May 27, 2024

It’s been an eventful year at Michigan.

Long before the sign-stealing allegations and long before the football team steamrolled opponents to a 9-0 record while seeking its third consecutive College Football Playoff berth, the Wolverines have been surrounded by controversy.

It started days into the new year, when, on one day, Michigan received an NCAA notice of allegations regarding recruiting violations and put out a statement that Jim Harbaugh, despite his NFL overtures, would be staying in Ann Arbor for 2023.

From there, things only got stranger. There was the assistant fired for “computer access crimes” and another staffer, who happened to be the son of legendary coach Bo Schembechler, resigning three days after being hired because of his social media activity.

Michigan has continued to thrive on the field in spite of all the chaos. Harbaugh will serve a second suspension of the year after the Big Ten banned him from the final three games of the regular season for violating the league’s sportsmanship policy. (He missed the first three games as the school self-imposed a penalty related to the recruiting violations.)

If you’ve had trouble keeping up, here’s a full rundown of the past 10 months of drama in Ann Arbor.

Jan. 5: Michigan receives a draft of an NCAA notice of allegations, which alleges violations of impermissible contact with recruits during NCAA-mandated dead periods, as well as an off-field analyst being involved in on-field coaching activities, a violation of NCAA rules. It is reported that Harbaugh allegedly met recruits and bought them hamburgers at a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

On the same day, Harbaugh issued a statement on university president Santa Ono’s Twitter account, one in which he pledges to remain Michigan’s coach, after reports surfaced of his interest in potentially leaving his alma mater for the NFL.

“As I stated in December, while no one knows what the future holds, I expect that I will be enthusiastically coaching Michigan in 2023,” Harbaugh said in the statement. “I have spoken with president Santa Ono and athletic director Warde Manuel and appreciate their support of me and our program.”

At the time, sources told ESPN that Harbaugh’s lack of cooperation with NCAA enforcement staff during the investigation led to a delay. According to a source, the draft of the notice of allegations includes a Level I violation, the most serious under NCAA rules, because Harbaugh didn’t cooperate or misled NCAA investigators. Sources indicated that Harbaugh might face a multigame suspension.

In a statement, Manuel said the school has “cooperated and will continue to cooperate with this investigation.”

Jan. 19: Yahoo Sports and ESPN report that an attempt to expedite Michigan’s NCAA infractions case fell apart because Harbaugh refused to acknowledge during multiple meetings with NCAA officials that he lied or misled investigators.

ESPN reported that Harbaugh maintained to investigators that he didn’t remember the recruiting incident in question, which led to a standstill in the infractions case. If Harbaugh had admitted he lied or wasn’t forthcoming, he probably would have faced a multigame suspension. The notice also included four Level II recruiting violations, which are less significant in severity and punishment.

Jan. 20: Michigan fires co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss after it says he failed to attend a meeting to discuss whether he gained unauthorized access to computer accounts assigned to other people in December 2022.

University of Michigan police confirmed there was an active investigation regarding potential computer crimes at the Schembechler Hall football building. The university, in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, informed Weiss it had evidence he “inappropriately accessed” others’ accounts. Weiss spent the 2021 and 2022 seasons with the Wolverines, most recently as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

May 20: Glenn “Shemy” Schembechler, son of legendary Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler, resigns three days after he was hired as the football program’s assistant director of football recruiting.

According to a report in The Detroit News, Schembechler’s Twitter timeline included “likes” of offensive and insensitive posts, including several suggesting that slavery and Jim Crow laws had a positive effect of strengthening Black people and families.

In a statement, Manuel and Harbaugh acknowledged that Schembechler’s posts caused “concern and pain for individuals in our community.”

Schembechler, a longtime NFL scout, apologized the next day, writing in a statement, “I was wrong. We must never sanitize morally unsanitary, historical behaviors that have hindered the Black community, or any other community. There are no historical silver linings for the experience of our brothers and sisters.”

July 25: Yahoo Sports and ESPN’s Pete Thamel report that Michigan and the NCAA were working toward a negotiated resolution in the infractions case that would include a four-game suspension for Harbaugh to start the 2023 season.

