Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh looks on from the sidelines during the Wolverines' game against Indiana on Oct. 14, 2023. Credit: USA TODAY

After Michigan’s sign stealing scheme was first made public last week, the first inclination for many Wolverines fans was to wonder who leaked it.

But while most pointed the finger at other Big Ten coaches — and in particular, Ohio State’s Ryan Day — according to one longtime UM insider, the call may actually be coming from inside the house.

Appearing on 97.1 The Fan in Columbus’ Morning Juice on Wednesday, New York Times bestselling author John U. Bacon discussed the ongoing scandal in Ann Arbor. In doing so, Bacon shared his belief that a lot of the information about the NCAA’s investigation into the matter is coming from a Michigan booster named Jim Stapleton, who has an ongoing beef with Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh.

“They’re getting leaks like crazy from the NCAA. Watch a guy named Jim Stapleton,” Bacon said. “Jim Stapleton is a Michigan alum who blackballed Harbaugh when he was [interviewing] with the Minnesota Vikings because [Stapleton] was on the board for the Minnesota Vikings. He now got himself onto the NCAA Infractions Committee and he hates Jim Harbaugh. It doesn’t matter who the source is or if it’s right or wrong. If Michigan did it, they’ll still pay a price. That’s not the point. You can’t kill the messenger. But as far as the leaking goes, I would guarantee you that’s where it’s coming from.”

Bacon is no stranger to Stapleton, who he wrote about in his 2011 book Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football. In that book, Bacon reported that Stapleton had been accused of sabotaging Rodriguez’s time in Ann Arbor — something the Detroit-area business man denied. As he alluded to, Bacon also reported that Stapleton used his influence as a Vikings minority owner to attempt to prevent the team from hiring Harbaugh when he interviewed with the franchise following the 2021 season. According to the NCAA website, Stapleton is in his first term on the NCAA’s infractions committee.

While it’s unclear where Stapleton’s grudge with Harbaugh stems from, the Michigan message boards have already begun to pick up on Bacon’s comments. The reality is that in a situation like this, there are plenty of different parties with different interests and it’s not a surprise that information would be leaked. As Bacon noted, what ultimately matters isn’t who’s sharing the information, but whether or not it’s accurate.

[97.1 The Fan]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.