Earlier this week, a story came out about how Michigan’s football program did not turn in its CARA logs, which track countable activities and are really at the heart of the Free Press’ allegations. The story, as expected, turned into a rather big deal, but based on the University’s write-up on the audit that discovered the logs hadn’t been turned in, it seemed like the problem had already been fixed.
During a May 2009 audit a concern was identified regarding an internal process for tracking athletic activities logged by the U-M football team. The compliance office did not receive the football team’s Countable Athletically Related Activities (CARA) forms for the 2008-2009 school year. The CARA form is an internal mechanism developed by the University to help track the total time players spend in required practice and is standard across all U-M sports.
When detail on a concern identified in an audit needs to be provided to a department, a memorandum is sent so the issue can be addressed. In this instance, the audit and a memo went to the athletic department on July 24, 2009. The forms are now turned in on a timely basis. The audit does not identify where the system broke down and it did not identify any other areas of concern with respect to the football program.
The bold sentence is pretty ambiguous because it doesn’t specifically say if the missing forms were turned in, but saying that they are “now turned in a timely basis” suggested to me that the issue was corrected. Perhaps I was just being optimistic, but Rich Rodriguez said on a Columbus radio station yesterday that this problem was corrected right after the memo was sent, so it appears that this is no longer an issue.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez told a Columbus, Ohio, radio station he fixed the problem of unkept practice logs “as soon as I learned of the issue.”
“Because of the investigation is still in the process, the NCAA won’t let us comment about it other than the fact that the practice log process, that thing was corrected as soon as I learned of the issue,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “And as soon as this whole thing is over I’ll be happy to discuss all the other details.”
First of all, whew. The last thing Michigan needs when being investigated for practicing too much is to not have any CARA logs. It doesn’t do the PR department any favors when mistakes like this are made, adding even more negative publicity, but at least the logs were turned in right after the problem was discovered and are now turned in on time.
Mary Sue Coleman recently received a letter from the NCAA that is as a “notice of inquiry” about the practicegate allegations. The letter was sent to inform Michigan that the NCAA will continue to investigate the allegations, and that the investigation should conclude by the end of the calendar year.
Here is what Coleman and Bill Martin had to say about the letter:
Statement from U-M President Mary Sue Coleman
“As I said at the onset of this review, we place the highest importance on the well-being of our student-athletes and the integrity of our program. We continue to work with the NCAA to ensure that a thorough and objective investigation occurs.”
Statement from U-M Director of Athletics Bill Martin
“We continue to cooperate with the NCAA on this matter, which is why we reached out to both the Big Ten and the NCAA as soon as we heard the allegations. We remain committed to following both the letter and the intent of the NCAA rules.”
The new information this provided us is that we now know for sure that the NCAA is investigating the allegations and that the investigation should be over by the end of the year. Other than that this is really just a reminder that practicegate isn’t going away just yet. Sure, it was forgotten for the first two-thirds of the season, but it could only stay in the background for so long before what was basically an update brought it back to everyone’s attention again.
- Gene Marsh, a former chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, has been hired by Michigan to help investigate the allegations that there were violations committed. Marsh currently works for a law firm in Alabama and is a professor at the University of Alabama.
- Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman released a statement that addressed the allegations.
“At the University of Michigan, we place the highest importance on the welfare of our student-athletes and the integrity of our intercollegiate athletics program. Our university is widely recognized for academic and athletic excellence, and it’s something we work to achieve every day. I am proud of our unwavering commitment to that standard.
“As soon as the allegations surfaced about our athletic program, I launched an investigation. Our Board of Regents is fully informed on the matter. With the help of outside counsel, we are working in cooperation with the NCAA to discover and assess the facts of the situation.
“It is critical that a thorough and objective investigation is completed before any conclusions are drawn. We will then determine what – if any – actions need to occur to ensure full compliance with NCAA rules and our own rules of conduct.”
- Lloyd Carr, who is now president of the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl board of directors, declined to comment on the whole practicegate situation.
- Rivals’ Tom Dienhart, like Kirk Herbstreit, called this a witch hunt.
- Sam McGuffie, who left after playing under Rich Rodriguez for one season, said this about the allegations:
“It’s going to be hard for some people, especially the people that were recruited by (former Michigan coach) Lloyd Carr,” McGuffie said. “They were used to a certain way of how Lloyd Carr went about things and running Michigan. I believe Rich Rodriguez has a different approach to how he wants Michigan to be known.”
