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Michigan accuses Ohio State and other Big Ten schools of sharing its signals

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, left, talks to quarterback J.J. McCarthy.
Al Goldis
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, left, talks to quarterback J.J. McCarthy before an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich.

The University of Michigan is claiming that several Big Ten schools, including Ohio State, have also participated in sign stealing.

The allegation came out on Monday, from an Associated Press story in which an anonymous former employee at a Big Ten conference team claimed that it was his job to steal and compile signals from multiple other conference teams.

The former employee said that he sent the university documents that showed signals and their corresponding plays, as well as text messages between him and other staffers from multiple Big Ten schools. The former staffer shared with AP that he has come forward with this information because he believes that the Michigan program is being unfairly blamed for the actions of a “rogue staffer.”

An anonymous former Big Ten team coach has also released documents that detail stolen signals from Michigan to Sports Illustrated, and claimed that the source of these calls were from other Big Ten schools. The heavily redacted documents show a list of signals, some still in use, dated 2020 and 2022.

The NCAA does not prohibit sign stealing outright, allowing it if the signals are seen on television or across the field, however attending a game in person or specifically recording upcoming opponents' sideline to steal signals is not allowed. The nature of how these signals were obtained is not currently known.

It is alleged that Ohio State provided offensive signals and Rutgers provided defensive signals to Purdue for the 2022 Big Ten Championship game, in which Michigan beat Purdue 45-23.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day denied the allegations at a press conference on Wednesday.

“You know we went through and made sure, asked all the questions, got our compliance people involved. And none of that came back at all, so, you know, I could answer, you know, very strongly that that did not happen."

The allegations from Michigan come after the program received a formal notice of investigation into the league's sportsmanship policy from the Big Ten on Monday. The investigation into Michigan focuses on a similar allegation of signal stealing by former staffer Connor Stalions.

He is accused of organizing a scheme to attend the games of Big Ten teams or other potential postseason opponents. Stalions resigned from his position at Michigan on Nov. 3 after claiming that he did not know what he was doing was a violation.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has denied knowledge of Stalions' alleged actions.

On Wednesday, Michigan released a 10 page rebuttal letter addressed to the Big Ten claiming that the program had not violated any rules. The letter, signed by Michigan's athletic director Warde Manuel, alludes to the idea that in-person sign stealing “may well be far more prevalent than believed."

The letter from Michigan also includes documents and pictures of signs allegedly stolen from Michigan by other Big Ten teams. The letter states that any disciplinary action against the school would be disproportionate given the provided evidence.

The Big Ten and the NCAA have not publicly announced any investigations into Ohio State, Rutgers, or Purdue at this time.