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Jedd Fisch denies report linking Michigan staffer at center of sign-stealing scandal to Arizona

arizona-wildcats-football-jedd-fisch-michigan-connor-stalions-sign-stealing-rams-jim-harbaugh-2023 Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Among the many stops that Jedd Fisch has made during his coaching career was at Michigan, where in 2015 and 2016 he was the Wolverines’ quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator during the first two seasons of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure. It’s there that he met Don Brown, who he’d bring with him to Tucson to be defensive coordinator for his first UA team in 2021.

It’s also where Fisch met Connor Stalions, whose name has become one of the most notorious in college football lately for allegedly being at the center of a sign-stealing scandal at Michigan.

“He was a student assistant at Navy, and came by and wanted to volunteer and start working because of his love for Michigan football,” Fisch said Thursday of Stalions. “And that was kind of the extent. He’s a hard working kid. They got a weird situation going on over there in Ann Arbor, but that has nothing to do with Arizona football and what we do here.”

Why was Fisch asked about Stalions? Because Stalions claims, according to a report by Sports Illustrated, that he was at one time the “assistant to Fisch’s chief of staff” at the UA and had “a hand in the Wildcats’ roster management.”

Not true, according to Fisch.

“He’s had no role here,” said Fisch, noting the last time he saw or talked to Stalions was when he attended the UA’s Spring Game in April 2021. “He’s never been a part of Arizona football. He’s never been employed by Arizona football.”

Stalions is accused of being at the center of a sign-stealing campaign that involved himself and others purchasing tickets for games involving other Big Ten Conference teams as well as teams Michigan might face in the postseason. Those in attendance would allegedly sit on the opposite side of the team they were observing and would record signals sent in to the players.

Fisch said that entire process sounds too complicated to be worth it.

“I don’t know how to do it,” he said. “I wouldn’t know how to process getting a call, being told what (will) happen, and you’re gonna get this coverage and get this play in fast enough to communicate it. We signal, we wristband, we go fast, we use tempo, it would be really difficult. So I don’t really get it. I don’t understand the huge value in it. I think we just play football.”

Fisch said he’s not concerned about if the opposing team is stealing signs, agreeing with Colorado coach Deion Sanders’ assessment that “it doesn’t matter if the sweep is coming you got to stop the sweep.” But he also thinks there’s an easy solution: do what’s done in the NFL with two-way communication between the play caller and the quarterback.

“We can get rid of it by just giving the coaches and quarterback communicators in our helmets,” he said. “We know that the NFL does it, we know the XFL did it, we know the USFL did it. I think we’re the only group that doesn’t do it, so if we just did that, we wouldn’t be having any of these conversations. We wouldn’t have to see 400 different big cards and sheets and all the things that people hold up, and we wouldn’t have to be having 40 people signal in 82 different-colored outfits. We could just press a button, call a play and run a play.”

Fisch said there are discussions to use communication devices for play-calling in bowl games, which he supports, as long there are limits to its usage.

“You can’t just let it go rogue,” he said. “You can’t just say everyone gets a speaker in their helmet, everyone can just talk for as long as they want to talk. Like, you’ve got to be able to put a plan in place if you’re going to go to that, very similar to the NFL, where the headset shuts off at 15 seconds. So you got from 40 to 15 and then it’s over. You have one guy on offense with a speaker, one guy on defense with the helmet speaker. Only one coach can communicate to the helmet.”