Central Michigan is investigating photos that show a man who resembles Michigan staffer Connor Stalions on the Chippewas’ sideline for their Sept. 1 opener at Michigan State.
In a statement to ESPN's Adam Rittenberg and Pete Thamel, Central Michigan athletic director Amy Folan said the school became aware of the photos on Monday. The man pictured, said to resemble Stalions, is dressed in Central Michigan gear and seen near several Chippewa coaches while wearing a bench credential.
The man's credentials read "VB," which ESPN reported CMU designates for the visiting bench area and is differentiated from a general sideline pass. The VB credential allows access to the designated area between the 20-yard lines – an area reserved for players, coaches, trainers and equipment staff. According to ESPN, schools can distribute a finite number of passes for each game.
"We are in the process of determining the facts surrounding them," Folan wrote in her statement to ESPN. "As this process is ongoing, we have no further comment at this time."
The Athletic obtained more photos on Tuesday that showed the man standing in between coaches and pumping his fist in celebration.
NEW: @TheAthletic has obtained more photos of the goatee'd sunglasses person on the Central Michigan sideline at Michigan State.— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) October 31, 2023
CMU is looking into whether this is Connor Stalions.
Story: https://t.co/79siEcZ89r pic.twitter.com/R5AyslTIWF
Stalions is central to the NCAA's investigation of alleged impermissible off-campus scouting and signal-stealing at Michigan. The university suspended him with pay pending the outcome of the probe. Rittenberg and Thamel reported ESPN has obtained photos that show a man wearing sunglasses and holding a possible play sheet on the CMU sideline. The man appeared to shield his face when plays ended near where he was standing. However, he was still shown on the FS1 broadcast several times.
Michigan State is also aware of Stalions' potential presence at the opener. Sources in East Lansing told ESPN that the school has discussed possible next steps and is prepared to cooperate with a potential formal investigation that could come from the photographs.
On Oct. 23, ESPN reported that Stalions purchased tickets to over 30 games at 12 of 13 Big Ten schools within the past three years. And on Oct. 27, a former Division III football coach told ESPN that Stalions compensated him for attending games involving Michigan opponents and recording their sidelines with his smartphone.
The Central Michigan allegation is the first that could place Stalions on the sideline of a game involving a Michigan opponent. Michigan beat Michigan State 49-0 at Spartan Stadium on Oct. 21.
Central Michigan faced Michigan State the night before Michigan began its season against East Carolina. Stalions was on the Michigan sideline for that matchup.
Central Michigan has multiple staff members with ties to Michigan. The man who resembles Stalions appeared on the sideline near offensive line coach Tavita Thompson and CMU director of recruiting Michael McGee for most of the Central Michigan-Michigan State matchup, according to ESPN.