“They’re going to get things worked out,” he said. “After last year, going 3-9, people are going to try to take shots in any way they can to get Rich-Rod and Co. either out of there or just try to keep them down. Anybody who knows anything about Michigan knows they won’t be down long.
“They’ll find a way to put Michigan back on top.”
When McGuffie becomes eligible to play next year, I will be rooting for him. McGuffie still seems like a fan of Michigan, which makes sense considering his transfer was more about being homesick than anything else.
- Carson Butler, who already spoke out against the allegations, discussed them further yesterday. Jeff Backus and Jon Jansen also talked about them and reflected on their time at Michigan playing for Lloyd Carr.
I was hoping to be completely done with any talk of practicegate after yesterday, but there simply is too much stuff worth discussing to move on already. Unlike most of the news in the last few days, however, this post is mainly filled with people coming to Rich Rodriguez’s defense. The list already includes current and former players and parents of players, and it is growing in a big way. You can add the fathers of Donovan Warren and Craig Roh, Larry Foote, Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster, and believe it or not, Jim Tressel, Kirk Herbstreit, and Ohio State captains to the list of people coming to Michigan’s defense.
Like yesterday, there is some other business to attend to before going through the quotes of people defending Michigan. I noted on Tuesday that Michigan was considering hiring an outside firm to handle their investigation. As it turns out, Bruce Madej confirmed that Michigan had decided to do just that, saying that it “helps to bring in an outside firm to provide more of an objective view when we make our final report.” As I said in yesterday’s post on practicegate, having an outside firm handle the investigation will give people a better perception of the credibility behind it if no wrongdoing is found. That way people can’t accuse Michigan of sweeping anything under the rug, which is very important in turning the perception to as positive of a view as possible.
As mentioned already, the list of Michigan defenders grew quite a bit on Tuesday, with various people either standing up for U-M or dismissing the idea that any violations were committed. So far the biggest group of defenders is parents of current players. A couple spoke out against the Free Press’ report immediately, and a few more shared their thoughts yesterday.
The fathers of Je’Ron Stokes and Donovan Warren both went on WTKA and vehemently defended Rich Rodriguez, Mike Barwis, other coaches, and the program in general. Both interviews are worth listening to, especially the one with Warren’s father, as he has actually spent a week with the team each of the last two years. He was even allowed to sit in on team meetings, and as he pointed out in the interview, why would the coaches allow that if they had something to hide?
I am Craig Roh’s dad and had the pleasure of experiencing first-hand the recruiting process and first summer with the UM program. I feel obligated to share with readers concrete evidence of the integrity and compliance of the Rich Rod program and staff. My son chose UM because it is one of the few schools in the country that has great football AND academics. He could have gone to UCLA, Cal, Stanford, USC..all great academic schools and he chose Michigan because it had the best of both.
He also selected UM because of the intensity and straight talk of the coaching staff. The first person he met was Mike Barwis. After spending an hour with Barwis, Craig turned to me and said, “He will make me the best I can be. That’s what I want.” When he met Rich Rod, he was further impressed with his openness and vision. Craig came here BECAUSE of the work ethic that was to be required of him. He WANTS to be pushed to the limits, not coddled and pampered.
Former Michigan linebacker Larry Foote, who works out with Mike Barwis in the offseason, has a first-hand look at what goes on during workouts, and he made it clear that no rules were being violated by U-M.
“Everybody complains. We complain here. But it’s Michigan. We ain’t no small school. They know the schedule. They’re not going to jeopardize millions and millions of dollars, trying to get a couple extra hours in. So that story is more of a joke than anything.”
Foote said the college players would start their work out at 8 a.m. on Mondays and Fridays. He said the pros would start theirs at 10 a.m., after the college players had finished.
“And Monday and Friday, that’s the longest day,” Foote said. “Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is shorter. So they ain’t going over the limit on those days.”
Foote went on to say at the end of the interview that “Winning’s going to cure everything.” He couldn’t be more right, as winning really does just make everything better. I can guarantee that if Michigan goes 9-3 or something like that and exceeds everyone’s expectations, there will be very few instances where Rich Rodriguez gets hit with negative publicity. If he even shows that the program is on the right track the critics will suddenly get a lot quieter.
With a Big Ten teleconference taking place yesterday, the media had a chance to ask other coaches what they thought about this whole situation at Michigan. Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster, who doesn’t believe the allegations of NCAA violations are true, really stood up for Rich Rodriguez.
