium.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, in a statement Thursday, said he and his staff are cooperating with the investigation.

“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,” Harbaugh said. “I have no awareness of anyone on our staff having done that or having directed that action.

“I do not condone or tolerate anyone doing anything illegal or against NCAA rule. No matter what program or organization that I have led throughout my career, my instructions and awareness of how we scout opponents have always been firmly within the rules.”

Stalions has scrubbed his social media accounts. According to his Twitter/X bio, he is a 2017 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a 2013 graduate of Lake Orion High School. According to the University of Michigan’s 2022 salary disclosure, Stalions, listed as “administrative assistant athletics,” made $55,000. Before he deleted his LinkedIn account, Stalions indicated he was a volunteer assistant coach at Michigan, beginning in 2015.

Harbaugh is facing a Level I violation — the NCAA’s most severe penalty — from an NCAA investigation made public in January when Michigan received a draft of a Notice of Allegations — and it’s unclear how this new investigation might affect him. Harbaugh, who sat out the first three games of the season as part of a self-imposed suspension relating to the investigation, is alleged to have misled and lied to NCAA investigators who were looking into the Level II violations, including impermissible recruiting visits during a COVID-related recruiting dead period.

As this latest investigation continues, it surely will slow any process made on a contract extension for the 59-year-old coach who has led Michigan to back-to-back Big Ten championships. Harbaugh is in his ninth season coaching his alma mater.

The initial NCAA situation has not yet been resolved, but Harbaugh spoke Oct. 9 at his weekly Monday news conference about whether he would be open to a contract extension.

“Like anybody, I’ve said it, you want to be somewhere where you’re wanted,” Harbaugh said.

Manuel, in a response to The Detroit News, indicated his “hope to make that a reality in the very near future.”

This latest NCAA investigation undoubtedly will put those talks on hold. As far as how the NCAA proceeds, NCAA bylaw “Responsibility of Head Coach” could factor into this investigation. It puts the onus on the head coach for all violations “and the actions of all institutional staff members who report, directly or indirectly, to the head coach,” the bylaw reads.

©2023 www.detroitnews.com. Visit at detroitnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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