Aug. 12: Reports surface that the negotiated resolution between Harbaugh and the NCAA enforcement staff was not approved by the NCAA committee on infractions.

In a rare public statement regarding an ongoing infractions case, Derrick Crawford, NCAA vice president of hearing operations, said, “The Michigan infractions case is related to impermissible on and off-campus recruiting during the COVID-19 dead period and impermissible coaching activities — not a cheeseburger. It is not uncommon for the COI to seek clarification on key facts prior to accepting.”

Aug. 21: Michigan self-imposes a three-game suspension on Harbaugh to start the 2023 season after failing to come to terms on a negotiated resolution, meaning Harbaugh would miss nonconference home games against East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Green.

“While the ongoing NCAA matter continues through the NCAA process, today’s announcement is our way of addressing mistakes that our department has agreed to in an attempt to further that process,” Manuel said in a statement. “We will continue to support coach Harbaugh, his staff, and our outstanding student-athletes. Per the NCAA’s guidelines, we cannot comment further until the matter is resolved.”

In a statement released by the school, Harbaugh said, “I will continue to do what I always tell our players and my kids at home, ‘Don’t get bitter, get better.'”

Sept. 23: Harbaugh returns to the sideline for Michigan’s 31-7 victory over Rutgers at the Big House. It is the Wolverines’ 19th consecutive home victory, their longest streak since winning 21 in a row from 1998 to 2001.

Michigan runs for 201 yards and allows only 77 on the ground.

“That’s the kind of game Bo Schembechler would’ve been really proud of,” Harbaugh said.

Oct. 18: The NCAA notifies the Big Ten and Michigan that it had received allegations the Wolverines were involved in a sign-stealing scheme and had allegedly sent representatives to games to scout future opponents, which has been prohibited by NCAA rules since 1994. The Big Ten said it had notified Michigan’s future opponents of the allegations.

“The Big Ten Conference considers the integrity of competition to be of utmost importance and will continue to monitor the investigation,” the conference said in a statement.

In a statement, Harbaugh denied being involved or having knowledge of the scheme.

“I do not have any knowledge or information regarding the University of Michigan football program illegally stealing signals, nor have I directed any staff member or others to participate in an off-campus scouting assignment,” Harbaugh said.

Oct. 19: ESPN reports that Connor Stalions, a Wolverines off-field analyst and retired captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, is at the center of the NCAA’s investigation into alleged sign stealing. Sources told ESPN that NCAA enforcement staff sought access to Stalions’ computer.

A source told ESPN that the Wolverines have used an “elaborate” scouting system to steal signals from future opponents since at least 2021.

Michigan announced the next day that it had suspended Stalions with pay pending the conclusion of the investigation.

Oct. 23: ESPN reports that Stalions purchased tickets in his own name for more than 30 games at 11 Big Ten schools over the past three seasons (A 12th school later added that Stalions had purchased tickets at its stadium as well). In many cases, Stallions forwarded the tickets he bought to at least three people in different parts of the country.

The scope of the alleged sign-stealing operation included video evidence of electronics prohibited by the NCAA to steal signs and a significant paper trail, sources told ESPN.

An opposing Big Ten school accessed in-stadium surveillance video from a game earlier this year, and sources said the person in the seat of the ticket purchased by Stalions held his smartphone up and appeared to film the home team’s sideline the entire game.

The next day, ESPN reports that Stalions bought tickets for games at four non-Big Ten schools that were in College Football Playoff contention or were playing contenders, as well as tickets to the 2021 and 2022 SEC championship games.

Oct. 26: University of Michigan deputy chief Melissa Overton confirms the FBI has joined the department’s investigation into Weiss’ alleged unauthorized access into others’ computer accounts. Overton called the investigation “extensive, ongoing and … of the utmost priority.” She added that the investigation covered several states. Weiss has not been charged with a crime. Police told ESPN that the investigation was unrelated to Stallions’ alleged sign-stealing scheme.

