Michigan Wolverines football under another NCAA investigation, this time for sign stealing

Michigan football is now under a second NCAA investigation, this time for allegedly violating rules related to sign-stealing, which prohibit the in-person scouting of future opponents.

The NCAA bylaw in question is 11.6.1, which states: “Off-campus, in-person scouting of future opponents (in the same season) is prohibited.“

The news broke early Thursday morning with a Yahoo sports report, then was confirmed by the Big Ten conference Thursday afternoon in a statement.

"Late Wednesday afternoon, the Big Ten Conference and University of Michigan were notified by the NCAA that the NCAA was investigating allegations of sign stealing by the University of Michigan football program," the statement began. "The Big Ten Conference has notified Michigan State University and future opponents.

"The Big Ten Conference considers the integrity of competition to be of the utmost importance and will continue to monitory the investigation. The conference will have no further comment at this time."

The Yahoo! report says two of Michigan‘s opponents this season said they became aware that Michigan knew their play signs. The Wolverines have played East Carolina, UNLV, Bowling Green, Rutgers, Nebraska, Minnesota and Indiana.

"Sign stealing does not violate NCAA rules unless the team uses in-game, electronic equipment to relay the information to players on the field or amongst coaches," Yahoo's article states. "The 2023 NCAA football rule book addresses sign stealing in a general way under a section titled Prohibited Field Equipment. It states that 'any attempt to record, either through audio or video means, any signals given by an opposing player, coach or other team personnel is prohibited.'"

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh watches the second half of the Wolverines' 52-7 win over Indiana.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh watches the second half of the Wolverines' 52-7 win over Indiana.

Kim Broekhuizen, a university of Michigan spokesperson, confirmed the school had been notified by the NCAA and Big Ten of the NCAA's investigation.

"The university is fully cooperating with the Big Ten and NCAA," Broekhuizen said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. "The investigation is ongoing and will not impact Saturday's game. At the University of Michigan, we are committed to the highest ethical and integrity standards for all members of our community."

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh issued a statement on Thursday evening denying any wrongdoing.

"I want to make it clear that I, and my staff, will fully cooperate with the investigation into this matter," Harbaugh's statement reads. "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 continued. "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 rules."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."Pursuant to NCAA rules, I will not be able to comment further while this investigation takes place," Harbaugh's statement concluded.

Harbaugh and the Wolverines were already under investigation by the NCAA for a series of Level II recruiting violations dating back to 2021, which claim UM coaches contacted recruits during dead periods, analysts served in on-field capacities and coaches watched players workout via Zoom.

Harbaugh is alleged to have "misled" NCAA investigators when questioned, and he was charged with a Level I violation, the most serious of offenses.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day shakes hands with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh following a 42-27 Wolverines' victory.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day shakes hands with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh following a 42-27 Wolverines' victory.

This summer, the program and NCAA negotiated a resolution for Harbaugh to serve a four-game suspension for the misconduct. However, the agreement fell apart weeks before the season.

In response, the university suspended Harbaugh for the first three games of 2023. Harbaugh was able to be with the team at practice throughout the week, which many believe is what prompted the NCAA to make a rule change regarding future suspensions requiring coaches to miss entire weeks. The case between the NCAA and Harbaugh is expected to be resolved in 2024.

Michigan (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) is ranked No. 2 in the nation and visits in-state rival Michigan State at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in East Lansing. The Wolverines then have a week off before facing Purdue on Nov. 4, Penn State on Nov. 11 and Maryland on Nov. 18. No. 3 Ohio State's game against Michigan is Nov. 25.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: NCAA investigates Michigan football for sign stealing