Michigan athletics donor Tim Smith denies his involvement in the NCAA’s investigation into the university’s advance scouting scheme and believes that those in power are searching for a “scapegoat” to blame, he told Yahoo Sports.
Smith, a Michigan alum and CEO of a Detroit-based engineering solutions company, said fans and university associates are identifying him as the Michigan booster who allegedly helped fund former UM staff member Connor Stalions’ in-person scouting and sign-stealing scheme. Yahoo Sports reported earlier Friday that evidence from the NCAA’s investigation, presented this week to Michigan, refers to an athletics donor — “Uncle T” — as having partially funded Stalions’ venture.
“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 told Yahoo Sports.
He received the notification in text form.
“They didn’t even have the balls to call me,” he said.
They evicted him from the group “because they said that this could bring bad light to other members of the Champions Circle,” Smith said.
Smith has spoken to Stalions multiple times since he resigned from the university after news of the scheme emerged. Smith said that the two are not close and that he knew him “as well as any other staff person” in the university’s football program.
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, multiyear 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 said Stalions worked at the university long before he officially became an employee in 2022. Stalions, a graduate of the Naval Academy, paid his own way for flights to and from Ann Arbor in the preceding years before his full-time employment, according to Smith.
“He was taking leave [from the military],” Smith said. “He told me it was all him [paying for the scheme]. That’s what he told me.
“I think there are people wanting to throw some people under the bus. ‘It’s all Connor and someone else!’ If Uncle T is me, I’m not aware that it is me.”
An online biography of Smith notes that he graduated from Michigan’s Ross School of Business and has over 30 years of successful international business experience in global automotive, technology and defense industries. He is currently CEO of Osirius Group, a company that provides automotive engineering solutions, defense security project design, information technology optimization and cyber security and innovation services.
Smith and wife Jocelyn are longtime Michigan supporters, so much that Smith’s first words, the biography notes, were “Go Blue!”
Well before Yahoo Sports’ story published, Smith received a phone call Thursday night from his attorney asking if he was the now-infamous “Uncle T.”
“I’m not Uncle T," Smith told Yahoo Sports. "But Uncle T is better than being Ass**** T.”
Thursday was a busy day in Ann Arbor. The school dropped its legal action against the Big Ten over coach Jim Harbaugh’s three-game suspension when new evidence emerged, including the existence of “Uncle T,” as well as the issue around linebackers coach Chris Partridge. Michigan fired Partridge on Friday, minutes before Yahoo Sports reported that the coach is believed to have destroyed evidence around the investigation. Smith said he’s been made aware that Partridge “told people not to talk,” as it related to the investigation.
On Thursday, Smith’s attorney was “being led to believe that, perhaps, there are some trying to create a fall guy narrative and maybe Uncle T was… My attorney called me and asked, ‘Is that f****** you?”
Smith has not spoken to anyone at Michigan or the NCAA about the investigation but would be happy to do so, he said. He said he has nothing to hide and he remains convinced that Stalions’ scheme broke no rules.
“If you read the rules, it’s not at all clear that any rules were broken,” Smith said.