Oct. 27: A former Division III player and assistant coach tells ESPN’s Dan Murphy that Stalions paid him “a couple hundred dollars” and provided him with a ticket to a Michigan home game to record future Wolverines opponents.

The man said he attended three Big Ten games during the past two seasons to record the sideline of a future Michigan opponent. He said that he uploaded the videos he took on his personal cellphone to a shared iPhone photo album but that he does not know who else other than Stalions had access to the album.

Oct. 31: Central Michigan announces that it is investigating photographs of a man who resembled Stalions standing on its sideline during the Sept. 1 opener at Michigan State.

The man, dressed in Central Michigan gear and standing with several of the team’s coaches, was wearing a bench credential. Photos obtained by ESPN showed a man wearing sunglasses — during a night game — and holding a possible play sheet.

“We obviously are aware of a picture floating around with the sign-stealer guy,” Chippewas coach Jim McElwain said. “Our people are doing everything they can to get to the bottom of it. We were totally unaware of it. I certainly don’t condone it in any way, shape or form. I do know that his name was on none of the passes that were [given] out. Now we just keep tracing it back and tracing it back and try to figure it out.

“But it’s in good hands with our people, and again, there’s no place in football for that.”

Nov. 1: During a 90-minute video call with Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti, a vast majority of Big Ten coaches expressed frustrations with the ongoing sign-stealing investigation at Michigan. Harbaugh was on the call but hung up once coaches started discussing the allegations involving his program.

Sources told ESPN that many of the coaches urged Petitti to take immediate action. The league’s sportsmanship policy gives Petitti the authority to investigate and discipline Michigan before the lengthy NCAA investigative and infractions process would conclude.

“Collectively, the coaches want the Big Ten to act — right now,” said a source familiar with the call. “What are we waiting on? We know what happened.”

Petitti had a video call with Big Ten athletic directors the next day; Manuel didn’t participate.

Nov. 2: Ono sends an email to Petitti, urging him to respect due process and the ongoing NCAA investigation into the football program.

In the email, Ono noted that no program would want to be in Michigan’s position and that he is “deeply concerned” about the allegations, adding that the school is “committed to ethics, integrity, and fair play.” But Ono encouraged Petitti to let the NCAA’s investigative process play out before imposing discipline, which other Big Ten coaches and athletic directors have encouraged him to do sooner.

Nov. 3: Stallions resigns from his position at Michigan, the same day Petitti meets with Ono on the Michigan campus. Sources told ESPN that Stalions did not attend a scheduled meeting with Michigan officials, possibly on advice of counsel. Sources were unsure whether he will cooperate with the NCAA investigation.

In a statement provided to The Athletic, Stalions said, “I love the University of Michigan and its football program. And I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with the incredible student athletes, coach Harbaugh and the other coaches that have been a part of the Michigan football family during my tenure. I do not want to be a distraction from what I hope to be a championship run for the team, and I will continue to cheer them on.”

Stalions’ attorney Brad Beckworth added in a statement, “Connor also wants to make it clear that, to his knowledge, neither Coach Harbaugh, nor any other coach or staff member, told anyone to break any rules or were aware of improper conduct regarding the recent allegations of advanced scouting.”

Nov. 6: The Big Ten formally notifies Michigan that it could be facing disciplinary action from the league, a university official told ESPN.

The letter sent to Michigan is part of the Big Ten’s sportsmanship policy, which requires a notice of disciplinary action “in the event it becomes clear that an institution is likely to be subjected to disciplinary action.”

The Big Ten’s letter alludes to evidence of the illegal signal stealing, which compromised competitive integrity and other principles of the sportsmanship policy, according to sources.

Manuel announced the same day that he will not travel to Texas for College Football Playoff selection committee meetings and will remain on campus “attending to important matters regarding the ongoing investigation into our football program.”

Nov. 10: The Big Ten suspends Jim Harbaugh for the remainder of the regular season (games against Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State) for being in violation of the league’s sportsmanship policy by “conducting an impermissible, in-person scouting operation over multiple years, resulting in an unfair competitive advantage that compromised the integrity of competition.”

Harbaugh is allowed to coach the team during the week and be present at all activities outside of the games.

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