Sources: Michigan assistant at center of NCAA investigation purchased tickets to potential CFP opponents

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On the morning of Oct. 24, 2022, as the then-7-0 Michigan Wolverines entered the Monday of their bye week, a young recruiting analyst on staff opened a secondary market ticket website, selected a seat in Neyland Stadium for the Tennessee Volunteers’ upcoming game against Kentucky and punched in his credit card information.

That analyst, of course, was Connor Stalions, the now-suspended Michigan staff member at the center of an NCAA investigation into illicit sign stealing.

Stalions’ in-person scouting of college football games went beyond Michigan’s Big Ten opponents. He purchased tickets to games involving teams that the Wolverines might meet in the College Football Playoff as well.

One of those included Tennessee, who at that point was undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the country, having beaten Alabama two weeks prior. Sources within the program released information on Stalions’ ticket-purchasing under the condition of anonymity.

At 11:42 a.m., Stalions purchased a single ticket to the Tennessee-Kentucky game on Oct. 28, 2022. Three minutes later, he transferred the ticket to another person. That person did use the ticket, attending the game and sitting in a seat positioned opposite of Tennessee’s sideline in range of viewing the coaching staff’s signals, a source confirmed to Yahoo Sports.

ESPN reported Monday that Stalions purchased tickets to 30 games involving Big Ten teams, but he also booked tickets to several games involving CFP contenders. In what appears to be an elaborate web of in-person scouting — against NCAA rules — Stalions used several associates to attend games and record a team’s play-call signals.

He purchased tickets involving several more teams, most of them at that time in line for CFP bids or participating in championship games. Those teams are believed to be Alabama, Georgia and Clemson. He bought tickets for the 2021 and 2022 SEC championship games, according to sources familiar with the information.

Stealing an opponent’s signals during a game or even from television broadcasts is quite common in college football and is not against NCAA rules. However, the NCAA’s investigation is more focused on how Michigan and Stalions gained information on its opponents to learn such signals in advance.

If the school learned information through scouting future opponents’ games in-person, that violates a near 30-year-old NCAA rule. If the school learned information through the use of recording or video devices, that violates another NCAA bylaw.

Harbaugh’s involvement or knowledge of the alleged scheme is unclear. In a statement Thursday, the coach denied knowledge of the accusations of sign stealing and in-person scouting of opponents.

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