Michigan fires linebackers coach amid NCAA investigation into sign stealing

Undefeated football teams typically do not fire assistant coaches with two games left in the regular season. But Michigan State’s football season has been anything but typical over the past month.

On Friday, approximately 24 hours before the undefeated Wolverines face Maryland in College Park, Michigan State announced it had fired linebackers coach Chris Partridge amid the ongoing NCAA investigation into an unacceptable sign-stealing scheme allegedly run by former analyst Connor Stalions . The school’s statement said the dismissal was the result of new information from the NCAA on the matter.

Partridge’s firing comes after Michigan settled a legal matter with the Big Ten on Thursday, accepting a league-imposed three-game suspension for coach Jim Harbaugh that will run through next weekend.

“From the beginning, our focus has been on ensuring due process and allowing the NCAA to conduct a fair and thoughtful investigation,” Michigan State said in a statement following Partridge’s firing. “Although the Big Ten has closed its investigation, we continue to cooperate with the NCAA as the ongoing investigation progresses.

“Consistent with our commitment to integrity, we will continue to take appropriate action, including disciplinary measures, based on the information we receive. Before [Friday], Michigan Athletics has relieved Chris Partridge of his duties as a member of the Michigan Football staff. Due to employee privacy regulations, we are unable to comment further.”

Shortly after Michigan’s announcement Yahoo Sports reported that among the new information the NCAA provided to Michigan this week was that Partridge allegedly tried to destroy computer evidence of the sign-stealing program after news of it leaked in mid-October. According to Yahoo, the NCAA is currently unsure whether Partridge had prior knowledge of the sign-stealing scheme. Yahoo also reported that the booster — referred to as “Uncle T” in the NCAA report — allegedly provided thousands of dollars in funding for the Stalions’ operations.

Later on Friday He reported to ESPN that Partridge was fired because he “failed to comply with a university directive not to discuss an ongoing NCAA investigation with anyone associated with Michigan State’s football program or others.” The report cited this as “specific language that Michigan used to explain Partridge’s firing.”

Earlier this month, Stalions resigned from his position as a recruiting analyst. As of Friday, he, Partridge and Harbaugh were the three people to face consequences from the school or the Big Ten in connection with the sign-stealing operation. However, when the Big Ten suspended Harbaugh, it noted that the ban was intended to punish the Wolverines’ program, not the coach, and that it had no evidence that Harbaugh was aware of the program.

When Michigan faces Maryland, offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore will replace Harbaugh, just as he did last week when the Wolverines beat Penn State. Rick Minter, father of defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, replaced Partridge as the Wolverines’ defensive backs coach.


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