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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