Michigan Responds to Big Ten With 10-Page Letter, Objects to “Premature” Discipline From Conference on Sign-Stealing Scandal

By Chase Brown on November 9, 2023 at 11:35 am
Jim Harbaugh
Kirby Lee / USA TODAY Sports

As the college football world awaits an announcement of potential disciplinary action directed at Michigan from Tony Petitti, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel sent a 10-page response to the Big Ten commissioner on Wednesday.

In the letter, which Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel and Ross Dellenger obtained Wednesday and published Thursday, Manuel warned Petitti to avoid “premature” disciplinary action against Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, questioned the validity of the Big Ten's evidence and shared his belief that the conference has “rushed” to punish the Wolverines because of internal and public pressure from Big Ten schools and fans.

Manuel also suggested sign-stealing is common practice in college football and alluded to reports that Ohio State and Rutgers shared Michigan's signals with Purdue before the Boilermakers faced the Wolverines in the 2022 Big Ten Championship Game, which Ohio State head coach Ryan Day refuted Wednesday. Amid Manuel's suggestion, the AD wrote, "The conference should act cautiously when setting precedent given the reality that in-person scouting, collusion among opponents, and other questionable practices may well be far more prevalent than believed.”

Michigan and Manuel's response was an expected next step in the Big Ten's case against the Wolverines over an alleged sign-stealing scheme spearheaded by staffer Connor Stalions, who resigned on Nov. 3. In its letter, Michigan accepts full responsibility for the actions of Stalions, but claims he acted alone. The university says there is no evidence that other coaches, namely Harbaugh, knew of the system in which Stalions or associates allegedly attended games of Michigan opponents to record the opposing sidelines to steal signals.

Petitti is expected to rule on the matter by the end of the week, with the commissioner reportedly considering a multi-game suspension for Harbaugh.

As Petitti mulls over the decision, Michigan president Santa Ono, Manuel and other UM administrators are resisting any discipline from the conference on the matter, strongly encouraging Petitti to allow for "due process" and the NCAA's investigation to be completed before any penalties are administered to the Wolverines. Michigan is expected to take legal action in response to any punishment administered by the Big Ten.

Here is the complete 10-page letter from Manuel to the Big Ten:

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