“I firmly believe in Rich Rodriguez,” Brewster said. “I don’t believe that Michigan was overextending their players. It’s unfortunate that this publicity has come out.
“Rich Rodriguez is a heck of a football coach. He’s been doing this a long time and it’s just very unfortunate.”
The other coach who sort of defended Rodriguez or at least backed up his claims that players want to come in and do extra work on their own was Ohio State’s Jim Tressel.
“What makes it difficult is how good these kids want to be,” he said. “Sometimes you have to chain the doors of the Woody Hayes [football] center, you know, to get them out of there. These kids want to be good. They want to train. They want to get their buddies in there and throw the ball around, those kinds of things.”
As if that wasn’t surprising enough, Ohio State’s captains, Kurt Coleman and Doug Worthington, also came to Michigan’s defense.
“I think Michigan is probably abiding by the rules,” said Coleman, a starting safety. “But, you know, to be great you have to put in more than 20 hours. That’s just the minimum. In any great program, each player is putting in more than what they’re required to. And it’s all on their own. That’s what takes a program to the next level, when guys are going above and beyond the call of duty.”
Worthington said that no matter what the coaches say — or the NCAA — players who want to get better will become workaholics. He said it was up to the upperclassmen to make sure that the younger players kept their noses to the grindstone.
“It’s hard to be a good football team giving 20 hours, but you know the rules and that’s why leaders and captains and seniors have to make sure we keep guys after and we watch more film,” the starting defensive lineman said. “Do it on our time, but make sure we know it’s nothing mandatory. But if you want to be good, it takes more than just 20 hours.”
One person in the media who really got worked up over the allegations was former Ohio State quarterback Kirk Herbstreit, who called this a “witch hunt” and “insulting.” I was surprised that he spoke out against the allegations so strongly, but I guess Herbstreit has immense respect for Rich Rodriguez.
Just as I did yesterday, I will finish this post on a lighter note by linking to a diary on mgoblog that is a parody of the Free Press’ investigation article. I think the title — “A Look Inside The Detroit Free Press’ Rigorous Drug Use Program” — says it all.
This undoubtedly won’t be the last post on practicegate considering there is an investigation that has to be done, but I hope it is the last time I have to mention it this week. After all, Michigan opens the season against Western Michigan in only four days, and I do want to talk some football before then. This is supposed to be a time of great excitement for the impending season to start, and that has certainly taken a backseat the last few days. I promise, football talk is on the way. Before we do move on to football-related things, however, I first want wrap up practicegate, as there is still plenty of stuff out there worth mentioning.
First things first is what will happen with the aforementioned investigation. Apparently an outside firm may be brought in to investigate the allegations. That is “to be determined,” according to Bill Martin. The main reason to bring in an outside firm is to ensure there are no conflicts of interest during the investigation and no chance that something could be covered up or swept under the rug. On top of that, if the investigation concludes and no wrongdoing is found by an outside firm, the results will look more credible. That’s not to say that Michigan couldn’t do its own credible investigation; the perception simply would be, “Of course Michigan didn’t find anything. They were the ones investigating.”
Many people have come to Michigan’s defense in light of this situation. Former players, current players, parents of players, and others have spoke out against the allegations. The latest former player to defend Michigan surprised me greatly, as he was one of the last people I expected to be on Michigan’s side in this situation.
“It was just a different structure,” Butler said.
Butler said it didn’t seem as if the players were forced to spend excessive time training and practicing.
“I don’t know all of the exact rules, but I don’t remember anything that seemed like it was too much,” Butler said. “If the weight room was open, you went. If there was a run, you went. It’s just what you do to be a better football player.”
The reason this is so surprising is because Butler landed himself in Rodriguez’s doghouse early in the season and ended up going pro with a year of eligibility left. Getting ejected from the Notre Dame game for punching an opposing player is what put him in the doghouse, eventually leading to him changing positions to defensive end. Not wanting to stay at DE or transfer, Butler decided to enter the NFL and is currently fighting (no pun intended) for a spot on the Lions’ 53-man roster.
A few players’ parents have defended Michigan, and the latest is Je’Ron Stokes’ father. Stokes, as you might remember, was one of the two freshman who were mentioned in the Free Press’ article. They were unaware that their quotes were going to be presented as evidence of Michigan’s supposed wrongdoing and were simply excited to talk about all the hard work they had done during the summer. I think Stokes’ father said it best when he characterized his son as a “victim of a reporter with an agenda.” Here is more of what he said to The Wolverine.
