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The vast majority of Big Ten coaches have expressed frustration with the ongoing sign-stealing investigation at Michigan is on a video call with Commissioner Tony Pettitte on Wednesday, sources told ESPN.
The call, which lasted 90 minutes, involved nearly an hour without Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who hung up after regularly scheduled Big Ten business to allow the conference’s coaches to speak freely about the NCAA investigation into Michigan.
According to five sources familiar with the call, a group of voices encouraged Pettitte to take action against Michigan in a call described as intense and emotional.
“Collectively, the coaches want the Big Ten to act — now,” a source familiar with the call said. “What are we waiting for? We know what happened.”
The NCAA has been investigating Michigan for nearly two weeks, with the Big Ten confirming the NCAA’s investigation into sign-stealing on October 19. Since then, ESPN has reported that Michigan employee Connor Stallions has emerged as a focal point in the investigation and purchased tickets. For games of 12 of 13 Big Ten opponents over the past three years.
Overall, the Stallions have purchased tickets to more than 35 games at at least 17 stadiums over the past three years, ESPN reported. Michigan suspended the Stallions on the same day ESPN reported he was the center of the investigation. The former Division III coach also told ESPN that he was paid by Stallions for video games at several Big Ten schools.
Coaches in the Big Ten explained to Petitti, who was hired in April, how distinct a schematic advantage Michigan has held over the past three years by allegedly illegally obtaining opposition signals early.
Coaches used words like “tainted,” “fraudulent” and “unprecedented” in the call to describe Michigan’s sign-stealing scheme, it was alleged. According to sources, most of the call was coaches explaining to Pettitti about how she works and how it affects them and their programs. NCAA rules do not allow scouting an opponent in person and using electronic equipment to steal signs.
In the three years the Stallions left a paper trail to buy tickets to Michigan opponents’ games, the Wolverines went 33-3 overall and 22-1 in Big Ten play. In the previous three years, they were 21-11 overall and 16-8 in the league.
Another source said: “People don’t understand the seriousness of the matter.” “How that really affected the game plan. To know if it was the run or the pass, people don’t understand how much of an advantage Michigan had.”
There was anger throughout the call, with one source describing the sentiment as: “Every game they’ve played is tainted.”
The coaches acknowledged the fact on the call that the NCAA’s implementation timeline will not impact Michigan this season, as the Wolverines are 8-0 and No. 3 in the preliminary College Football Playoff seeding. That’s one of the reasons Big Ten coaches are calling the Big Ten into action.
The sources described Petitti as listening carefully to the coaches, but he does not move his hand in the direction in which he might go. Sources expressed curiosity about whether the Big Ten was truly interested in taking action or just listening to coaches so they could be heard.
The Big Ten technically has authority under its sportsmanship policy to punish Michigan or members of the coaching staff.
This is considered unlikely in this case in the near future, as it is unusual for an NCAA case to unfold in real time. While plenty of evidence has emerged in media reports, the league likely won’t be able to use them as specific facts to make a decision.
The league could also launch its own investigation into potential violations of the Big Ten’s sportsmanship policy. While Petitti has the power to dictate discipline, if a matter exceeds the standard, it must be considered by an executive committee that can approve, reject or reduce that discipline.
League officials did not respond to a request for comment late Wednesday.
Another source said: “I don’t think the Big Ten understood how upset everyone was.” “The thrust of the call was asking the Big Ten to show leadership — the conference and the presidents. An unprecedented violation of the rules would require unprecedented action from the Big Ten.”
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