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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Larry Lage | Associated Press

Jim Harbaugh keeps quiet on Michigan sign-stealing investigation

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, shown in a file photo, wouldn’t discuss the NCAA investigation into alleged sign stealing. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jim Harbaugh usually shares his thoughts freely, and often in unique ways.

Amid an NCAA investigation into a sign-stealing scheme under his watch at Michigan, his approach has changed.

“Stuff we just can’t talk about,” Harbaugh said Monday while the second-ranked Wolverines prepared to play Purdue. “I’d love to.”

Harbaugh, though, did address a report the school rescinded a contract offer for him in the wake of a scandal that has rocked college football’s winningest program.

“I wouldn’t say that’s accurate,” Harbaugh said.

What is true is that contract talks between Michigan and Harbaugh have lingered for many months.

Unresolved NCAA issues from a previous investigation, tied to improper contact with recruits, delayed Michigan finalizing a new deal for Harbaugh, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press last July. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss contract talks.

The latest NCAA inquiry was triggered by an outside firm’s investigation, which turned up videos of and documented plans and budgets for impermissible scouting of opponents. The Washington Post reported the firm obtained computer drives maintained and accessed by multiple Michigan coaches.

Harbaugh has denied any knowledge or involvement in impermissible scouting of opponents and said no one has given him a timetable for the probe.

The firm presented evidence to the NCAA and suggested Connor Stalions, a low-level staffer who has been suspended by Michigan, was not the only person on staff aware of the scheme, according to the report. A second person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to the AP that a firm provided the NCAA with evidence, including photographs, videos and documents, that initiated the association’s investigation.

That person told AP on Thursday the NCAA has not shared any evidence from the scouting case with Michigan officials or school attorneys.

It was unclear who hired the firm to investigate Michigan.

“Cooperate with the investigation and watch how it plays out,” he said. “The speculation part, too much of a one-track mind on coaching the team to be able to engage in every speculation that seems to be any and everywhere.”

The Wolverines (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) have won consecutive conference championships and reached the playoff semifinals each of the last two seasons and host the rebuilding Boilermakers (2-6, 1-4) on Saturday night.

The NCAA does not directly ban the stealing of signs, but there are rules against using electronic equipment to record an opponent’s signals and in-person, advanced scouting of future opponents in season. There are also rules against unsportsmanlike or unethical activities by coaches, and head coaches are generally considered to be responsible for violations that occur under them.

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