Michigan fired linebackers coach Chris Partridge on Friday after he allegedly helped destroy evidence pertaining to Michigan’s sign-stealing scheme.
The university announced Friday morning that longtime college and NFL coach Rick Minter, the father of defensive coordinator Jesse Minter, will replace Partridge as Michigan’s linebackers coach for the rest of the season.
In a separate statement, Michigan wrote that it could not comment further on why it fired Partridge due to employee privacy laws, but said the university “will continue to take the appropriate actions, including disciplinary measures, based on information we obtain” as the NCAA continues its investigation into impermissible sign stealing by the Wolverines.
New statement from Michigan. I would clarify, the Big Ten did not initiate an official investigation but has been in regular contact with the NCAA about its probe. pic.twitter.com/Qrx0ObcddO— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) November 17, 2023
Yahoo Sports’ Ross Dellenger and Dan Wetzel subsequently reported that the NCAA presented Michigan with new evidence this week that showed Partridge “participated in the destruction of evidence on a computer after the scandal broke.”
Per Dellenger and Wetzel:
Multiple sources say that Partridge is not alleged at this time of knowing about the advanced scouting by Stalions, but acted after the fact to cover up evidence. Sources tell Yahoo Sports that a booster - named in the NCAA report as "Uncle T" - helped fund the scheme, giving Stalions thousands of dollars for expenses.
ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported that Michigan informed Patridge he was fired because “the university has received evidence that you have failed to abide by the university directive not to discuss an ongoing NCAA investigation with anyone associated with the Michigan football program or others and as a result has determined that you have failed to satisfactorily perform your duties.”
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Johnson reported in October that Connor Stalions – the staffer who led the sign-stealing scheme that the NCAA is now investigating – had described Partridge as one of his “closest friends” and credited Partridge with giving him his initial inroad at Michigan by allowing him to help out with the Wolverines during spring break while he was still a student at the Naval Academy.
Partridge’s dismissal was almost certainly not related to on-field performance, considering Michigan’s defense leads the nation in both points and yards allowed per game this season.
Partridge is the first member of Michigan’s full-time coaching staff to be dismissed from the staff since the NCAA launched its investigation into the Wolverines last month. Stalions, who was an analyst for the Wolverines, resigned from his position on Nov. 3 after he was initially suspended with pay by the university on Oct. 20.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was suspended by the Big Ten from coaching in games for the remainder of the regular season, a suspension he officially accepted Thursday after initially planning to fight the suspension in court. Both Michigan and the Big Ten, however, say they have not found any evidence directly linking Harbaugh to the sign-stealing scheme.
ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported Friday that “information gleaned from NCAA interviews led in part” to Michigan’s decision to accept the Big Ten’s suspension and fire Partridge. Sports Illustrated’s Richard Johnson and Michael Rosenberg reported Friday that Michigan believed it could strike a deal with the Big Ten to reduce Harbaugh’s suspension to two games – allowing him to coach against Ohio State – until it received new information from the NCAA.
While sign stealing is not an NCAA violation by itself, NCAA rules prohibit teams from scouting opponents off-campus and from filming opponents for the purpose of stealing signs. In the Big Ten’s official disciplinary notice to Michigan last week, the Big Ten said it was informed by the NCAA on Nov. 2 that it “knew and could prove” that Stalions “coordinated a vast off-campus, in-person advance scouting scheme involving a network of individuals” that included videoing opponents’ signals from seats strategically located in other stadiums.
After Harbaugh accepted his suspension on Thursday, The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach reported that the Big Ten would not impose any further penalties against Michigan – instead deferring to the NCAA for additional punishments – “unless the NCAA finds/proves that one or more of Michigan’s countable coaches were involved in the Connor Stalions scheme.”
Partridge rejoined Michigan’s coaching staff in February after a three-year stint as the co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ole Miss. Partridge previously worked for the Wolverines from 2015-19, starting out as the director of player personnel before becoming Michigan’s special teams coordinator in 2016.