Michigan is mercilessly beating its opponents, ignoring the NCAA investigation. And it won’t be better | ET REALITY


EAST LANSING, Mich. — Go ahead and question the integrity of Michigan.

Accuses Jim Harbaugh of ignoring NCAA regulations. Cry bad about signal theft or analysts overstepping their limits. Root for the most arrogant program in the Big Ten to get what it deserves. The Wolverines have made one thing very clear: them. Do. No. Be careful.

“You see it all over social media,” right guard Zak Zinter said. “People are throwing different things at us, at the NCAA, whatever. They can complain and do anything, say anything. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

What they are doing is demolishing every Big Ten team in their path. No. 2 Michigan (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) did it again Saturday night, defeating Michigan State 49-0 after another week mired in controversy.

Two days earlier, news broke that the NCAA was investigating Michigan for possible violations of a rule prohibiting in-person scouting of future opponents. On Friday afternoon, Michigan suspended the hiring of analyst Connor Stalions, a staffer known for his decoding prowess.

Apparently, the Stalions were not essential to Michigan’s success. The Wolverines still have JJ McCarthy and one of the best defenses in the FBS, and that was more than enough to overwhelm Michigan State. Like every opponent before them, the Spartans ran at Michigan and didn’t stand a chance.

“They were a real buzz,” Harbaugh said.

The Wolverines haven’t made many friends in the Big Ten while winning 20 straight conference games. Teams that suspected something fishy about Michigan’s sign-stealing operation surely felt some satisfaction when news of the NCAA investigation became public.

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Some of that is sour grapes. Some are, no doubt, a reaction to the way Michigan is conducting itself as a program. For a team that prides itself on doing things right, Michigan seems to end up in the middle of a lot of controversies. The program has a target on its back from both its Big Ten and NCAA rivals.

“There is a goal, yes,” Harbaugh said. “Everyone has pointed it out since the beginning of the season. Our guys are very focused. “They just go about their business.”

It will take more than an investigation or three to take down Michigan. The Wolverines play with investigations the same way other teams play with sprained ankles. It just doesn’t faze them.

Michigan was already under investigation for alleged Level II violations that included impermissible contact with recruits during the COVID-19 dead period and impermissible use of analysts for in-field training. Harbaugh was charged with failing to cooperate with the investigation and served a three-game suspension imposed by the school to start the season.

That was after co-offensive coordinator Matt Weiss was fired for cause in January amid a police investigation into suspicious computer activity at Schembechler Hall. Now the program faces another NCAA investigation tied to alleged violations of the in-person scouting rule.

Debating the ethics of in-person scouting is like debating the ethics of pass interference: ethical or not, it’s against the rules, and that’s what matters. If the Wolverines violated rules regarding in-person scouting or video recording, they should be punished. If Harbaugh knew of such violations (and he says he did not), he should be held accountable.

Neither Michigan nor the NCAA deserve the benefit of the doubt in this case. Both have proven fallible in various ways. The NCAA has the burden of proving its case, whether through video evidence or written submissions. People are rightly skeptical of the NCAA’s ability to administer justice. Just look at the Kansas basketball investigation, which lasted six years and ended with barely a whimper.

Even if these investigations do not result in significant sanctions, they consume time and resources. They cast a cloud of suspicion over the people and programs involved. They tarnish reputation and diminish achievements.

It may be months or years before the full story emerges. Meanwhile, Michigan has games to play and another Big Ten championship to chase. The Wolverines are experts at ignoring accusations and innuendos, possibly because they’ve had a lot of practice.

“All the outside distraction, the accusations against Coach Harbaugh, that doesn’t affect us at all,” McCarthy said. “We’re just out there trying to play ball and have fun with our guys. “We keep it very simple.”

This week was already emotionally charged after last year’s game against Michigan State ended with a violent scene in the Michigan Stadium tunnel. Two Michigan players were injured in that matchup, including cornerback Ja’Den McBurrows, who had the first interception of his career in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game. Before the game, the Wolverines claimed they were not talking about the tunnel. After McBurrows made that interception, they acknowledged that yes, it could have happened once or twice.

“I know how it felt,” said defensive back Mike Sainristil, who had his second pick six of the season. “I felt it too. I was so happy for him. All week he was talking about different things. He mentioned what happened last year a couple different times. The coaches and us as players told him, ‘When you get the opportunity, just go out there and make the plays.'”

As Michigan went into halftime with a 28-0 lead, Harbaugh told the Wolverines to “leave no doubt.” That was a response to blowing a lead on his last trip to Michigan State, McCarthy said, and not an attempt to make a point about the sign-stealing allegations.

Even if they didn’t try, the Wolverines sent a message. They outscored their first seven opponents 93-0 in the third quarter, a statistic that was cited after accusations of sign-stealing surfaced. Is Michigan that good at halftime adjustments? Or perhaps the Wolverines are benefiting from some unfair advantage?

The third quarter scoring margin is 107-0 after Saturday’s game. Any Michigan State fan expecting the Wolverines to crumble without the help of their sign-stealing network went home sorely disappointed.

“Let’s put all that aside: We’re going to pit our 11 against anyone else’s 11 in the country on offense, defense and special teams,” tight end AJ Barner said.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a team anywhere in the country that plays better than Michigan. six people in The AthleticThe eight-person panel picked Michigan to win the national championship, and the Wolverines certainly looked the part again Saturday night.

Investigations aside, the Wolverines are running roughshod over the rest of the Big Ten. And they will continue to do so until someone stops them.

(Top photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty)

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