Shocking: Big Ten Schools Pressuring Commissioner to Act Against Michigan…

During a Thursday call, Big Ten sports directors complained to conference commissioner Tony Petitti regarding the uproar surrounding the Wolverines’ sign-stealing.

After taking a week off, Michigan, which is unbeaten, will play again on Saturday. However, the Big Ten is dissatisfied with the conference’s lack of response and public silence on the Wolverines’ signal-stealing scandal.

A nearly ninety-minute virtual discussion between commissioner Tony Petitti and the athletic directors of the league’s four new Pac-12 institutions took place late on Thursday afternoon and into early evening eastern time.

This came after an allegedly tense phone conversation between the conference’s football coaches and Sports Illustrated on Wednesday night.

The coaches vented to Petitti about what they perceived as a lack of reaction to Michigan’s purported rule-breaking, much of which was done to obtain a competitive edge over other Big Ten schools.

According to reports, Petitti will be in Ann Arbor this weekend for the Big Ten field hockey championships, which may present an opportunity to discuss the situation with Michigan authorities in person. In the upcoming days, another call with the coaches is anticipated.

A source familiar with the AD call says the difficult spot Petitti is in was acknowledged, and he was given credit for listening both to the coaches and athletic directors. The majority of ADs on the call had an appetite for some action from the conference office.

I think the Big Ten needs to do something, says a source familiar with what was discussed on the call. I think this is a values and character issue.

Like the values and the soul of the Big Ten because of how expansive these alleged actions were. We can all see it. And it’s getting worse by the day.

So I think this is Tony’s first leadership moment, and I have confidence he’s going to rise up to the occasion.

Pressure is mounting for Petitti to act ahead of the results of what is likely to be a lengthy NCAA investigation.

The biggest question looming over the entire league is what shape that action takes and when. A fine, which would be more akin to the NFL’s disciplinary system, was not well received.

A few of the ADs there on the call were open to completely barring Michigan from the Big Ten championship game.

Others think that if there is unmistakable video proof connecting recruitment analyst Connor Stalions to the coordinators, Harbaugh and possibly his coordinators should be suspended.

The goal of the ban is to get Michigan to follow suit after an inquiry into sign theft forced Big Ten universities to alter their procedures.

Michigan State had quarterback Katin Hauser go to the sidelines to get the playcall verbally in their Oct. 21 game against the Wolverines, a tactic they’ve used when they noticed an opponent was good at stealing signs in-game.

Michigan has already operated with multiple assistants serving as head coaches this season. Four assistants shared the duties during Michigan’s first three games due to Harbaugh’s self-imposed suspension regarding a separate NCAA probe into recruiting violations.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel was not on the call Thursday, sources said. Football coach Jim Harbaugh participated in part of the coaches’ call Wednesday but then exited so the rest of the league could have its say.

As Harbaugh’s Wolverines roll toward a potential third straight College Football Playoff bid, hanging over them is the NCAA investigation into the alleged scheme of impermissible, in-person scouting of future opponents.

The operation was masterminded by Stalions, who sources said sent associates to dozens of games during the 2022 and ‘23 seasons to film opponent play signals for Michigan to decipher. Stalions was suspended with pay by Michigan on Oct. 20, two days after the NCAA notified the Big Ten that it had received information about the scheme.

The NCAA investigative process will take months to play out, which means that if any entity is going to step in to penalize Michigan in a manner that affects this season, it would have to be either the Big Ten or the CFP itself.

The latter group declared a hands-off stance when its first rankings of the season were released Tuesday. That’s an NCAA issue, said selection committee chairman Boo Corrigan.

That’s not a CFP issue.” That leaves the Big Ten, which thus far has shown no sign of wanting to derail a potential playoff bid for one of the league’s flagship programs.

That couple of million extra bucks that we make when we put two teams in the CFP is awfully nice,” an administrator at a Big Ten school says when asked for a reason why some ADs would not want to ban Michigan from the conference championship game.

Still, around the conference, frustration is growing that, despite the warp speed at which the Wolverines’ alleged rule-breaking has become apparent, the investigatory process is moving more slowly.