“My wife [Juanita] and I talk to Je’Ron every day. We follow him through the internet, by phone, and we’ve been up there on a couple of occasions,” he said. “We spent an entire Thursday through Monday up there, and I’d see guys voluntarily go into that weight room on Sunday and Saturday and put in extra work.
“I know [the allegations] are not true, because I know how [strength coach] Mike Barwis cares for these kids. He’s taken my son to bible study and to church. These are the kinds of things that impress us about the program and Rich Rod and his staff. They are good people, and I hate the fact that every negative thing put out there brings the wrong perception to the Michigan program.
“We wanted to follow everything closely. He hit the school in June and from that point on we would always ask him, ‘what are you doing, what time have you got to be there, what time are you doing this, where are you going after that?’ We closely monitored what his experience was going to be coming in, knowing we were told if he comes in and competes, there’s a chance he could possibly contribute his freshman year.”
Stokes’ father went on to talk about how his son’s quotes were so badly taken out of context.
“They took and twisted and misconstrued [his quote], when Ronnie was just simply saying he’s doing the regulated hours required by the coaches within the rules. There are two sessions, and he might have been part of the morning group, like 8:30 to 11. The second group might be 1-3. The voluntary workout would be like 3-5 or 5:30 with the quarterbacks or other players. He might go to rehab, take a shower or take the initiative to go up and look at some film, might not leave Schembechler Hall until 6:00 or 7:30. But that was taken out of context.”
More defense of Michigan and its coaches came from Rick Leach on WTKA and the parent of someone who attended a Michigan football camp earlier this summer. Dave Shand also talked about the allegations and his experiences with the hockey program on WTKA, and John U. Bacon went on NPR to explain the situation.
There are a few more links I am going to post, but one I want to especially draw attention to is mgoblog’s write-up on yesterday’s press conference. Brian was in attendance, and after the actual presser was done he talked to Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder, the two people behind the Free Press article, and challenged them on what a countable hour actually is to the NCAA. It is a must read, as it shows just how little credibility the authors of these allegations really have.
Another must read comes from Jonathan Chait, the editor of The New Republic. He wrote an piece for The Wolverine that tore apart the Free Press’ article, calling Rosenberg’s work “journalism malpractice.” At RealFootball365.com, Bart Doan explained, “Someone needs to learn the rules, and it’s not Rich Rodriguez.”
Finally, on a much lighter note, the great LSUfreek gave his take on practicegate in a way only he can:
After learning of practicegate, West Virginia decided to look through its records from when Rich Rodriguez was their head coach, and they found zero complaints during his seven-year tenure.
“Based upon our looking back over the weekend, we don’t feel we have any concerns,” WVU’s Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Michael Fragale said Monday. “We have checked it out and there has been nothing flagged and nothing out of the ordinary.
“There were no student-athlete complaints during the time (Rodriguez) was here.”
Former players who agreed to speak to the Daily Mail anonymously after learning of the allegations first raised Saturday night said they knew of nothing similar happening at WVU during at their time with the team.
It’s makes no sense that Rodriguez, who did nothing wrong for all those years at WVU, would have suddenly changed his ways and started breaking the rules to the extent the Free Press described. Like Rodriguez said yesterday, he didn’t leave his care for players in West Virginia.
I will point out that one former WVU player spoke to The Times West Virginian via Facebook and said that players put in more time for football during Rodriguez’s first year than any other year he was there.
“I can honestly tell you — it was ONLY in Coach Rod’s first fall as WVU’s head coach (Sept ’01 – Nov ’01) that I felt we were at the stadium far more than the NCAA allowed. Coach Rod made the team report to the football office on Sundays during the season only and attendance was checked.
“We had to change into our workout gear, stretch/warm-up, and the strength staff would conduct light lifting sessions and put the team through moderate conditioning on the football field. This, of course, was after 1-2 hours of treatment for injured players (if needed). When you add all of the hours, it made for a less than desirable Sunday. I can remember missing all of 1:00 NFL games which didn’t end until 3:30-3:45.”
The player said other than that first year, there were no violations in this area.
“The rest of my days at WVU were business as usual — and acceptable to all of the players. Of course, Sunday sessions at the football office were no longer implemented, in part, because of the obvious displeasure among players the year before and we were winning on Saturdays.”
