Report: Central Michigan investigating if suspended Michigan staffer was on Chippewas' sideline in Week 1

CMU visited Michigan State to open the season the day before Michigan played East Carolina

Central Michigan is investigating the possibility that suspended Michigan staffer Connor Stalions was on the team’s sideline for its season opener at Michigan State.

CMU athletic director Amy Folan said in a statement to ESPN that “we are in the process of determining the facts surrounding” photos of a man resembling Stalions on the CMU sideline gained traction on social media Monday.

Stalions was suspended in mid-October as the NCAA investigates allegations that Michigan was stealing other teams’ signals via in-person scouting. Sign stealing is not prohibited, though teams are not allowed to scout other teams in person.

From ESPN:

"Photos obtained by ESPN show a man wearing sunglasses — during a night game — and holding a possible play sheet. The man appeared to shield his face any time a play ended near where he was standing, but was shown by FS1 cameras several times during the game broadcast.

"Michigan State is aware of Stalions' potential presence at the opener, and sources at MSU told ESPN that the school is discussing potential next steps and is prepared to cooperate with any formal investigation that arises from this."

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 27: A Michigan Wolverines football helmet  during the Big Ten Conference Media Days on July 27, 2023 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN (Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Was Conor Stalions on the Central Michigan sideline for the school's Week 1 game at Michigan State? (Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Over the last two seasons, tickets in Stalions’ name were purchased for games at myriad other Big Ten schools that didn’t involve Michigan. Yahoo Sports also reported that Stalions purchased tickets to games involving potential playoff opponents during the 2022 season. Michigan lost to TCU in the semifinals of the College Football Playoff a season ago and the Horned Frogs were aware of Michigan’s sign-stealing.

If Stalions was on the sideline for the CMU game, it would be the first known instance of his sideline presence at a future Michigan opponent's game.

Michigan beat Michigan State 49-0 in Week 8. That game happened after Stalions had been suspended.

On Monday, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh denied a report that a contract extension had been rescinded because of the sign-stealing scandal and said that he was "forthright" in a previous statement regarding the NCAA investigation. In that statement, Harbaugh said that he did "not have any knowledge or information regarding the University of Michigan football program illegally stealing signs, nor have I directed any staff member or others to participate in an off-campus scouting assignment."