The NCAA has completed its investigation of the Michigan football program and submitted its findings to the University on Monday. After sorting through everything, Michigan held a press conference yesterday with Mary Sue Coleman, Dave Brandon, and Rich Rodriguez to share what the NCAA found. Brandon handled most of the press conference and did a very good job of answering the questions that were asked and presenting the findings in a way that showed Michigan understood the severity of the accusations. At the same time, Brandon also did a good job of trying to lessen the publicity nightmare of this whole situation by blaming the “mistakes” that were made on communication breakdowns and a poor internal system. All in all I would say the press conference went about as well as it could given the circumstances.
As for the actual accusations, Michigan released the documents from the NCAA to the public, giving everybody a chance to read through and see for themselves what the football program allegedly did. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg already summed up the accusations perfectly, so I will just run down the list and share my analysis on each.
1. Five Michigan quality control staffers regularly engaged in both on-field and off-field coaching activities that are prohibited by NCAA rules. By engaging in these activities, Michigan exceeded the limit on number of coaches who can engage in these activities. Quality control personnel are alleged to have coached players two days a week in offseason workouts, warm-up activities during the season and film study, and they also attended meetings that involved coaching activities.
This is problematic in the sense that Michigan’s coaching staff, according to the NCAA, was five people too big based on what activities the quality control staffers participated in. My guess is quality control staffers around the country all do similar things and interact with the players like they are coaches, but unfortunately that was against the rules and Michigan got caught. That is pretty much the general theme to these accusations.
2. Michigan violated NCAA rules by having football staff members “monitor and conduct voluntary summer workouts, conduct impermissible activities outside the playing season, require football student-athletes to participate in summer conditioning activities for disciplinary purposes [missing class], and exceed time limits for countable athletically related activities during and outside the playing season.” This seems to be the most serious charge and the one that sparked the Detroit Free Press report and the investigation. Here are some of the specifics:
- In two separate offseason periods in both 2008 and 2009, football players were sometimes required to participate in up to 10 hours of athletic activities or weight training/conditioning, which exceeds the limit of eight hours.
- During the 2008 season, players were sometimes required to participate for up to five hours a day in “countable athletically related activities,” exceeding the maximum of four hours. The staff exceeded the 20-hour-a-week limit by 20 minutes during the week of Oct. 19, 2008.
- During September 2009, football players were required to participate in four and a half hours of activities per day, exceeding the NCAA limit by 30 minutes. The report identifies four dates in question: Sept. 7, Sept. 14, Sept. 21, Sept. 28.
The accusations involving the offseason seem to be more serious than what took place during the season. Although Michigan was apparently exceeding the maximum daily hours during the season, it sounds like the 20-hour limit was only exceeded once, and that was by a mere 20 minutes. In that regard the attitude that Michigan was blowing by the 20-hour limit is not correct. Michigan’s problem was that it did too much on individual days rather than as a whole each week.
3. Graduate assistant Alex Herron is accused “providing false and misleading information” to both Michigan and the NCAA enforcement staff when asked about the allegations. He denied being present for 7-on-7 passing drills in the summers of 2008 and 2009 when he allegedly conducted the sessions.
All I can say is Herron probably won’t be involved with the Michigan football program going forward (at least I hope he won’t).
4. Because of the first two allegations (detailed above), Rodriguez is alleged to have “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program and failed to adequately monitor the duties and activities of the quality control staff members, a graduate assistant coach and a student assistant coach, and the time limits for athletically related activities.”
5. Because of the first two allegations, Michigan’s athletics department is alleged to have “failed to adequately monitor its football program to assure compliance.” Compliance staff members became concerned about the duties of the quality control coaches in the winter of 2008 but didn’t gather enough information to determine potential problems. The strength and conditioning staff didn’t calculate time limits for offseason workouts or effectively communicate information to the compliance office. This resulted in the compliance office approving miscalculated activities and failing to follow its own policies for monitoring these activities. Athletics staff also failed to provide the forms showing countable activities to the compliance office.
Internal changes will hopefully eliminate these last two issues going forward. As Lloyd Carr said in his reaction to the accusations, the internal problems that helped cause these issues can be improved “quickly and easily.” Hopefully that is the case and these improvements to their internal system will help lessen the blow when it comes to what punishment Michigan will receive from the NCAA. The way the process will move forward now is Michigan has 90 days to respond to the accusations, and then in August Michigan will have a hearing with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions. Any punishment wouldn’t be dealt until a couple months after the hearing, though it’s possible Michigan could self-impose sanctions before that.
The one thing that people have been making a big deal about is the fact that in the NCAA’s letter to Rich Rodriguez, the accusations were described as “potential major violations of NCAA legislation, unless designated as secondary violations.” A lot of people have taken that to mean that these are major violations for sure, which is not the case. Michigan will likely designate all of the accusations as secondary violations because that would be less of a black eye for the program and would likely result in a lesser punishment. Whether the NCAA will allow them to be designated as secondary violations is beyond me, but I’m hoping they do. If these all turn out to be secondary violations then the punishment probably wouldn’t be anything more than probation and the loss of some scholarships. Major violations certainly bring about a worse feeling, but the key in all of this is that the accusations are merely potential major violations.
The other main thing I want to address is the idea that Rich Rodriguez suddenly is on the hot seat even more than he was before. I can understand why that is the perception considering the situation, but as Adam Rittenberg pointed out, “Rich Rodriguez’s fate ultimately comes down to whether or not he wins games, not what the NCAA decides in August.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. While what happens with the NCAA could make it easier to fire Rodriguez if it comes to that, his job status heading into 2011 will be dependent on what the team does in 2010. If Michigan puts together a great season that shows this program is headed in the right direction, then a couple NCAA violations, though embarrassing, probably won’t be enough to cost him his job. At the same time, if Michigan has another bad season, Rodriguez is probably gone regardless of what happens with the NCAA. The only thing violations will do is let Michigan fire him with cause and therefore not have to pay his buyout.
Side note from all of this: WTF, Morgan Trent?
“I’m not surprised because I know what happened, and I know what kind of rules were broken. I couldn’t see how they were going to get out of that.
“Whatever steps need to be taken (to restore Michigan’s winning tradition), I’m all for it. What is happening right now obviously is not working. I don’t know how long they’re going to let this last until changes are made. This year is going to be the tell-all what’s going to happen. We can’t have three losing years in a row. Not at Michigan. To lose seven of last eight games (in 2009) is an embarrassment.”
Hey Morgan, you know what’s also embarrassing? Your play as a cornerback for much of your career at Michigan, especially in 2008. Perhaps you should just keep your mouth shut considering you contributed to one of those losing seasons.