Big Ten Coaches Reportedly Urge Commissioner Tony Petitti to Take Action Against Michigan During Conference Call

By Garrick Hodge on November 2, 2023 at 12:56 am
Dale Young – USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten coaches are not happy about Michigan's sign-stealing scheme and want commissioner Tony Petitti to do something about it.

According to a report by ESPN's Pete Thamel late Wednesday evening, a “vast majority” of the league's coaches expressed their frustrations to Petitti during a coaches’ conference call with the commissioner. The call lasted 90 minutes, including around an hour of conversation without Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who got off the call after the league's regularly scheduled business concluded. 

The call was reportedly intense and emotional. 

"Collectively, the coaches want the Big Ten to act — right now," a source familiar with the call told ESPN. "What are we waiting on? We know what happened."

During the call, the coaches tried to make clear to Petitti exactly how much of an advantage Michigan had over the last three seasons by allegedly illegally obtaining opposing schools' signals. Words such as “tainted,” “fraudulent” and “unprecedented” were all reportedly used by the coaches on the call.

"People don't understand the seriousness of it," another source told ESPN. "How it truly impacted the game plan. To truly know if it's a run or a pass, people don't understand how much of an advantage that was for Michigan."

Since it's unlikely the NCAA will conclude its investigation by the end of this season, the coaches called on Petitti to act instead, as the conference has the power to take action immediately and punish Michigan and/or its coaching staff under the league's sportsmanship policy if it chooses to and feels enough evidence has been presented.

Thamel’s sources said Petitti listened carefully to the coaches but did not tip his hand on what direction might go. Those sources were curious whether the Big Ten is actually considering taking action or just listening to coaches so they can be heard.

"I don't think the Big Ten understood how upset everyone was," one source told ESPN. "The tenor 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."

Per the report, it remains unlikely that the Big Ten will discipline Michigan in the near future, though the league could initiate its own investigation into potential violations of the Big Ten's sportsmanship policy. 

Michigan has been under investigation by the NCAA since Oct. 19 for alleged prohibited in-person scouting of opponents and using electronic equipment to obtain opponents’ signals. Since then, it has been reported Wolverines staffer Connor Stalions purchased tickets to more than 35 games in at least 17 stadiums over the past three years, including games involving at least 12 of the Big Ten’s other 13 teams. 

Big Ten athletic directors also met with Petitti on Thursday, according to reports by ESPN and Yahoo Sports. The athletic directors also reportedly advocated for punishments and said they'd support the commissioner in any disciplinary action taken against Michigan; per ESPN’s report, “sources said the athletic directors left the call with the notion that Petitti is taking the Big Ten's ability to punish Michigan over the allegations more seriously than previously,” although no potential punishments were discussed.

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