The sign-stealing scandal that plagued the Michigan football program for much of its season has continued to surround the team as they prepare to play for the school’s first national championship since 1997.

During a press conference on Wednesday, quarterback J.J. McCarthy was asked about the situation and suggested that sign-stealing is common practice in the sport and that somewhere around “80%” of programs do it.

“I also feel like it’s so unfortunate because there’s probably — I don’t want to say a crazy number, but I’d say a good number, 80% of the teams in college football steal signs. It’s just a thing about football. It’s been around for years,” McCarthy said, via The Athletic. 

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McCarthy then went on to imply that Michigan’s actions were a result of Ohio State’s in either 2019 or 2020, and an attempt to “make it an even playing field.”

“We actually had to adapt because in 2020 or 2019 when Ohio State was stealing our signs, which is legal and they were doing it, we had to get up to the level that they were at, and we had to make it an even playing field.”

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McCarthy lamented the narrative around the program as it related to the allegations, believing that it should not diminish their success. 

“I just feel like it sucks,” he continued, “We do work our butts off. We do watch so much film and look for those little tendencies and spend like 10, 15 minutes on one clip alone just looking at all the little details of the posture, of the linebackers or the D-ends, the safeties off levels, the corner to the field is press, but the corner to the boundary is off, little stuff like that where it’s like, you could say it’s all sign stealing, but there’s a lot more that goes into play, and a lot of stuff that gets masked, a lot of work that gets masked just because of the outside perception of what sign stealing is all about.” 

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The Wolverines began their undefeated season without head coach Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines after he served out a school-imposed three-game suspension over NCAA recruiting violations. Then, when Michigan was entering its most challenging phase of the season, Harbaugh was again sidelined an additional three games amid an investigation into a sign-stealing operation that involved former low-level staffer, Connor Stalions. 

Asked Wednesday about possible NCAA sanctions, head coach Jim Harbaugh wouldn’t speculate. 

“I don’t know if you want to live in rumorville or speculation, but we just don’t really have any room to be doing that at this point.” 

Michigan will take on the Washington Huskies in the CFP National Championship in Houston on Monday. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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