April 19, 2024

Central Michigan is investigating photos that show a man resembling Michigan Wolverines staff member Connor Stalions on its sideline for the Sept. 1 opener at Michigan State.

Athletic director Amy Folan, in a statement to ESPN, said the school became aware of the photos late Monday. The man resembling Stalions is dressed in Central Michigan-issued gear and standing alongside several of the team’s coaches, while wearing a bench credential.

The credential reads “VB” and appears to be designated for the visiting bench area, which is different from a general sideline pass. It gives access to the designated area between the 20-yard lines, which is reserved for players, coaches, trainers and equipment staff. Schools are given a finite number of passes for each game.

“We are in the process of determining the facts surrounding them,” Folan’s statement reads. “As this process is ongoing, we have no further comment at this time.”

Stalions is at the center of the NCAA’s investigation into off-campus scouting and signal stealing. Michigan has suspended him with pay, pending the outcome of the investigation, which launched Oct. 17.

A Michigan spokesperson declined to comment when asked about Stalions’ whereabouts Sept. 1.

Photos obtained by ESPN show a man wearing sunglasses — during a night game — and holding a possible play sheet. The man, who was standing near offensive line coach Tavita Thompson and CMU director of recruiting Michael McGee for much of the game, was shown by FS1 cameras several times during the game broadcast and appeared to shield his face any time a play ended near where he was standing.

According to NCAA rules, the “team area” during games includes a maximum of 50 non-squad members “directly involved in the game.” Those not in full uniform wear special credentials assigned to the team area that are numbered 1 through 50.

“No other credential is valid for the team area,” according to NCAA Rule 1-2-4-b.

Michigan State is aware of Stalions’ potential presence at the opener, and sources at MSU told ESPN that the school is discussing potential next steps and is prepared to cooperate with any formal investigation that arises from this.

Sources told ESPN that Stalions purchased tickets at 12 Big Ten schools and for several other games involving potential Michigan opponents. A former Division III football player and coach told ESPN that Stalions compensated him to attend games involving Michigan opponents and record their sideline with his smartphone.

The Central Michigan allegation is the first that potentially places 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. Photos show Stalions on the Michigan sideline for the Sept. 2 opener.

Central Michigan has multiple staff members with ties to Michigan.

Central Michigan hosts Northern Illinois on Tuesday night.

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