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

September 4, 2009 Leave a comment

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

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Sad News

September 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Ernie Harwell was the reason I choose to get into radio.  Today, it was made public the legandary broadcaster has incurable cancer.  Please keep the Harwell family in your prayers.

Ernie Harwell, 91, has incurable cancer

Tom Gage / The Detroit News

Detroit — He’d been waiting for test results.

His voice last week sounded strong — as strong as always. By the end of the conversation, however, it didn’t.

Ernie Harwell, the treasured voice of the Tigers for all those years, has incurable bile duct cancer. In comments to the Detroit Free Press on Thursday, he said he won’t undergo surgery.

But in those same comments, he said he’s ready for the next adventure.

It’s been no secret lately that Ernie — as nearly everyone knows him — hadn’t been feeling well. He was in the hospital, then out. There’d been speculation about pneumonia. But most of all there’d been speculation something was wrong.

“Just feeling a little weak at times,” he said when called by The Detroit News recently. “We’ll see where this takes us. I know I’ll be in good hands.”

Now he also knows what was wrong.

“We don’t know how long this lasts,” Harwell, 91, told the Free Press. “It could be a year. It could be much less than a year, much less than a half year. Who knows? Whatever is in store, I’m ready for a new adventure.”

That’s Ernie for you.

Life always has been an adventure for him. From his boyhood days in Georgia, to serving in the Marines, to broadcasting Bobby Thomson’s famous home run for the New York Giants — to becoming a Hall of Fame broadcaster with the Tigers.

Life’s challenge will be an adventure as well.

“I’m ready to face what comes,” he told the Free Press, “whether it’s a long time or short time. It’s up to my Lord and savior.”

Reece Davis on Rich Rodriguez

September 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Sure to make an appearance in tomorrow’s review of the Free Press’ investigation into Michigan Football, a strong take by ESPN’s Reece Davis on Rodriguez’s real issue at the U.

Rece Davis on Rich Rodriguez

Free Press “Trial” Delayed

September 3, 2009 Leave a comment

The next edition of “You, The Jury” featuring the Detroit Free Press’ manner of investigating possible NCAA rules violations at the University of Michigan will be published tomorrow.  It was originally advertised to be published today, but I’ll have far more free time tomorrow.

– Mike Fahmie

Required Reading 9-3-09

September 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Every day, the staffers at MFDC gather some of the best links around the intraweb in an effort to make you the most well informed fan in your office.  Enjoy!

PacMan Jones doesn’t meet the high standards of the CFL – Winnepeg Free Press

The Adam Pacman Jones ‘era’ in Winnipeg is over before the NFL bad boy ever pulled on a Blue Bomber jersey or crossed the border into Canada.

The Bombers issued a press release at 7:30 Wednesday night indicating they will no longer be pursuing the services of the talented, but troubled defensive back/kick returner, a former first-round draft pick who was most-recently released by the Dallas Cowboys.

Bomber head coach Mike Kelly just addressed the media at the club’s offices, stating:

“After deliberating and further investigating, we feel at this time it is not in the best interest of our football club to pursue Adam Jones and I wish him all the luck in his future endeavours,” said Kelly.

“This has nothing to do with his ability to get across the border. It was instigated by me and then after having further discussions with (Bomber president and CEO) Lyle (Bauer) I just didn’t feel it was in the best interest of our football club to include Adam Jones.”

The Bombers have spent much of the last few days dealing with the Jones story, ever since director of player personnel John Murphy indicated the team’s interest in Jones to an on-line reporter for Sports Illustrated. But the club kept insisting Jones had not signed even as the story grew. Ultimately, the team backed away partly  because of concerns of how he would fit into their locker room.

Marlins superstars are none to pleased with each other – Miami Herald

Florida Marlins All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez and second baseman Dan Uggla exchanged heated words Wednesday afternoon in the team’s clubhouse before a game against the Atlanta Braves.

A frustrated and injured Ramirez told reporters he made “some people upset” after leaving Tuesday night’s loss in the fourth inning with a strained left hamstring. Moments later, after reporters met with manager Fredi Gonzalez in the dugout, Uggla openly argued with Ramirez in the clubhouse.

According to 790 The Ticket, which witnessed the squabble with two other reporters, Uggla accused Ramirez of a lack of desire and effort to win. And at one point, Uggla, lacing his remark with an expletive, said: “Yeah, you got your $70 million,” while asking Ramirez why he came out of Tuesday’s game.

“You don’t get the same respect from teammates when you’re not playing,” Ramirez said before the squabble. “I [made] people upset when I [left] the game last night. I try to do the best I can.”

Michigan to use the Forcier? – Michigan Daily sports writer @mikerothstein

Just got out of practice. Forcier took most of snaps with the first team.

Dear Massachusetts, Kurt Shilling would like to be your Senator (maybe)- Boston Globe

Add another name to the growing list of pols and would-be pols eyeing a run for Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat: former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling.

That’s right, Mr. Bloody Sock himself told NECN’s Brad Puffer in an interview today that he has been “contacted” about a possible Senate run and has not ruled it out.

“I’m not going to divulge the discussions, but I’ve been contacted by people whose opinion I give credence to and listen to, and I listened,” Schilling said.

Asked whether he would run, Schilling said, “As of today, probably not.”

“I don’t know, going forward,” Schilling said. “That’s a pretty big deal, from a commitment standpoint, not just for me but for my family.”

After the interview, Schilling added to his comments with a statement he posted on his blog.

“I do have some interest in the possibility,” Schilling wrote. “That being said to get to there, from where I am today, many many things would have to align themselves for that to truly happen. I am not going to comment further on the matter since at this point it would be speculation on top of speculation.”

The Broncos are shopping for Brandon Marshall replacements according to   – ESPN

The Denver Broncos would want New York Jets linebacker David Harris in any trade scenario for wide receiver Brandon Marshall, two NFL sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Wednesday.

There is no indication that the Jets would surrender Harris, who was fifth on the team in tackles last season despite playing only 11 games due to groin surgery. He led the Jets in tackles the previous season.

Marshall has requested a trade from the Broncos, and new coach Josh McDaniels finally suspended him this week for conduct detrimental to the team.

…but not according to Bronco’s Coach Josh McDaniels – Denver Post

Broncos coach Josh McDaniels squashed rumors today that the team is looking to trade suspended wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

“There is no discussions whatsoever taking place between Denver Broncos and any team in the National Football League regarding Brandon Marshall,” McDaniels said. “We’re looking forward to having Brandon back on the 6th of September and starting our (season-opening) preparation with him.”

Got a spare billion?  See what NFL franchises you could buy  – Forbes

The National Football League was sacked by the recession during the past year. Tight credit markets, a precipitous decline in the number of people who could afford to buy a team and an unusually high number of franchises looking for investors combined to lower the average revenue multiple used to value teams from 4.7 to 4.4.

Although the average team enterprise value (equity plus debt) remained unchanged from a year ago at $1 billion, eight teams declined in value. The biggest losers: Oakland Raiders (-7%), Detroit Lions (-6%) and Indianapolis Colts (-5%). This marked the first time in 10 years that any NFL team had gone down in value.

But the biggest challenges face owners who bought at the peak. Earlier this year Stephen Ross bought 95% of the Miami Dolphins, the team’s stadium and about 100 acres of surrounding real estate for $1.1 billion. But the Dolphins are having trouble selling tickets and have $400 million in debt. The team could post a net loss this season, and during the past few months Ross has been selling small pieces to local celebrities like Gloria Estefan and Jennifer Lopez to raise the team’s profile and shore up its balance sheet.

Between cocaine hits, Matt Jones works out for Titans – The Tennessean

The Titans will begin looking at options at the receiver position on Thursday, as former Jaguar Matt Jones is scheduled to work out for the team, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Jones, a first round pick by Jacksonville in 2005, caught 65 passes for 761 yards with the Jaguars last season. In four NFL seasons he has 166 catches for 2,153 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Dennis Erickson good at disclipling.  Couting? Not so much.  Arizona Republic

Erickson suspends ‘5 or 6’ for opener

Arizona State football coach Dennis Erickson on Tuesday announced the suspensions of “five or six” players for Saturday’s opener against Idaho State, and the Sun Devilslikely will be without standout freshman Vontaze Burfict as well.

Erickson refused to get into specifics or identify the players, but he mentioned the suspensions when a reporter asked why starting receiver Kerry Taylor sat out a portion of Tuesday’s practice.

“It’s nothing serious or anything like that,” Erickson said. “They just broke a team rule.”

In other words, “I’m 19 years old and I’m rich.  Why the hell would I move to Minneaopolis? – Star Tribune

BARCELONA, Spain – Ricky Rubio preferred to keep playing basketball in Spain because joining the Minnesota Timberwolves was a risky move that would complicate his life.

The 19-year-old point guard was sent from DKV Joventut to Barcelona on Tuesday after the Catalan club paid Rubio’s $5 million buyout.

Rubio, the Timberwolves’ fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, agreed to a six-year deal which includes a buyout clause that will allow him to leave for the NBA after two years.

“Going to Minnesota would have just complicated my life a lot. It was a risk and I didn’t see it so clearly,” Rubio said. “My priority was the NBA and it was impossible for the Minnesota Timberwolves to pay my buyout clause, so I wanted to stay home.”

Daily Laugh

Required Reading 9-2-09

September 2, 2009 1 comment

Every day, the staffers at MFDC gather some of the best links around the intraweb in an effort to make you the most well informed fan in your office.  Enjoy!

Pacman Jones puts on warm jacket, prepares to make it snow – The Miami Herald

Adam “Pacman” Jones is close to returning to pro football – north of the border.

Jones’ attorney, Worrick Robinson, said Tuesday he has been in “consistent negotiations” with a CFL team. Robinson told The Associated Press a deal could be completed by the end of the week.

Jon Garland joins Dodgers minutes after his Dbacks beat them – The L.A. Times

The Dodgers made two dramatic trades Monday night to bolster their postseason chances, acquiring slugger Jim Thome from the Chicago White Sox and starting pitcher Jon Garland from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The acquisitions came just before the 9 p.m. PDT trade deadline, so both players are eligible to be on the Dodgers’ postseason roster if the team makes the playoffs.

As Garland sat in the Diamondbacks’ dugout at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers announced the deals not long before Arizona beat the Dodgers, 5-3, with two runs in the 10th inning, denying Dodgers starter Randy Wolf his 100th victory.

Rich Rodriguez can’t catch a break – AnnArbor.com

University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez is being sued for defaulting on a real-estate loan to build high-end condominiums in the shadows of Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium.

One of five guarantors for a proposed 80-condominium gated community called The Legends of Blacksburg, Rodriguez and his partners allegedly owe Nexity Bank $3.9 million, including interest and penalties.

Rodriguez was served a summons and complaint in his football office at 5:27 p.m. on Aug. 24, court papers show. Michigan practiced earlier in the day.

Tom Brady tosses a football, masses cry for joy – The Boston Globe

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was present for practice once again today.

The Patriots are practicing on the upper fields behind Gillette Stadium and Brady made some light passes during the time in which media members were present.

Formerly dominant Annika Sorrenstam enters the world of motherhood – AnnikaBlog.com

Mike [editor’s note: not me] and I are happy to announce that I gave birth to our little girl at 3:30AM this morning.  Ava Madelyn McGee is six pounds 10 ounces and 19 inches long.  We are all doing well and we truly appreciate the support we have received.  We are VERY excited about our new addition and will keep everyone posted in the coming weeks. Thanks!

Sticky Ricky sets expiration date on disapointing career – The Miami Herald

On Tuesday, Williams revealed to The Miami Herald that he signed another one-year contract extension this offseason that will keep him in Miami through the 2010 season, at which point he said he plans to then retire as a Dolphin.

Isiah Thomas will debut college coaching career against UNC – ESPN

Isiah Thomas’ last game as a college player was against North Carolina, when he and the Indiana Hoosiers won the 1981 national championship.

A week of uncertainty now over, his first game as a college coach will be against the Tar Heels as well.

FIU decided Tuesday to play North Carolina as scheduled Nov. 9 in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament, ending several uneasy days where the Golden Panthers were so displeased with the matchup that they considered pulling out of the event entirely. For months, FIU worked under the assumption that it would play Ohio State in the opening round.

Another Michigan football parent defends Rich Rodriguez (GoBlueWolverine premium message boards, link not available)

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.

He was recruited by Tony Dews. I am here to say that Coach Dews complied with every letter of the rules throughout the entire recruitment process, even the ones that seem senseless. He would not even give me a ride to lunch or pick up a $5 lunch tab because it was against the rules. He informed us of the recruiting rules over and over again. As I watched 35 schools recruit my son, I would put Michigan at the top of the integrity scale when it came to recruiting.

Let’s talk about Craig’s first summer. Again, Coach Dews made it abundantly clear what we had to pay for and what the school was allowed to pay for, what our responsiblities were and what the school’s were. I was tired of hearing about all the rules. It was like dealing with the IRS. There was NO push to report to school early, in fact we were told that if craig wanted to report to summer school early, it was on his dime and totally voluntary. Craig’s summer was very balanced. He VOLUNTARILY asked to watch tape as much as he could. Nobody pushed him to do it or even suggested it. He had more free time than he wanted.

Lastly, I know for a fact that Craig missed workouts in the summer and even missed parts of at least three practices at Fall camp so that he could attend class. He was excused with absolutely no repercussions by the coaching staff.

I am assuming that players who choose to come to UM under Rich Rod are coming here BECAUSE its hard. They want to become the best. They want to be pushed. They want great academics and great football environment. I detest the accusations made by the Freep. They think they are doing these kids a favor by easing up the workload and, in reality, they are undermining the very reason the kids chose UM!

Fred Roh

You, The Jury: The People vs. Rich Rodriguez

September 1, 2009 Leave a comment

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…