Since the Big Ten and NCAA began investigating Michigan’s culpability in the former recruiting analyst Connor Stallion‘ extensive sign-stealing operation, the response of Michigan was not to deny the accusations. It was to distract by claiming they weren’t aware and distract everyone with accusations that opponents with less recruiting advantages had legitimately deciphered their signs.
Michigan’s youngest defense has gotten their coach involved Jim Harbaugh planting a flag in the ground and anointing Michigan as America’s team.
“Just the tenacity and the fortitude of these guys, watching (Michigan vs. Penn State), I’d have to tell everybody … this has to be America’s team,” Harbaugh said. “America loves a team that beats the odds, beats the odds, overcomes the naysayers and critics, [the] so-called experts think. This is my favorite kind of team.”
In a way he may be right. A silver spoon program with the resources to hire recruiting analysts, fly in the top recruits from around the country, get caught cheating and then blame their accusers is as American as apple pie these days. Pretending to be the victim and seeking sympathy for how the powers that be unfairly target them sounds familiar in this climate. If Harbaugh wants to stop these investigations in their tracks, he should announce that he is running for Senate in Michigan this week. That way he can accuse anyone who dares to punish him for creating the environment for a banana republic. At this pace, I’d be more concerned that if Michigan doesn’t make the College Football Playoff, Harbaugh’s Wolverines will stage a midfield rally at the Sugar or Rose Bowl and refuse to leave the field.
Michigan portraying themselves as the heavy-handed disruptors who get punished for coloring way outside the lines, then blaming the college football equivalent of the deep state for screwing them over, is beyond overdramatic. Remember when Michigan’s offense lined up in an I formation and raised four fingers to the air during the second drive of the preseason opener as a tribute to Harbaugh, who is still very much alive? And it was for a recruiting offense that we know he personally committed. They even tried to make a variation of the nothing citizen excuse to absolve themselves during Harbaugh’s earlier punishment.
As for adversity. Michigan is one of the most profitable athletic departments in the country. Their athletic department revenue was $210 million in 2022, the fourth highest in the entire country. Their first national title was a century ago. Michigan fans are the only ones who wanted Harbaugh gone after he became too familiar with the Outback Bowl during his first six years at the helm.
Last week, Michigan’s lawyers also sent a stern letter to Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti implying that they could not be punished because their opponents also shared signs, but nothing they pointed to from the other schools they singled out included an accusation of similar rule violation. The idea that the NCAA and the Big Ten’s bipartisan legal system is singling them out to appease Rutgers, Purdue and Ohio State is absurd. Harbaugh not penalized for sign theft. They are being investigated for the system implemented by Stalions and the lack of institutional control present within the program.
The best case scenario is that everyone at Michigan blindly believed that their recruiting analyst and his network of scouts had been going to opponents’ home games and roaming the sidelines for years, passing on his information to assistant coaches on match days like a Frank Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year candidate. The jury is still out on whether he slipped on Central Michigan’s sideline decked out in Chippewa gear and blacked out shades. There are still questions about how an underman making $55,000 a year was financed this without submitting expense reports.
Michigan seemed more apoplectic about the Big Ten’s ADs complaining about their efforts than they were about the Stallions’ illegal operation. The slap on the wrist by the Big Ten isn’t even that bad. Harbaugh continues to dispense coaching wisdom on weekdays and his top coaching staff will take the reins for two more Saturdays. The first week was a breakthrough as Penn State turns into soup against top-10 teams. Then, comes Maryland and Ohio State. The irony is that the same Michigan people who are defending Harbaugh to death were ready to dump him before 2021. But success breeds loyalty. The Dear Leader vibes coming out of Michigan right now are totally bizarre. Maybe Harbaugh isn’t so far off about this being America’s team.
Follow DJ Dunson on X: @cerebral sports text