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After winning tainted national title, Michigan’s new fight song: Hail to ‘The Cheaters’ | Commentary

They have spied.

They have lied.

They have denied.

Now, sadly, the Michigan Wolverines have been rewarded with a national championship trophy.

And if it’s not hard enough to swallow that a bunch of cheaters won the national title on Monday night when Michigan ran over Washington 34-13, Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh had the audacity to rub our noses in it with his you-can’t-touch-me smugness afterward.

“The off-the-field issues, we’re innocent and we stood strong and tall because we knew we were innocent,” Harbaugh said with a straight face. “Overcome that? It wasn’t that hard because we knew we were innocent.”

Puh-leeze.

If you believe Harbaugh and his coaching staff are innocent, you probably also believe there are a bunch of crime fighting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles living in the sewers beneath New York City.

If the Wolverines are innocent then why was Harbaugh — the national championship-winning coach — suspended for half of the regular season (six games) for two different breaches of NCAA rules?

Why did Michigan itself levy a three-game suspension of Harbaugh as a good-faith effort to penalize the coach for alleged recruiting violations in 2020 in which the NCAA says Harbaugh lied to its investigators?

Why did Michigan agree to the Big Ten’s additional three-game suspension of Harbaugh at the end of the season for the comprehensive sign-stealing scheme orchestrated by Harbaugh staff member Connor Stalions? And why was Stalions fired only after the blatant cheating allegations became public?

And why did Michigan’s leaders, whom originally claimed they would fight the Big Ten’s suspension of Harbaugh in court, back down at the 11th hour after new information came out? Instead, they agreed to the Harbaugh suspension and swiftly fired Wolverines linebackers coach Chris Partridge instead.

Why?

Why?

Why?

Because Michigan and Harbaugh cheated.

The NCAA knows it.

The Big Ten knows it.

Even Michigan itself knows it.

But, as we all know, winning is the great deodorizer and covers up the stench that emanates from the gutter of college sports. As I wrote several weeks ago:

“We used to think of the University of Michigan as a bastion of academic excellence, as one of the nation’s premier research universities and arguably the most esteemed public university in America. Now when we think of Michigan, we think of just another sewer-dwelling, win-at-all-cost football factory that will do anything and everything in its power to win a national championship. The Wolverines, in their race to get to the top of the college football rankings, actually have sunk to the bottom of the cesspool known as college athletics.”

I’ve often said that sports fandom is much like partisan politics. In the political arena, for instance, Democrats and Republicans have been brainwashed by cable news and will rationalize lying, cheating and stealing to back their candidate no matter what.

Likewise, it’s the same in sports fandom. We’ll see a perfect illustration of what I’m talking about when the powerhouse Kansas Jayhawks basketball team jets into Orlando on Wednesday to play UCF in the Knights’ Big 12 home opener. Kansas coach Bill Self was implicated in the FBI investigation into Adidas reps bribing top players to sign with Kansas — the sneaker company’s most high-profile program.

Did Kansas react by firing Self? No, they gave him a big raise and a lifetime contract extension instead. Self responded by winning the 2022 national title and might win another one this year.

Good luck to squeaky clean UCF coach Johnny Dawkins as he tries to compete with a shady program such as Kansas in the years to come.

As you might expect, Michigan fans and leaders are responding to their cheating scandal much like Kansas did. They are scoffing at the allegations from the toothless NCAA and strongly backing Harbaugh because, well, he’s a Michigan man and he’s put the Wolverines back on top of college football.

They have actually convinced themselves that the sign-stealing was done by a renegade member of Harbaugh’s staff without the head coach’s knowledge. As if such an elaborate scheme could take place within any program without the knowledge of the typically obsessive, micromanaging college football head coach.

Then there are those Michigan fans and Harbaugh apologists in the media who explain away the violations by claiming, “It’s no big deal. Everybody does it. If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” They also try to validate the tainted national championship by saying, “Michigan didn’t have to cheat to win and proved it by winning the rest of its games even after the sign-stealing scandal was uncovered.”

The obvious question: If the Wolverines didn’t think the sign-stealing would help them win then why did they do it in the first place? We’ll never know if Michigan’s program would have even been in the position to make the College Football Playoff without the cheating that took place over the last couple of seasons.

And shame on the Big Ten and the College Football Playoff Committee for even allowing the Wolverines the opportunity to play for the national championship. The Big Ten should have had the guts to make Michigan ineligible for the conference title. And — even if that didn’t happen — the committee should have left the Wolverines out of the four-team playoff.

It should tell you about the ethics and morals of college football that the committee snubbed undefeated Florida State because of an injury to quarterback Jordan Travis, but they included Michigan despite a coaching staff that cheated to gain an unfair advantage over its opponents.

I hate to say it, but I will never again be able to listen to my once-favorite college fight song — Michigan’s “The Victors” — without changing the lyrics to more appropriately portray the new paradigm within the football program:

“Hail! to the victors spying …

Hail! to Harbaugh lying …

Hail! Hail! to Michigan …

Chicanery at its best! …

Hail! to elaborate sign-stealing …

Hail! to coaches double-dealing …

Hail! Hail! to Michigan …

The cheaters we detest!”

Email me at mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com. Hit me up on X (formerly Twitter) @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on FM 96.9, AM 740 and 969TheGame.com/listen