Ohio State “Changed Things Up” Against Michigan Due to Team’s Alleged Sign Stealing

By Andy Anders on October 20, 2023 at 1:55 pm
Ryan Day on the sideline

Ohio State had to make adjustments to its signals prior to its game against Michigan last year since Connor Stalions wasn't horsing around.

After the Big Ten confirmed Thursday that the Wolverines are under NCAA investigation for alleged in-person scouting to steal play-call signals from opponents, which is prohibited by the NCAA, ESPN reported Friday that the investigation is centering around Michigan analyst Connor Stalions, a retired United States Marine Corps captain whose role is allegedly to decipher opponents’ signals.

A member of Ohio State’s support staff spoke to Yahoo Sports and confirmed that they had knowledge of Stalions' alleged gambit. A Buckeye staffer said they “changed things up” in terms of their signals before playing Michigan in 2022.

“We heard they had a guy pick plays pretty good and had all this information from not your typical ways of getting the signals,” the OSU staff member told Yahoo Sports. “We get into the game and it’s the second quarter. I see him across the field and he’s checking his 11x17 sheet.”

Sources told ESPN that the NCAA has requested access to Stalions’ computer as part of its investigation. Michigan announced Friday that it had suspended Stalions with pay pending the conclusion of the NCAA investigation.

Yahoo Sports found that coaches around the Big Ten were aware of the alleged sign-stealing and even took countermeasures to ensure that their play calls weren't known by the opponent.

“We were told to be careful because they had a guy who could pick plays,” one Big Ten head coach told Yahoo Sports. “It was too late in the week to change our signals, but another staff did tell us about (Stalions).”

Stalions has deleted all of his social media accounts since being identified in ESPN’s report.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh denied any knowledge of possible sign-stealing that might have occurred in his program and said his staff will "fully cooperate" with the NCAA investigation in a statement Thursday.

The university also released a statement saying it is cooperating with investigators and that the Wolverines' game at Michigan State on Saturday should not be impacted. Michigan State initially warned the Big Ten it might not play in the game for the "health and safety" of its players, per a report from The Athletic's Brendan Quinn, but confirmed Thursday it would move forward with playing.

This marks the second active investigation into Michigan's football program this year. The Wolverines received a notice of allegations from the NCAA in January that handed Harbaugh a Level I violation for failing to cooperate with investigators and Level II violations for hosting recruits during the COVID-19 dead period, using too many coaches at practice sessions and watching player workouts over a video feed.

Harbaugh served a self-imposed three-game suspension against East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Green to start the year for Michigan, but the team could still see more penalties from those violations. Now, the Wolverines could be facing even stiffer sanctions with its sign-stealing operation under scrutiny.

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