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Michigan fires linebackers coach after reported revelations about possible coverup

When No. 2 Michigan faces Maryland on Saturday, offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore will fill in for the suspended Jim Harbaugh.Paul Sancya/Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — No. 2 Michigan fired linebackers coach Chris Partridge on Friday, the latest turmoil for a Wolverines team that is under NCAA investigation for a sign-stealing scheme and will not have head coach Jim Harbaugh on the sideline until after next week’s showdown against rival Ohio State.

Athletic director Warde Manuel did not say why Partridge had been let go, citing employee privacy laws. Partridge did not return a text from The Associated Press seeking comment.

“From the outset, our focus has been on seeking due process and allowing the NCAA to conduct a fair and deliberate investigation,” Manuel said, noting the school was continuing to cooperate with the probe. “Consistent with our commitment to integrity, we will continue to take the appropriate actions, including disciplinary measures, based on information we obtain.”

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Yahoo Sports reported that among the new information the NCAA shared with Michigan this week was that Partridge allegedly attempted to destroy computer evidence of the sign-stealing scheme after news of it first leaked in mid-October. At this time, Yahoo reported, the NCAA is unsure whether Partridge knew about the sign-stealing scheme in advance. Yahoo also reported that a booster — referred to as “Uncle T” in the NCAA’s report — allegedly provided thousands of dollars to fund former staffer Connor Stalions’s operation.

Later Friday, ESPN reported that Partridge was fired because he “failed to abide by the university directive not to discuss an ongoing NCAA investigation with anyone associated with the Michigan football program or others.” The report cited this as “specific language Michigan used to explain Partridge’s firing.”

The firing came one day after the school reached an agreement with the Big Ten Conference under which Harbaugh will serve the final two games of his three-game suspension in return for the conference ending its investigation into the sign-stealing allegations. Harbaugh won’t be on the sideline Saturday at Maryland or next week against the third-ranked Buckeyes in the regular-season finale, leaving the coaching to his assistants.

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Stalions resigned two weeks ago. He is accused of purchasing tickets to scout future Michigan opponents and sending people to those games to digitally record teams signaling in their plays. In-person scouting is banned by the NCAA, which is trying to determine how organized the scheme was and who knew about it.

Partridge rejoined the program in February after serving as Mississippi’s co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach for three seasons.

“Chris has been a trusted agent, known friend and ally since we started working together in 2015,” Harbaugh said then.

Partridge previously worked for Harbaugh from 2016 through the 2019 season. He was hired to be the team’s director of player personnel before being promoted to assistant coach for four years during his first stint with the Wolverines.

Harbaugh was suspended last Friday by the Big Ten and missed the victory at Penn State the next day. Michigan sought a court order to get the suspension thrown out but the agreement was reached Thursday, a day before a scheduled court hearing..

Harbaugh, who also served a three-game suspension at the beginning of the season for an unrelated and unresolved NCAA infractions case tied to recruiting, is permitted to coach the team during the week. The Wolverines are among the favorites to win a national title and are looking for their third straight Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff appearance.

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Rick Minter had been promoted to lead the linebackers.

Material from the Washington Post was used in this report.