Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NCAA issues – Michigan concludes its investigation; Why Washington won’t get Super Bowl

One of the more recent trends in college athletics is the quaint notion of schools accused of rules violations, “self-reporting,” their indiscretions and then doling out punishment to themselves. This is a little bit like someone caught robbing a bank coming into court to describe to a judge or jury what he did and then saying, “Yup, I did it, but I don’t think it was THAT big a deal so I’m giving myself two years probation and banning myself from that bank for five years.”

The judge and jury nod accordingly and the guy who robbed the bank goes back to planning his next robbery.

The NCAA copout usually goes something like this: “The school cooperated in every way and thoroughly investigated these violations.” Often they will even add that the notion to levy harsher penalties has been bypassed BECAUSE the school undertook its own investigation.

In short, once caught red-handed, the school said it was really, really sorry…for getting caught.

That brings us to today’s revelation that the University of Michigan has concluded its investigation into its football program and Coach Rich Rodriguez. Last fall when the Detroit Free Press quoted former players as saying that Rodriguez and his staff routinely violated NCAA rules on the amount of time players could spend on football related activities, everyone at the school rushed in to issue denials and defend Rodriguez. Now the school is saying that, yes, there were violations both in terms of hours players spent on football and the number of coaches on staff. It is proposing to slap itself on the hand by cutting back on its auxiliary staff and (gasp) not letting some of them attend meetings. It is also proposing a two-year probation—with no sanctions attached to that probation.

The first thing you might say—especially if you’re a Michigan fan—is what is the big deal in any of these violations? No one bought players; no one cheated on a test. That’s true. And no one is saying here that Michigan should receive the death penalty or anything like that in this case.

That said, the rules limiting practice and workout time exist to protect players from over-zealous coaches. We all know they’re out there in every sport but especially in football where a lot of coaches think the road to success leads through hundreds of hours in the weight room. A number of rules changes have been made through the years to limit coach’s ability to punish players for poor performance.

One favorite, especially of basketball coaches, was to make players practice immediately after a poor performance in a game. Nowadays, a team can’t stage a practice the same day as a game. There are still coaches who will make their players come back after midnight to practice but it’s rare if only because the extra few hours often gives the coach a chance to cool down a little.

What’s a little bit chilling in the Michigan case is the attitude of the school and the athletic director. The report itself denies the charge of coaches ‘abusing’ players by making them work extra hours—clearly that’s a subjective term—but goes on to say “in start contrast to media reports.” Those reports came from ex-players. My suggestion to Michigan would be to shut up on this issue.

Then there are the quotes from Athletic Director David Brandon, who, according to the AP, ‘bristled,’ when it was suggested that Michigan cheated in breaking the rules it is admitting to breaking. “Bad word, inaccurate word,” he said. “We made mistakes and where I come from, a mistake is different from cheating.”

Wow. Talk about splitting hairs. Where I come from you break a rule that everyone knows is a rule, you knowingly do it and then you initially deny it, it is called cheating. Let’s be clear, this isn’t going 65 in a 55, this is—at the very least—reckless driving. If Rodriguez told his coaches to break the rules or knew they were breaking them he screwed up. If he didn’t know the rules or didn’t know they were being broken, he screwed up. Last I looked the Michigan job isn’t Rodriguez’s first rodeo. He knows the rules and so does his staff. If they don’t, they should probably be fired for incompetence.

So let’s not jump on a high horse here Mr. Brandon, and get bent out of shape if someone says breaking the rules is cheating. Michigan also denied an NCAA allegation that Rodriguez failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within his program. “We think that is overly harsh,” Brandon said. “We do believe that there were things that could’ve been done better and Rich would be the first to agree that details he delegated shouldn’t have been in retrospect.”

Aah those pesky delegation details. This is the part where assistants get thrown under the bus. One staffer was fired according to Michigan’s report. Question: If Rodriguez did a bad job of delegating in the compliance area doesn’t that mean he did a pretty lousy job of promoting an atmosphere of compliance? Just asking.

Rodriguez is 8-16 in two years as Michigan’s coach. If the Wolverines don’t show marked improvement this year, he’s going to be fired. Of course it won’t be because he and his staff broke rules it will be because he and his staff didn’t win enough games. Judging by Michigan’s response to the NCAA’s accusations—which were brought on by statements made by former players—losing is the only crime anyone in charge at Michigan is really concerned about.

Which probably doesn’t make Michigan different than anyone else playing big time college football. One other thing that’s a good bet: The NCAA will go along with at least 90 percent of the Michigan report. Do you think it is going to make Michigan ineligible for postseason or take it off TV? Central Michigan maybe. Eastern Michigan perhaps. But Michigan? Not going to happen.

