Michigan’s Connor Stalions resigns, says neither Harbaugh nor team ‘were aware of improper conduct’

By Nicole Auerbach, Austin Meek, Katie Strang and Bruce Feldman

University of Michigan staffer Connor Stalions has resigned, a school spokesperson said Friday. He had refused to cooperate with any internal or external investigations or discussions, a school source told The Athletic.

Stalions, who was initially suspended with pay by Michigan on Oct. 20, is at the center of the NCAA’s investigation into an alleged scouting and sign-stealing scheme. Stalions bought tickets to games in at least seven Big Ten stadiums before those teams played the Wolverines over the past three seasons, including the 2023 season, sources told The Athletic earlier this month. Purchasing the tickets is not a violation of NCAA rules, but using them to scout and record other teams would violate the rules prohibiting in-person, on-campus scouting and the audio or video recording of signals.

Stalions’ attorney, Brad Beckworth of Nix Patterson, told The Athletic on Friday that earlier reports of Stalions being fired were false, and that “Connor is thankful the University corrected that false narrative tonight.”

“As he informed the school earlier today, Connor chose to resign because recent stories regarding his time with the University of Michigan have created a distraction for the team,” Beckworth said. “He hopes his resignation will help the team and coaching staff focus on tomorrow’s game and the remainder of the season. Connor also wants to make it clear that, to his knowledge, neither Coach Harbaugh, nor any other coach or staff member, told anyone to break any rules or were aware of improper conduct regarding the recent allegations of advanced scouting.”

In his own statement provided to The Athletic, Stalions said, “I love the University of Michigan and its football program.”

“And I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with the incredible student athletes, coach Harbaugh and the other coaches that have been a part of the Michigan football family during my tenure,” Stalions said. “I do not want to be a distraction from what I hope to be a championship run for the team, and I will continue to cheer them on.”

Friday’s news comes days after screenshots of a person who looks similar to Stalions was seen on the Central Michigan sideline during the team’s game against Michigan State began circulating online Monday night. The Athletic obtained more photos of the person on the sideline Tuesday, and CMU announced it was investigating whether Stalions was indeed on its sideline in CMU apparel for the Sept. 1 game against the Spartans. If the man on the CMU sidelines is indeed Stalions, this would be the first known example of him attending the game of a Michigan opponent in person weeks before the opponent played the Wolverines.

“We obviously are aware of a picture floating around with the sign-stealer guy,” CMU coach Jim McElwain said Tuesday night after CMU’s game against Northern Illinois. “Our people are doing everything they can to get to the bottom of it. We’re totally unaware of it. I certainly don’t condone it in any way, shape or form. I do know his name was on none of the passes that were let out. We keep tracing it back and tracing it back and try to figure it out. It’s in good hands with our people. Again, there’s no place in football for that.”

Frustration within the Big Ten conference has been mounting in the days and weeks since the initial NCAA investigation into Michigan broke. The league’s coaches and athletic directors have both met with Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti this week to vent and urge Petitti to take action against the Wolverines amid evidence of the scouting and sign-stealing scheme. Petitti does have the ability to issue punishment under the Big Ten’s sportsmanship policy, but he has told administrators and coaches previously he wants to let the investigative process play out, which includes giving Michigan a chance to respond to the NCAA’s findings.

Officials at the other 13 Big Ten schools believe Petitti has enough information — tickets purchased by Stalions to games in Big Ten opponents’ stadiums and in-stadium surveillance footage showing people in those seats filming the sidelines — to act now.

“What’s crazy is they weren’t allegations. It happened. There’s video evidence,” Purdue coach Ryan Walters said Thursday on his radio show. “There’s ticket purchases and sales that you can track back. We know for a fact that they were at a number of our games, so we’ve had to teach our guys a new language in terms of some signals.”

The Boilermakers face the Wolverines on Saturday night.

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(Photo: Rich Graessle / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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