We already know the NCAA is incompetent, a former Big Ten coach said. Now we know the Big Ten and the Playoff committee are gutless.

There is also the notion of a buck-stops-here message to be sent by Petitti, according to a source, especially with four new entrants on the way.

The problem is that an administrative hardline is easier to take when a win is guaranteed. When it’s not, Petitti can risk his knees being cut out from under him before he’s been in the job for even a full year.

Just how good Michigan is has a lot to do with the urgency of the situation. As one Big Ten administrator said Thursday afternoon, Ohio State can make all of this go away.

Ohio State beats them in a few weeks; all of it goes away, right? Hell, if Penn State beats ’em, it really goes away.

The Wolverines play Penn State on Nov. 11, and a source said it would make sense to have something definitive from the league before that game is played, while another said they expect the league to act quickly. But Petitti gave no indication on the call of the timing of any potential discipline—or if any discipline was coming at all.

The league’s sportsmanship policy gives the commissioner latitude to begin an investigation and administer penalties.

There are standard disciplinary actions and major disciplinary actions, with the latter needing the approval of the Joint Group Executive Committee of university presidents.

The policy states: The JGEC may only approve, deny, or lessen the proposed penalty; it shall not increase the proposed penalty.

One consideration for the conference, however, is likely the potential for legal action by Michigan if the school or Harbaugh personally do not feel they received due process—including a formal investigation—from the conference before being punished.

If Michigan is banned from the conference championship game, it could trigger a legal battle where the Wolverines go to court to force the league to let them play, should they win the East.

“If you’re Michigan and they throw you out of the game, you wouldn’t spend $100,000 to fight to see if you can get a court to rule that you’re the rightful champ of the East?” a Big Ten administrator says.

Harbaugh’s attorney, Tom Mars, declined comment when contacted Thursday afternoon.

The question of how much Harbaugh does or does not know about the Wolverines’ apparent sign stealing hangs over his program.

This week, the Stalions’ story took a fresh turn when pictures and videos of a person who appeared to be him appeared on the Central Michigan sidelines during the Chippewas’ game versus Michigan rival Michigan State on September 1.

The individual had a pass for the visiting bench area at Spartan Stadium and was dressed in coaching attire from Central Michigan.

In a statement released on Tuesday, CMU athletic director Amy Folan stated that the university was looking into the person’s identification but provided no other details.

Following Tuesday night’s Central Michigan victory over Northern Illinois, head coach Jim McElwain mentioned the sign-stealing man’s investigation and said neither he nor his staff knew how the person ended up in the team’s bench area.

McElwain, who coached wide receivers at Michigan under Harbaugh in the 2018 season, stated that there is no place for that.

Both the alleged Stalions plan and Harbaugh’s direction to staff members to scout opponents off-campus have been rejected.

Central Michigan was implicated in the scandal as a potential Stalions enabler, which has heightened the criticism both inside and outside of the Big Ten. There is disagreement within the coaching community regarding how it could have occurred.

Many people believe that Stallion was capable of carrying out an audacious in-person espionage mission by himself. Some people think that the Chippewas staff members helped him.

According to one director of football operations who oversees bench passes at a Power 5 school, it is improbable that someone could remain hidden in the team box without someone quickly noticing, Sports Illustrated reported.

A stranger in coaching gear would be noticed quickly, and they would be out of the box immediately.

The CMU staff was aware of his presence due to his coaching apparel, pass, and near proximity to the coaches. The staff would be aware of everyone in the box, however I’m not sure if the head coach would.

The season continues despite the several Stalions-related scandals that rage. Additionally, the coach, who is a huge underdog against Michigan on Saturday in Ann Arbor, apparently didn’t hold back while talking about the situation on his radio show on Thursday night.

When the host of the program addressed Ryan Walters of Purdue about the Michigan situation, he responded, It’s unfortunate.

The absurd thing is that they aren’t claims. It took place. There is video proof. Sales and ticket purchases have a history that you can follow. We have no doubt that they attended several of our games.

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