******

In the wake of the announcement yesterday that New York-New Jersey has been awarded the 2014 Super Bowl, there’s a big headline in today’s Washington Post that says, “Why not Washington?”

Here’s why not: The stadium is one of the worst in the NFL, complete with obstructed seats, terrible roads in and out and an owner who literally gags his fans if they want to express opinions about the team inside the stadium or, in some cases, if they want to send a shout-out to a relative serving overseas.

The NFL should reward any of THAT with a Super Bowl? Please.


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10 comments:

Bob said...

John, not relatred to the above post, but wanted to let you know that I finished "Moment of Glory" last night. Excellent book. Well done.

Bob S.
"The Grandstander"
Pittsburgh

Glen said...

The saddest part of your blog, to this Michigan alum and fan is "Which probably doesn’t make Michigan different than anyone else playing big time college football." That's the problem - we used to be a little different at least. We obviously cared a lot about winning - let's face it, nobody plays big-time sports without caring a lot about winning. But other things mattered as well - character of the players (Carr routinely dismissed players who had serious or even semi-serious transgressions). Now, the only other thing that really matters is $$$.

And yes, I know how old-fashioned this little rant makes me sound.

Anonymous said...

Glen - no consolation, but at least you aren't Oklahoma (major basketball rules problems) or Kansas (ticket scalping scandal in ath dept) this morning? Doesn't make it better, and it isn't an excuse, but sometimes its alright to not be bad as the next guy!

Mr. X said...

"at least you aren't Oklahoma (major basketball rules problems)" a team run by a former Duke player.

A Super Bowl is just what DC needs in February to further clog up the beltway.

ARCstats said...

This NY Superbowl move is just another piece of evidence that Fidel Goddell does not care about the on-field product of the game. Now he's asking the players to play in the biggest game of the year under conditions that could easily take away what they do best?

From this to different rules for the playoffs, to part-time old men referees, to the potential work stoppage on his watch next year.....I mean c'mon, give me a break.

But Goddell sure took care of those FOOTBALL PLAYERS who didn't meet his standards. What planet does he think he's working on?

The angry side of me wants to wish a blizzard on NY that day, but wait, I'm a serious football guy who invests many hours into each season. I don't want to see the championship screwed up because of complete disregard for the game itself....such leadership.

jax said...

John, I expected a little more 'investigation' into the Michigan issue from you than regurgitating the sloppy reporting from the Detroit Free Press.

Anonymous said...

Mr X:
re: your comment about Oklahoma being run by former Duke player and inferring that was the cause of the sanctions.

Yes, current coach is Jeff Capel from Duke. But sanctions are a result of Kelvin Sampson's time at Oklahoma. Get your facts clear before posting, please.

Mr. X said...

Regardless of Kelvin's legacy in Norman, did Capel recruit Tiny Gallon, and was JC the HC when a booster wired TG 5K in cash? This is very similar to what got Eddie Sutton canned at UK.

I like Capel (despite the Duke connection), and was very surprised when this news broke. Disappointing.

John Graves said...

Michigan knowingly broke the rules, but so does virtually every team in college football today. They justify it, just like Lou Holtz did, by trying to judge which rules are really bad to break and which rules just aren't all that important. The reason they do this is simple--they'll get the benefit that breaking the rule provided, but ultimately suffer no real punishment. The issue here isn't Michigan, it's the NCAA. Until they really start punishing teams, even for minor infractions, they'll keep happening. The NCAA should follow the lead of the NFL when it comes to breaking the rules.

The other issue facing Michigan is that Rich R. apparently has no loyalty or control in his organization. When the whistle-blowers are current and former players, they blow the whistle because they despise the coach. There's no other reason. He's a good coach, not great, but his days in Michigan are numbered. 2 more seasons is the best he'll get before getting fired.

Paul said...

As a Michigan alum, it has saddened me to watch their descent going all the way back to the Fab Five (where kids were on a booster's payroll, then Webber perjured himself regarding it).

Inducing Rich Rod to breach his contract at WVa took generations of Michigan tradition and chucked it in the trash. The only thing worse than his pathetic record is knowing that if he had managed to win a Big 10 title he undoubtedly would have demanded a new deal or moved on to whichever "bigger fool" would have wanted him.

Stand by for the newer, larger, greedier Michigan Stadium to reopen with club seating, luxury suites, and all the other amenities the Rich Rod crowd demand.

This alum is now a member of the NONE Club (Not One Nickel, Ever)