If Rodriguez had pushed his team too hard this summer, the player theorized it was because Rodriguez “refuses to have a repeat season like last year.”
Based on this player’s initial comments, West Virginia spent less time dealing with football on Sundays in Rodriguez’s first year than what was described about Michigan last season. Also, it sounds like when you actually tally up the countable hours, what WVU players did on Sundays was a very small chunk of the weekly 20-hour limit. Besides, these descriptions were extremely vague and were only from one player. And as West Virginia concluded, there were no complaints during Rodriguez’s tenure, which obviously includes the first year where players supposedly spent more time dealing with football.
- Team’s GPA shows great balance between football and academics.
- Honor to have Mike Barwis’ staff as a part of our staff.
- Barwis is the best strength and conditioning coach in the country.
- Mike trains several former Michigan hockey players who are in the NHL.
- Mike truly cares about all of the young men and women he has worked with.
- “He has always complied with the rules.”
- “My record reflects that.”
- Compliance department met with Barwis several times and talked about his summer workouts in the past.
- The University of Michigan is a challenge, and the players are working to complete it both academically and on the field.
- “I, as a coach, have never hindered (academics).”
- It is “disheartening” and “misleading” to say that the coaches don’t care about the players’ welfare. (Rodriguez is having a tough time keeping it together; getting very emotional.)
- “I love working with our staff; I love our players like I love my family.”
- He didn’t leave his care for players in West Virginia.
- Parents of players and former players have sent letters saying “do what you always do” to help players achieve their goals.
- “I guess I’m here to tell you that whatever you’ve heard or want to believe, the truth is this coaching staff cares very deeply about the young men in our program. Always have, always will.”
- “I have two young freshman (Brandin Hawthorne and Je’Ron Stokes I’m assuming) that come into my office yesterday upset and said, ‘Coach, what did we do? We just said we worked hard. It was harder than it was in high school. That we’re committed to winning a championship.’ You did nothing wrong.”
- “Mike Barwis is such an asset to this University.”
- “Why try to tear up something that a man has given his life to?”
- It’s amazing how often players called for someone to open Schembechler Hall on Saturdays and Sundays the past 7-8 months because they wanted to get in there.
- The players are excited for game week, as they should be.
- “We have to get focused (on Western Michigan).”
- “I expect a great week of practice.”
- The meeting with seniors on Sunday at Coach Rod’s house was an annual thing.
- “Zoltan was signing on the Rock Band.”
- “It was a very positive meeting. As I mentioned, they’re very hungry to have a great year.”
- There’s no significance to Tate Forcier being listed first on the depth chart. QBs will play based on the game situation.
- Having three QBs who can play is a little different, but it has worked well in practice.
- “We’ll release a medical report on Thursday.”
- Donovan Warren is fine.
- Brandon Minor has been limited, but he will be able to do more today and should be able to go on Saturday.
- If the offense is playing well and is in a rhythm, quarterbacks probably won’t be subbed in and out.
- “I anticipate playing all three (quarterbacks).”
- The starting kicker will probably be named on Thursday. Jason Olesnavage is “in the forefront.”
- “I’ve gone back and forth between Sundays off and Mondays off.” A lot of it is based on the players’ course schedule. This season players will have Sundays off instead of Mondays.
- Sunday practices were no more than an hour and they will be no more than an hour this year.
- Having Sundays off allows coaches to work up a gameplan for the next week. Since there are no byes this year, it will be an advantage to have Sundays off.
- Typically there was only a walkthrough on Fridays last year that lasted no more than 15-20 minutes.
- “It’s disheartening to have obstacles that shouldn’t be there.” (referring to practicegate)
- “I want to make it clear, our players are working very hard. They have done a whole lot to help build this program. I’m sure they’re not happy to be dealing with this because they are working hard.”
- “Can we just move forward? Let these young men focus on game week.”
- The practice schedule is changed around to accommodate classes.
- “It’s nice knowing we have three options (at quarterback) back there.”
- “They’re saying we’re working too much. Personally, I don’t think we’re working hard enough.”
- “I know what we do on and off the field and see none of that as illegal.”
- “You definitely want to be able to run around.” (to chase around people like “Little Vincent Smith”)
- Things like this help the team grow closer and stronger.
- “You have to be together.”
- “It’s tough… you feel for (Rodriguez).”
- Because of how last year went, everybody on the team has had the mindset of working harder to get better.
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