Home > Uncategorized > You, The Jury: The People vs. Rich Rodriguez

You, The Jury: The People vs. Rich Rodriguez

A new weekly feature, MFDC debates the sports world’s hottest topic, presenting to you the facts, occasionally with testimony and character witnesses, and leaves the verdict to you, the jury.

For today’s case we put on trail the reputation of Richard Q. Rodriguez*, who is currently dealing with allegations of NCAA Violations unveiled by the Detroit Free Press’ Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder. Thursday, we’ll take a look at the other side of the story, as we will then present “The People vs. The Detroit Free Press”.  For today, its Rodriguez that is on trial.  We will present the Freep’s case against Rodriguez, and arguments from both sides.  At the end, your votes will be taken.

With that (here ye! here ye!), this court is in session.

Allegation #1: Michigan far exceeded the limits set on practice and regulated activity set by the NCAA.

The Free Press makes two major allegations of violations committed by Rodriguez and his staff.  The first of which is violating the NCAA’s in-season limit of 20 hours of regulated activity a week (4 hours daily), and 8 hours of non-regulated activity.  Here are the quotes from the article alleging such.

In September 2008, three weeks into Rodriguez’s first season, senior defensive tackle Terrance Taylor talked about his previous Sunday.

“It was, like, 10 hours,” Taylor said. “Everybody was like, ‘Where were you at?’ ‘I was at practice all day.’ My parents were still here. They were like, ‘Where were you at?’ I was like, ‘I was at the building all day.’ ”

The NCAA limit is 4 hours a day for required activities.

“The Sundays were miserable,” one player said. “I could never get healthy. You’d go through a game and then go through a hard workout. Sundays would just kill you.”

——

With three hours on Saturday and a full day on Sunday, players tallied about 12 hours on those two days. They were off Monday. Players said they would spend an additional three to four hours with the team on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, bringing the weekly total to 21-24 hours

In defense…the article never goes into great detail about what actually occurs during these hours.  For the most part what Rosenberg and Snyder have presented is a start and end time to the day.  What they failed to present  (perhaps because it wouldn’t further their cause), was that several activities are not counted against you daily or weekly limits by the NCAA.  Here is a breakdown of non-countable activities, obtained in a press release by the University Athletic Department courtesy of MGoBlog.com.

Non-countable Athletically Related Activities. The following are considered non-countable athletically related activities and are not counted in the weekly or daily time limitations:
a. Training-table or competition-related meals;
b. Physical rehabilitation;
c. Dressing, showering or taping;
d. Athletics department academic study hall or tutoring sessions;
e. Meetings with coaches on non-athletics matters;
f. Travel to and from practice and competition;
g. Visiting the competition site in sports other than cross country, golf and skiing;
h. Medical examinations or treatments;
i. Fund-raising activities;
j. Recruiting activities (e.g., serving as a student host for prospective student-athletes during official visits);
k. Public relations activities related to the student-athlete’s sport (e.g., media days);
l. Participation in regular physical education classes, with or without credit, that are listed in the institution’s catalog and open to all students;
m. Voluntary individual workouts, provided these workouts are not required or supervised by coaching staff members, except that such activities may be monitored for safety purposes or conducted by the institution’s strength and conditioning personnel who have department wide duties.
n. Individual consultation with a coaching staff member initiated voluntarily by a student-athlete, provided the coach and the student-athlete do not engage in athletically related activities;
o. The provision of videotapes to a student-athlete by an institution’s coach that include a personalized message and athletically related information (e.g., discussion of plays, general workout programs, lectures on strategy related to the sport), provided the viewing of the videotape by the student-athlete is voluntary;
p. Use of an institution’s athletics facilities (which may be reserved) during the academic year or summer by student-athletes, provided the activities are not supervised by or held at the direction of any member of an institution’s coaching staff.

Today I spoke with individuals who are familiar with team activity.  Of the Sundays, few of which ever reached the 10 hours suggested by the Free Press, the majority of the hours, according to the individual, are not counted.  These activities include training table sessions, film study, team meals and team bonding exercises, and finally study hall and academic counseling.  Needless to say, there are several holes to this argument, and the only hard evidence that can be offered by either side are signed forms by the players that they complied with the NCAA’s guidelines.

Allegation #2: Staffers watched 7-on-7 Drills

Players said members of Rodriguez’s quality-control staff often watched seven-on-seven off-season scrimmages.

The non-contact drills, in which an offense runs plays against a defense, are supposed to be voluntary and player-run. They are held at U-M’s football facilities. NCAA rules allow only training staff — not quality-control staffers — to attend as a safety precaution. Quality-control staffers provide administrative and other support for the coaches but are not allowed to interact directly with players during games, practices or workouts.

Players were quoted as saying that members of the team’s quality control staff   observed the team’s off-season 7-on-7 drills.

Now, the NCAA does allow certain members of the football team staff to attend these off-season drills.  In order to do so, they must meet the following guidelines.

11.7.1.1.1.1 Non-coaching Activities. Institutional staff members involved in non-coaching activities (e.g., administrative assistants, academic counselors) do not count in the institution’s coaching limitations, provided such individuals are not identified as coaches, do not engage in any on- or off-field coaching activities (e.g., attending meetings involving coaching activities, analyzing video involving the institution’s or an opponent’s team), and are not involved in any off-campus recruitment of prospective student-athletes or scouting of opponents. A non-coaching staff member with sport-specific responsibilities may not participate with or observe student-athletes in the staff member’s sport who are engaged in non-organized voluntary athletically related activities (e.g., pick-up games).

This leaves us with one question – do Michigan’s Quality Control Staffers have “sport specific duties”.  The answer is yes.  So long as these staffers have a slight say in player evaluation or game preparation, even without direct instructional contact with players, they would be considered to have “sport specific duties”.  Its hard to believe they are kept on staff without having some duty specific with the team.

In Defense: Following the scandal involving the men’s basketball team in the early to mid 90s, Michigan established a wing of their Athletic Department solely devoted to ensuring that Michigan athletics operated by the guidelines set forth by the  NCAA.  The Compliance Department is headed by Judy Van Horn.  To say she takes her job seriously would be to say Shaq O’Neil is slightly larger than average.  The lady is an NCAA rules Nazi, which is exactly what she was hired to do.  I tell you that to tell you this.

Mrs. Van Horn and members of her staff preform spot checks on all the teams throughout the season to ensure they are operating within NCAA guidelines.  When presented with the Free Press’ evidence, Van Horn responded with the following:

“Compliance and administrative staff conduct in-person spot checks of practice during the academic year and summer. We have not had any reason to self-report any violations in this area with any of our sports.”

Allegation #3: Off-Season Work Didn’t Meet NCAA’s Definition of “Voluntary”.

Players are free to exceed the limits set on team activities, so long as their attendance is truly voluntary.  (Now, whether or not any D-1 football team’s offseason activities are truly mandatory is an allegation for another day. )

The NCAA Rulebook states four requirements that define an activity as voluntary.  Lets take them one by one.

(b) The activity must be initiated and requested solely by the student-athlete. Neither the institution nor any athletics department staff member may require the student-athlete to participate in the activity at any time. [Editor’s Note: coaches may inform players of when activities are being held, when strength and conditioning staff will be on duty]

According to the Free Press, Graduate Assistants called athletes telling them “you gotta get here”, referring to 7-on-7 drills.

(c) The student-athlete’s attendance and participation in the activity (or lack thereof ) may not be recorded for the purposes of reporting such information to coaching staff members or other student-athlete

The article states attendance was taken and used to evaluate a players potential playing time.

(d) The student-athlete may not be subjected to penalty if he or she elects not to participate in the activity. In addition, neither the institution nor any athletics department staff member may provide recognition or incentives (e.g., awards) to a student-athlete based on his or her attendance or performance in the activity.

