Friday saw new twists and turns in the Connor Stalions and Michigan football saga, as beloved linebackers coach Chris Partridge was dismissed from his post and a mysterious ‘Uncle T’ emerged.
Both The Athletic and Yahoo identified booster Tim Smith as ‘Uncle T,’ who was alleged to have at least partially bankrolled Stalions’ operation, however, in conversations with both, he vehemently denied that.
“I can give you good news,” Smith said during a 30-minute phone call with Yahoo Sports. “I don’t recognize being known as ‘Uncle T’ and I will refute that myself. I never funded Connor. To say I knew him is perhaps overstating it. I said hi to him. I’ve spoken to him more since he left Michigan to make sure the young man is OK.”
Smith is being targeted, along with Stalions, as a “fall guy” in the NCAA’s probe into the school, Smith said. Both of them are being “thrown under the bus,” he said. On Friday morning, for instance, officials from the school’s name, image and likeness collective, Champions Circle, dismissed Smith as a member, he tells Yahoo Sports.
Smith later continued, noting that Stalions sold his house (presumably in California) which yielded a profit. That allowed him to bankroll his own operation, in conjunction with renting out rooms in his Michigan home via AirBnB (as reported in an earlier dossier on Stalions).
Stalions self-funded the sign-stealing effort by selling a home for more than $100,000, Smith said Stalions told him.
The alleged scheme in which Stalions operated has been described as an elaborate, multi-year system in which he bought tickets to games involving future Michigan opponents and then had associates — as many as 65, per the NCAA’s investigation — attend games to video a team’s play-call signals.
“People don’t understand why he would do it,” Smith said. “He paid his own way. It meant a lot to him and he was trying to do whatever he could (for Michigan).”
Smith continues later by noting that he’s unsure that any rules were broken.
The Athletic reports that Smith has been in communication with Stalions after the fact, just to check on his well-being.
Smith acknowledged that he has had contact with Stalions since the scandal broke. He said he reached out to see how Stalions was faring on a “human level” but reiterated that he was not involved in the scheme in any way.
He said neither the NCAA, the Big Ten nor the University of Michigan has reached out to discuss the situation with him.
A Michigan graduate, Smith was on the board of the NIL collective ‘Champions Circle,’ but he has since been ousted from the board.