- Michigan and Harbaugh decided to stop fighting the Big 10’s three-game ban
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The University of Michigan obtained evidence this week suggesting a football team booster personally funded the program’s impermissible sign-stealing operation run by former staff member Connor Stalions, sources told ESPN.
The alleged booster has not been named, publicly.
The ESPN report follows the school’s decision to accept the Big 10’s punishment for the alleged scheme. Michigan announced Thursday that football coach Jim Harbaugh will serve the remainder of a three-game suspension from the Big 10 in return for the conference ending its investigation into a scheme to steal opponents’ play-calling signals.
On Friday, the Wolverines announced the firing of linebackers coach Chris Partridge, who, according to multiple reports was caught tampering with the ongoing investigation.
Athletic director Warde Manuel did not say why Partridge had been let go, citing employee privacy laws. Partridge allegedly tried to cover up evidence after the scheme became public, Yahoo Sports reported, citing sources it did not identify. Partridge did not return a text from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Michigan announced Thursday Jim Harbaugh will serve the remainder of a three-game ban
‘From the outset, our focus has been on seeking due process and allowing the NCAA to conduct a fair and deliberate investigation,’ Manuel said, noting the school was continuing to cooperate with the probe. ‘Consistent with our commitment to integrity, we will continue to take the appropriate actions, including disciplinary measures, based on information we obtain.’
The settlement between the parties was an unexpected twist in a monthlong saga involving one of college football’s most recognizable programs, one of its most successful coaches, and allegations a low-level Michigan staffer purchased tickets to the games of the Wolverines’ future opponents and sent people to those games to digitally record teams signaling in their plays.
‘Coach Harbaugh, with the university’s support, decided to accept this sanction to return the focus to our student-athletes and their performance on the field,’ Michigan said in a statement. ‘The conference has confirmed that it is not aware of any information suggesting Coach Harbaugh’s involvement in the allegations. The university continues to cooperate fully with the NCAA’s investigation.’
Harbaugh was suspended last Friday by the Big 10, three weeks after an investigation by the NCAA into the allegations emerged. Michigan hours later asked a court for an injunction and temporary restraining order, but Harbaugh did not coach the team against Penn State on Saturday.
Newly-fired Michigan linebackers coach Chris Partridge (left) allegedly destroyed evidence, while Connor Stallions (right) was allegedly caught in an impermissible sign-stealing scheme
The two sides were expected in court Friday in Ann Arbor, but instead Michigan and Harbaugh dropped the complaint and Harbaugh will miss games at Maryland on Saturday and at home against No. 3 Ohio State on Nov. 25.
He will continue to be permitted to coach the team during the week. The penalty is only for game days.
‘The University of Michigan is a valued member of the Big 10 Conference and the Conference will continue to work cooperatively with the University and the NCAA during this process,’ the Big 10 said in a statement.
No. 2 Michigan is among the favorites to win a national title and is looking for its third straight Big 10 championship and College Football Playoff appearance.
A Michigan cheerleader waves a large flag with the Michigan logo on it during a 2022 game
The NCAA investigation surfaced four weeks ago amid allegations that Michigan had used a robust in-person scouting and sign-stealing operation conducted by a recruiting analyst, Connor Stalions, who has since resigned after being suspended by the school. The Big 10 said at the time it was also looking into the allegations.
The NCAA does not have rules against stealing signs, but it does prohibit schools from sending scouts to the games of future opponents and using electronic equipment to record another team’s signals.
The NCAA process is slow moving, but the Big 10’s rules gave Commissioner Tony Petitti the opportunity to hand down discipline more quickly. It hit Harbaugh with a three-game suspension, which the school immediately challenged.
University leaders made the decision to settle the case because the Big 10 would not agree to reduce Harbaugh’s suspension to two games. The school also didn’t want to drag the dispute into court and negotiated for the conference to close its investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.