COLUMBUS, OH – NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines argues a call on the sideline during the second half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The Awful Announcing Wednesday Newsletter is a deep dive into all things sports media with original commentary, highlights from the week, social media buzz, and much more. Below is our “A Block” that leads off the newsletter. You can read this and more by subscribing here. We send a recap of what’s been on AA on Monday and Friday mornings as well as the extended original version on Wednesdays.

When SpyGate happened in September 2007, it was the biggest story in the sports world. If you somehow don’t recall, the multi-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots were caught illegally taping the New York Jets. Record fines were issued, draft picks were taken, lawsuits were filed, tapes were destroyed, and Senators even tried to get involved. How did we know it reached a cultural threshold? It earned the nonsensical -Gate suffix.

If SpyGate was a scandal that shook the sports world, it looks like Harry and Marv from Home Alone compared to what is circling the University of Michigan.

The evidence that has already poured out into public light makes the unfolding cheating allegations against Michigan look like one of the bigger scandals in recent memory in sports. It revolves around a low-level assistant named (yes) Connor Stallions, who ran an elaborate operation to illegally videotape and steal signs from opposing teams. Consider what has already been reported:

– Stallions bought tickets (in his own name!) to 30 Big Ten games at 11 different schools, all with a vantage point of the sideline. At least three others had tickets forwarded to them. Stallions even had tickets on each sideline for this week’s OSU-PSU game that went unused after the story broke.
– Video surveillance shows a person in Stallions’ seat recording the sideline with his phone.
– Stallions bragged on his since-deleted social media pages about using his military tactics to help the program.
– Video shows Stallions standing next to Michigan coordinators and the entire Wolverine sideline signaling to their defense during last year’s Ohio State game after the Buckeyes received their offensive signals.
– A sheet of what appears to be a person giving signals was discovered in a photo of the Michigan sideline.
– Michigan’s Big Ten winning percentage under Jim Harbaugh jumped from 68% to 96% in the two plus seasons after the program is believed to have started.

Given the apparent brazenness of this scandal and the shocking turnaround that seems to correspond with it in Ann Arbor, this should be the biggest story in sports right now. And yet, it’s merely bubbling under the surface. According to a closed captioning search, the story has only been mentioned a few times on ESPN since Monday morning. Why is that? (Brian Windhorst meme.)

For starters, the NCAA is a feckless, rudderless, powerless organization. The NCAA is apparently investigating the situation, but hasn’t even acknowledged it publicly. Given their recent track record in handling major cases, odds are the NCAA will find some way to bungle it. After all, this is the same organization that took months to figure out how to suspend Harbaugh over cheeseburgers.

Likewise, the Big Ten has been silent on the matter. In fact, the only action taken is Michigan suspending Stallions while Harbaugh simultaneously denies any impropriety. Make that make sense.

Finally, college football has a long and storied culture of cheating. From the glory days of SMU’s death penalty to years of wins being vacated, championships stripped, and trophies taken back, the NCAA is littered with all kinds of violations and rule-breaking.

This all explains why the college football media is all over the place in discussing what could happen to the Wolverines program. Anything and everything could be on the table. Uncertainty rules the day for the moment. Conversely, in SpyGate, Roger Goodell hammered the Patriots only a few days after the story broke.

But it’s also a very different media environment in 2023. In 2007, everything seemed immediate and all-encompassing. And without social media dominating our lives, fewer things were competing for our attention back then.

Stories now move at lightning speed and each fact discovered in the Michigan saga won’t be the top story on SportsCenter, rather it may be noticed in just one corner of Twitter before we rubber-neck to the next viral thing. It may not even be the top story on College GameDay in the weeks ahead. We’ll have playoff rankings to debate. If the Big Ten and NCAA don’t react with heightened urgency, the chances of this being swept under the rug or falling out of our collective consciousness is high, in spite of how mind-blowing it seems to be.

Click here to read more and subscribe to the Awful Announcing Newsletter.