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: