Home > Uncategorized > You, The Jury: The People vs. The Detroit Free Press

You, The Jury: The People vs. The Detroit Free Press

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.

Late Saturday evening, the Detroit Free Press released the findings of their investigation into possible rules violations committed by the football program at the University of Michigan.  You can check out their findings here. (Note, link is to a 3rd party site, for those not wanting to give the Free Press hits)

Many people have taken issue with the investigation.  It has been branded as bias, inconclusive, and a “witch hunt”.  Today, we’ll investigate the evidence for and against these claims, including testimony from angry Michigan fans and staffers at the Free Press.

At the end, after all the  evidence has been presented, we’ll take your votes.

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

Exhibit A: Michael Rosenbeg’s Anti-Rich Rodriguez Bias

Deadspin offered an interesting perspective on Rich Rodriguez over time.  Check it out.

Rosenberg’s perception of Rodriguez the man seemed to take a drastic turn for the south when Rodriguez failed to wholeheartedly embrace the Michigan time-honored traditions.  Rodriguez accidental offered the #1 jersey to an incoming freshman and dismissed the century old tradition of having teammates elect captains.  Needless to say, Rosenberg was none to pleased ( see “SLIPPERY SLOPE: RODRIGUEZ NEEDS TO EMBRACE U-M TRADITIONS”, a Rosenberg article dated December 23rd, 2007)

So why is Rosenberg’s bias a major deal in this investigation? Well according to Jon Chait of the New Republic, having an opinion columnist who was so passionate on a subject write an investigative piece is a major violation of journalism ethics.  If the Free Press seems to be violating major ethics laws, why should the public trust their findings?

In Defense…According to Free Press Sports Editor Gene Myers, the investigation was not the work of only Rosenberg and Mark Snyder, but of the entire Free Press.  According to Myers, Rosenberg and Snyder served as the bylines to the article.  Essentially, they are the paper’s representatives for the work, but only had a hand in the cookie jar.

Exhibit B: Where’s the beef?

The Free Press investigation seemed as though they were rushing it out the door in order for its strategically timed release one week before the start of the 2010 season.  As a result, there seem to be several holes in the Free Press’ claims.

The Free Press’ direct quotes can be portrayed many ways.  Let’s examine:

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.”

———————

At the school’s news media day, the Free Press asked freshman Brandin Hawthorne what winter conditioning was like. Hawthorne, a linebacker from Pahokee, Fla., enrolled in January.

“It’s crazy,” said Hawthorne, who was not complaining about his coaches and was apparently unaware of the time-limit rules. “I work out at 8. We’ll work out from, like, 8 to 10:30. We come back later, have one-on-ones, seven-on-sevens, a little passing. Then I’ll go watch a little film.”

The Free Press also asked freshman receiver Je’Ron Stokes about Michigan’s off-season program. Stokes, from Philadelphia, arrived at the Ann Arbor campus in June.

“Hooooo!” Stokes said. “A typical week is working from 8 a.m. in the morning to 6 or 7 at night, Monday through Saturday.”

And that was starting in June?

“Yes, sir,” Stokes said. “We do the weight room at least three times a week, and seven-on-sevens and one-on-ones. Speed and agility on the other days. Every day we have something new to get ready for the season. The coaches have done a great job of stressing the importance of getting us ready for the big season that we’re about to have.”

At only one point does the paper go into any detail about what those days included

Rodriguez required his players to arrive at Schembechler Hall by noon the day after games. They would then go through a full weight-lifting session, followed by individual position meetings and a full-team meeting. Then, at night, they would hold a full practice. Often, they would not leave the practice facility until after 10 p.m.

As I pointed out Tuesday, many of those activites do not count against a team’s daily and weekly limits, something the Free Press neglected to report.

They also neglected to put the violations in full context, simply contacting a couple Michigan State players to serve as proof that this was an isolated incident.  The Detroit News’ Angelique Chengilas did some light research that uncovered that these violations occur everywhere, and the NCAA is more than aware of it

According to an NCAA survey of 21,000 student-athletes in 2006, football players in major college programs estimated they spent 44.8 hours a week on athletic activities. That, according to an Associated Press story, was more than 10 hours a week more than the majority of sports included in the survey.
Students surveyed did not indicate whether the additional time spent on their sport was formally required.
A recent survey of 5,400 football players by the American Football Coaches of America (AFCA) indicated nearly nine of 10 players said they violate the rule. Twenty-eight percent said they spent more than 30 hours a week on football-related activities, and 60 percent said they spent between 20 to 30 hours a week.

According to an NCAA survey of 21,000 student-athletes in 2006, football players in major college programs estimated they spent 44.8 hours a week on athletic activities. That, according to an Associated Press story, was more than 10 hours a week more than the majority of sports included in the survey.

Students surveyed did not indicate whether the additional time spent on their sport was formally required.

A recent survey of 5,400 football players by the American Football Coaches of America (AFCA) indicated nearly nine of 10 players said they violate the rule. Twenty-eight percent said they spent more than 30 hours a week on football-related activities, and 60 percent said they spent between 20 to 30 hours a week.

These easily researchable facts were obmitted from the Free Press’ findings, and it looks obvious as to why.  These facts wouldn’t have caused the stir the Free Press intended, wouldn’t have drawn nearly a hundred thousand hits to their website, and most importantly, wouldn’t have furthered Rosenberg’s anti-Rodriguez agenda.

In Defense… When asked if the Free Press had a statement defending their allegations, Myers said the paper didn’t have one.  When asked if he would like to offer a statement in defense of the piece, Myers said “I don’t see the need.”

Exihibit C: Piece was a “witch hunt”; “kicking a coach while he’s down”

ESPN analyst, College Gameday Anchor and former Ohio State QB Kirk Herbstiet’s takes on SportsCenter earlier this week opens the prosecutions case:

“I think that it’s a bit of a witch hunt.”

“It’s pretty easy to select a group of people to find that can turn their back on Rich Rodriguez after a 3-9 year.”

“It’s easy to pick on a guy…after the worst year in school history.”

“I find this really insulting to everything that Rich Rodriguez and everything that he and his training staff have stood for.”

Limits are exceeded “across the board.”

“It’s very well-known [in top-25 programs] that if you are a player and you want to start, then you have to put in more time than the NCAA suggests.”

“Whatever it is, you need to get your tail over to the facility and put in the work if you want to start.”

He also suggested that the culture/work-ethic before RR wasn’t as high, and they’re suffering some culture shock.

“Almost all of them have bought in, but you’re going to talk to guys that have graduated, who were in the Lloyd Care regime, or players that have transferred, obviously they’re going to take some shots after a 3-9 year.”

The Detroit News’ Bob Wojonowski contends this would all go away if Rodriguez starts winning

“I just think it’s disheartening to fight obstacles that aren’t really there, that shouldn’t be there,” he said. “The model and the plan are in place, and I just hope everybody will let us do it.”

Stories of hard-driven coaches at major programs are making the rounds now, naturally. ESPN just conducted a confidential national survey and found the biggest issue for college football players was the incredible amount of work required.

Of course, the ol’ everybody-is-doing-it argument won’t work at Michigan, but the context is relevant. If the issue is so prevalent, why were Michigan players disgruntled enough to bring attention to it?

It’s fair to be suspicious of the motives of former, mostly anonymous players, and Rodriguez deserves the chance to defend his program. It’s also not a surprise he’s encountered resistance at a place that followed Bo Schembechler’s successful plan for 40 years. This happens when familial lines break down, and some people weren’t going to give Rodriguez a chance, no matter what.

The question has to be asked?  Would this article have appeared if Michigan had gone 9-3 last season, insted of 3-9?  There is no doubt that a large faction of Michigan fans shut the door on Rodriguez the moment he decided to give the program its much needed facelift.  The faction of fans who want to see Michigan line up in nothing but standard pro sets from now until the end of time.

Well, to that faction of fans, ESPN College Gameday’s Reece Davis says, get a life (Rece Davis on Rich Rodriguez – Audio)

Finally, Michigan Superfan offers his take

As for Rosenberg and the Free Press, you don’t have to be a genius to see that Rosenberg has an axe to grind and Rosenberg and the Free Press have an agenda.  Maybe it’s as petty just to sell papers…attacking Michigan will do that.  Maybe it’s something even more personal.  Somebody should lose their job over this…and it is the Sports Editor that ran this story with the banner headline of a presidential assassination looking for headlines across the country…well they got it.  If they are accountable people, and I’m sure they are not, when this investigation wraps up and nothing is found…as nothing will be found…their article clearing Michigan better be just as large.  I did my part.  I cancelled my subscription first thing this morning.  I will not tolerate that sort of trash journalism.
This is another non-story like the academic investigation the Ann Arbor News ran last year.  This isn’t investigating Reggie Bush with hands full of cash, this isn’t checking on Maurice Clarett and his car load of stereo equipment and money, this isn’t even a carload of Michigan State players attacking an innocent hockey player…this is a non-story about whining players.

In Defense…When contacted, the Free Press declined to comment on the record in regards to this matter.

THE VERDICT

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: