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Rules still baffle Rich Rod, 25 years into his career

Submitted by on May 25, 20103 Comments

Remember, last summer, when the Detroit Free Press came out with a damning article, alleging a myriad of practice violations on the part of Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan coaching staff?   Maybe this will jog your memory:

Several players said that on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the past two off-seasons, they were expected to be in the weight room for three to four hours, followed by a run of 45 minutes to an hour.

Players said that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, they were expected to spend two to three hours working on speed and agility. That brings the total time commitment to 15-21 hours a week — more than the NCAA’s weekly 8-hour limit, which includes time spent watching film.

Yeah, sounds like a pretty big deal. Wait, there’s more?  Something about exceeding practice limits during the regular season, too?

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.

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.

During the last few months, we’ve seen the debate take form.  Did Rich Rodriguez and his staff knowingly violate the rules? Probably.  Would Michigan be convicted by the NCAA? Who knows, given the USC situation.

The main question was whether this cheating gave Michigan a “competitive advantage.”  Let’s see what Rich Rodriguez had to say about the practice regimen?

Rodriguez has posted a big sign above the entrance to the team’s weight room that says, “Through these doors walks the best conditioned, most disciplined, and hardest working football team in America.”

It would seem to reason that Michigan would be the best conditioned team if they got to work out more than anyone else, wouldn’t it?  And as for hardest working?  Seems RichRod’s hoist with his own petard.

Fast forward to one year later, and Dave Brandon is backtracking:

We clearly did not break any rules that created an unfair competitive advantage. We did not get involved in anything like academic fraud or gambling that would have warranted that type of punishment.”

I’d like to know what world it is that Dave Brandon lives in, if having extra practice time doesn’t give you an unfair advantage? Every coach wishes they could have their players on an NFL-like regimen, with two-a-days throughout the summer, and entire weekends in the film room.  But you can’t.  Michigan, like so many other schools, used to treat their football players like student athletes, and under Lloyd Carr, this wouldn’t have happened.  But Rich Rodriguez brought in a controversial figure in Mike Barwis, the Wolverines’ strength and conditioning coach, who has demanded more from his players than he has any right to.

I really need somebody to explain to me how this doesn’t, in Brandon’s words, create an unfair advantage in the favor of Michigan?  If you have two teams, and one got more practice time, spent more time in the film room, and had an offseason of practices monitored by the coaching staff, you’d be hard pressed to say that team wasn’t going to better prepared.  Hell, I consider this an even greater violation of competitive spirit of the NCAA than U$C’s various transgressions.  At the least, this one actually made an impact on the field.

Perhaps Brandon simply can’t fathom just how bad his football team actually is.  After all, this is a 5-7 team, one that went 1-7 in Big Ten play, and lost their final 5 games of the season to miss out on a bowl game for the second straight year.  In 2008, the first year of Rodriguez’s tenure, Michigan was a 3-9 team.  Imagine how much worse they’d be if they weren’t cheating!

Now, it shouldn’t matter what Dave Brandon has to say.  When a clear violation of ethics occurs, the NCAA needs to step in.  However, by dragging their feet, the NCAA has let Michigan self-impose sanctions, and guess what: they went soft on themselves!  Big shocker there.

Allegation No. 1: The NCAA alleged that from January 2008 through September 2009, the program exceeded the limit on the number of coaches by five when quality-control staff members were involved in on- and off-field coaching, which was not permitted.

Michigan’s response: Michigan has reduced the number of quality control staff members by 40 percent, from five to three, which will be in place through 2012, and prohibit them from attending practices, games and coaches meetings for the remainder of 2010.

We had too many coaches? Not anymore! No real punishment there.

Allegation No. 2: Michigan monitored and conducted what were thought to be voluntary workouts and exceeded practice time limits. The NCAA alleged football staffers improperly monitored and conducted voluntary summer workouts. It also alleged Michigan exceeded time limits for countable athletically-related activities during and outside the season.

Michigan’s response: University officials estimated the program exceeded CARA (countable athletically-related activities) in 2008 and 2009 by 65 hours. It has self-imposed reduction in practice and training times on a 2:1 basis, totaling 130 hours the next two years.

What an absolute joke.  No, I’m not talking about the reduction of practice hours (which, by the way, turns out to slightly more than 1 per week over the next two seasons), but the idea that they only exceeded NCAA limits by 65 hours over two years.

In the past two off-seasons, players said, the Wolverines were expected to spend two to three times more than the eight hours allowed for required workouts each week. Players are free to exceed the limit, but it must be truly voluntary.

That’s in addition to the extra time spent during the regular season and spring practice period, which amounted to up to 4 hours every week.  This isn’t just a slap on the wrist, it’s taunting everyone who saw and watched what these players went through.  And given the willingness to cheat over the last two years, I’m sure Rich Rodriguez will find a way around this punishment.

Allegation No. 4: Rodriguez failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the program and failed to monitor staff members and time limits for practices.

Michigan’s response: University officials disagree with the NCAA that Rodriguez failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance. Information gathered by the university during its investigation shows Rodriguez has been committed to compliance with NCAA bylaws and with the academic success of his players.

You can’t make this stuff up.  Rich Rodriguez has been an NCAA football coach for the better part of 25 years (started in 1985 at Salem).  For the last 10, he’s been a head coach.  This guy knows exactly what the rules are. He knows exactly how much practice time he’s granted, per day, per week, during the offseason, and he blatantly and willfully violated that.  Virtually all the players the Free Press interviewed when they broke the story were not aware of such limits.  The conditioning coach that Rodriguez swears by demands more out of his kids than is allowed.  And Rich Rod knew it.

Rodriguez is a sleaze ball, not an idiot.

If this happened to Ron Zook, I could believe that he wasn’t creating an atmosphere of noncompliance.  But Rich Rodriguez knows better.  He just thought he could get away with it.  You think he didn’t know that you’re not allowed to have coaches monitor off season practices?  Administration officials know that.  Fans know that. I know that. But I’m supposed to believe that he’s just ignorant? No, Dave Brandon, he’s  not.  And this is where you really lose me with your self imposed sanctions.  I understand you going soft on yourselves, but to blatantly lie like this, well, it’s sickening.  And the fact that the NCAA will let you get away with it is just another erosion of their already nearly non-existent credibility.

Here’s the thing: I’m not asking for the death penalty.  But Michigan’s response to “having too many coaches and practicing too much” is simply reducing the number of coaches and practicing less.  As in, becoming compliant under your rules.  That’s a thief, caught in the act, just leaving without taking anything.  And not being punished whatsoever.  I’m not sure what the appropriate response would have been.  But I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that this goes far enough in addressing all those various issues Michigan has seen.

Look: I’ve really got nothing against Michigan.  I know, this is a Penn State blog, but I don’t share the hatred for Michigan that other Nittany Lion fans have.  I do, however, despise Rich Rodriguez.  I’m coming from a Penn State perspective, where this simply doesn’t happen.  Under Joe Paterno, Penn State has never been found guilty of a major NCAA violation, and under Lloyd Carr, Michigan hadn’t either.  Sure, there might have been reasons to hate the Wolverines, but until two years ago, they ran a clean ship.  But when Michigan fired Lloyd Carr, they sold their soul to the devil of college football, but the joke’s on them.  Not only has Michigan lost its credibility as a program, but they’ve played terribly over the last two seasons.  Perhaps that’s karma.

Before becoming the AD at Michigan, David Brandon was the CEO of Dominos, and I’ve got to believe that he has Rich Rodriguez on the 5-5-5 program.  One more bad season at Michigan, and RichRod has to be gone.  And that will be a good thing, not just for Michigan, and the Big Ten, but to right the world of college football.

This kind of major NCAA violation simply isn’t supposed to happen at Michigan.  They’re the winningest program in NCAA history, they’ve got their 11 national championships, and they’re supposed to be one of the few programs above this.  To see RichRod drag down one of the most storied and tradition-rich programs in the country doesn’t just leave a black eye on Michigan, but on all of college football, which needs schools like Michigan to prove that you can do it the right way.  This is not what the NCAA needed, especially in the wake of the USC violations.

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  • Sparty Dan

    Oh lord, even with all that extra practice time they still ended up 1-7 in conference play, what would reduced practice time do to the Wolverines? But really, how much worse could they get?

  • coachb

    I would love for these confidential players to come out three or four years from now and say what is alleged in the papers. My point being that i believe there are personal axes grinding here. I do not condone rules being broken, but, again, we shall see.

  • coachb

    I would love for these confidential players to come out three or four years from now and say what is alleged in the papers. My point being that i believe there are personal axes grinding here. I do not condone rules being broken, but, again, we shall see.