The brutal truth Michigan must face even if it wins national championship
HOUSTON There are a lot of adjectives that have been used to describe Michigan.
Gritty. Physical. Resilient. Dominant. Balanced.
Heres another: Controversial cheaters.
With a win Monday night over Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston, Michigan would win the schools first national championship since 1997, ending over 25 years of frustration, capping a three-year run in which Jim Harbaugh flipped his own personal script leading his alma mater.
The first six seasons Harbaugh was in charge, Michigan was underwhelming, failing to win the big game. Lately, it has been the opposite, beating Ohio State three straight times and finally breaking through in the College Football Playoff after disappointing one-and-done trips the previous two years.
But, as much as a victory would return the Wolverines to the top of the college football mountaintop, the sign-stealing, in-game scouting scandal that rocked the sports world will be a part of this teams story, and could result in NCAA sanctions down the road.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and his team always will remembered for the sign-stealing scandal, even if the win the national championship, The Post’s Zach Braziller writes. AP## see also
Ex-military staffer Connor Stalions alleged mastermind behind Michigan sign-stealing controversy
Just like the Florida champions of 2008 are in part remembered for their many off-the-field problems, highlighted by the late Aaron Hernandez. Just like the 2017 World Series champion Houston Astros are derided for their intricate sign-stealing scandal of banging a garbage can to notify hitters of what pitches were coming. Those blights dont vanish.
A low-level staff member, Connor Stalions, was allegedly running an elaborate system of scouting and sign stealing. Stalions purchased tickets to games involving other Big Ten teams and potential playoff opponents. He reportedly bought tickets to more than 35 games at 17 different stadiums around the country through third-party vendors and had a network of at least three people who were given tickets to attend games. He was seen on videotape recording the sidelines of future Michigan opponents.
There is still so much we dont know, and a lot that probably wont ever become clear. How much of an advantage did Michigan gain? Did it know what plays the opponent was running? Was this scandal a part of the recent dominance? Knowing the NCAA, by the time a ruling comes down, there wont be an NCAA anymore.
Jim Harbaugh celebrates with quarterback J.J. McCarthy after Michigan’s overtime win over Alabama in their College Football Playoff semifinal win at the Rose Bowl. APIf there was no advantage, its unlikely Michigan would have kept doing it. Then again, once word spread of the controversy, and Harbaugh was suspended for the final three games of the regular season by the Big Ten and Stalions resigned amid an NCAA investigation, its hard to believe the Wolverines kept on doing it. They still beat Ohio State again. They pulled out a gutty overtime win over Alabama in the playoff, the team most experts pegged as the favorite to win it all.
beyond the back page### How to think about Michigans cheating, on the brink of a national title
Since the scandal was uncovered, Michigan has won seven straight games. The Wolverines play hasnt been diminished at all. If anything, it has created an us-against-the-world mindset, using the criticism as fuel.
Its almost been an unfair advantage, Harbaugh said after the thrilling Rose Bowl victory.
Considering how well Michigan performed once the news broke in mid-October, an argument can be made that the sign-stealing wasnt a major factor. At least thats what Michigan supporters would like everyone to believe. Asked recently about the potential of wins being vacated by the NCAA, Harbaugh scoffed at the notion.
I guess you want to live in the world of rumorville and speculation, he said. We dont have any time to be doing that right now.
His quarterback, J.J. McCarthy, believes that 80 percent of teams in college football steal signs, that rival Ohio State was stealing Michigans signs back in 2020 or 2019, and the Wolverines had to get up to that level they were at. He later clarified his statement that Michigan had to take more precautions to protect its signs. It wasnt an admission of guilt, as some took his quote.
Michigan fans will dismiss the sign-stealing scandal. Opposing fans will cite it, call the title tainted. The rest of us will remember it. Opinions will obviously vary.
Whether they like it or not, this will be a part of these Wolverines story. Flags fly forever, but scandals dont disappear, either particularly when they are involved in campionship runs.
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