Michigan football: Ohio State collusion isn’t different than what Connor Stalions is alleged of doing

Nov 26, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh (right) and Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day (left) shake hands before the game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 26, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh (right) and Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day (left) shake hands before the game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports /

If Ohio State really gave Michigan football signals to Purdue and traded with Rutgers, all three teams did exactly what Connor Stalions is alleged of doing — in-person scouting. 

It’s amazing that after all the pearl-clutching from Ohio State and the rest of the Big Ten “anonymously” it turns out that the Buckeyes and at least two other schools are accused of doing basically the same thing Connor Stalions is accused of doing.

According to a report by John U. Bacon, a well-known and trusted Michigan insider, which was later confirmed by Adam Rittenberg of ESPN, Ohio State, and Rutgers shared Michigan football signals they had stolen from the Wolverines with Purdue ahead of the Big Ten title game last season.  Of course, the reaction from rival fans has been, “No rules were broken. Stealing signs is legal.”

Those fans are correct that stealing signs, as long as you aren’t using advanced, in-person scouting methods, is legal. But the Big Ten should certainly investigate how Ohio State, Purdue, and Rutgers got these signs, as well as what other teams may have been involved.

That’s sportsmanship?

Here’s where I get confused because I don’t see a shred of difference between what Stalions was accused of doing and what these Big Ten programs were doing.

Stalions allegedly paid “agents” whether they were fans or family members — we really don’t know — but allegedly they attended games and filmed the opposing signals.

We have no proof of the recording part, at least none made public, and anyone who has read the NCAA rules knows that recording is only banned if it’s during the same game your team is playing — otherwise, you couldn’t DVR your opponent’s games or watch the All-22 film, which is all fair game for signal stealing.

So we are back to the in-person scouting rule.

My point is that if whoever took these tickets from Stalions were “agents” of Michigan football, then why wouldn’t Rutgers coaches scouting Michigan and stealing signs (to give to Ohio State and Purdue) qualify as agents doing advanced in-person scouting too?

Ohio State and Purdue got information from people who scouted Michigan (Rutgers) and presumably, stole their signs legally during the game they played — then documented it and gave it all to the Buckeyes and Boilermakers.

How is that different from Michigan sending a coach to a Purdue or Ohio State game to watch and scout? The answer: It’s not. It’s the exact same thing.

These Big Ten teams can argue they didn’t violate the rule. Well, Michigan football can argue Stalions didn’t either. Buying tickets for people isn’t against the rules.

Those same people recording video in their seats as most college football fans do each Saturday, on its face, isn’t against the rules.

Now, it seems fair to say that Stalions (no connection has been made to Jim Harbaugh via Yahoo Sports) violated the spirit of the rule and probably broke the actual rules if everything that’s been reported is true.

It’s my belief that the whole Michigan State sideline incident will be connected to Central Michigan and not the Wolverines. It’s the only thing that makes sense. How did Stalions get the pass? How did he know what color to wear to blend in?

There’s no way any Michigan football staffer told Stalions to do that — just my opinion.

If it works out that way, there’s evidence that Stalions might have broken a rule (in-person scouting), just like any competent person can conclude Ohio State, Rutgers, and Purdue might have violated the same rule.

What’s not under dispute or shouldn’t be, is whether these teams violated the Big Ten’s sportsmanship policy.  If Michigan football did, these other teams did too.

So either they should all be suspended by the league pending an investigation, or they should all be allowed to coach their teams while the Big Ten and NCAA investigate.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander and if the issue is that stolen signals changed the competitive balance of games, how in the world can the Big Ten allow one team to share material with another before a championship game, then punish Michigan with a straight face?

That’s why this report matters and frankly, why according to Sam Webb, the Big Ten is starting to back off its stance of an indefinite suspension, instead potentially opting for something shorter, which would make sense if the league cared at all about actual fairness.