While they never go into detail of what the punishment entails, players allege that teammates who missed workouts were put through hell the following day.

In Defense…Are off-season workouts ever really voluntary?  Now my on-field experience ended my senior year of high school, but one thing stated in the Free Press rings true:

Michigan coaches have a saying: “Workouts aren’t mandatory, but neither is playing time.

It was no secret in the hallowed halls of my high school, Columbia Central, that if you expected to smell the green grass of the playing field, you were expected to put in the work from November-July.  You were expected to hit the weight room a minimum of three times a week.  Skill players were expected to attend 7-on-7 drills, and were called by the coaches when they did not attend.  Lineman were expected to attend off-season workouts and likewise, were put through the ringer if they didn’t show up.  We were a program in turnaround.  A process that takes hard work, that requires more than the bare minumum.

Sure, we could have gone home and remained on the team, but there’s no way we would have seen the field.  So, what’s my point: this happens everywhere.  We’re hearing about it because the motive in this case isn’t RichRod haven’t a personell vendetta against his players, but instead The Free Press’ Michael Rosenberg having a vendetta against Rodriguez (which we will into more detail on in Thursday’s second part of this You, The Jury, in which we put the Detroit Free Press on trial).

Does this make Rodriguez right?  Not entirely.  Does this make him wrong? Not entirely.

Character Witnesses

The man behind the mask, Michigan’s Original Superfan, chimes in defense of Rodriguez:

“There is no doubt in my mind that Rich Rodriguez is running the sort of program we will all be proud of…  At the end of the day, I honestly feel that when you mention Yost, Crisler, and Schembechler, that you will be able to mention Rich Rodriguez.

As for the players, it’s evident these are problem players that graduated last year or problem players with no chance of starting this year.  I’d give them the same advice Bo gave Andy Cannavino back in 1980.  Grow up!  Grow up and be a man!  You better learn now that the world isn’t going to be easy on you…that’s a lesson we should all learn in college. I played high school ball twenty years ago…and our ‘voluntary’ practices and weight lifting were ‘mandatory’ as well…not mandatory to the coaching staff, but all of the players need to put that pressure on one another if you want to contend for championships at any level.  I owed those voluntary workouts to my teammates!  There is no coincidence here that this program hasn’t won a Big Ten Championship since 2004.  There is no coincidence that they haven’t beat Ohio State since 2003.  Players like these aren’t symptoms of a bad program….they are the disease!

“There is no doubt in my mind that Rich Rodriguez is running the sort of program we will all be proud of…  At the end of the day, I honestly feel that when you mention Yost, Crisler, and Schembechler, that you will be able to mention Rich Rodriguez.
As for the players, it’s evident these are problem players that graduated last year or problem players with no chance of starting this year.  I’d give them the same advice Bo gave Andy Cannavino back in 1980.  Grow up!  Grow up and be a man!  You better learn now that the world isn’t going to be easy on you…that’s a lesson we should all learn in college. I played high school ball twenty years ago…and our ‘voluntary’ practices and weight lifting were ‘mandatory’ as well…not mandatory to the coaching staff, but all of the players need to put that pressue on one another if you want to contend for championships at any level.  I owed those voluntary workouts to my teammates!  There is no coincidence here that this program hasn’t won a Big Ten Championship since 2004.  There is no coincidence that they haven’t beat Ohio State since 2003.  Players like these aren’t symptoms of a bad program….they are the disease!

WTKA offers several bits of testimony in defense of Coach Rodriguez.  You can listen to interviews with former Michigan QB Rick Leach, and the parents of current players Donovon Warren and Freshman Ja’Ron Stokes.

The Verdict

You have been presented with the evidence.  The decision is your’s.  Do you stand behind Michigan Football Coach Rich Rodriguez amid these allegations, or do you stand behind the Free Press’ findings?  Vote below.

*I have no idea what his full name is.  Its apparently a well guarded .  Unless his birth certificate actually says “Rich”, which I’m actually leaning towards at this point…

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