Monday, August 31, 2009

What the internal investigation may look like

Athletic Director Bill Martin addressed the football team yesterday and indicated that in Michigan’s review process, most, if not all, of members of the football team will speak with university compliance officers. A.D. Martin will have no role in the inquiry. Instead, Michigan's Compliance Services Office (CSO) will head the investigation. It is still undetermined whether Martin will retain outside counsel to assist in the inquiry. The CSO is headed by Associate Athletic Director for Compliance Judy Van Horn. Ms. Van Horn also is serving as the President of the National Association for Athletics Compliance (NAAC) for the 2008/2009 term. Michigan's CSO publishes a 162-page Coaches Compliance Manual (.pdf). The manual lists the staff members of the CSO and each individual's duties. People working at the CSO include Asst. A.D./Deputy Director Matt Stolberg, Asst. A.D. Ann Vollano, Financial Serv. Coord. Kelly Robinson, Compliance Coord. Melissa Boettger, and Compliance Asst. Roy Shavers.

The University's policy regarding responding to rule violations is set forth as follows on the CSO website:

It is the University's policy that no violation is so minor that it need not be reported. In responding to rule violations, the University will look at such factors as whether the violation is intentional, whether any advantage is gained (e.g., recruiting, competitive or for the student-athlete involved), whether a student-athlete's eligibility is affected and whether violations are recurring. The University's goals in responding will be to encourage communication, to seek consistency and accountability and, above all, to send a strong message that the University is unequivocally committed to rules compliance.
Information concerning violations will be forwarded to the Associate Athletic Director for Compliance Services who will examine the situation and communicate with the Director of Athletics, the General Counsel, and the Faculty Athletics Representative. When it is determined by the Associate Athletic Director for Compliance Services that a violation of the rules has occurred, the University will report the violation and correct the situation that led to the problem. Rule violations will be reported to the appropriate athletics governing body (i.e., NCAA, the Big Ten Conference, and/or the CCHA) with copies to the Office of the General Counsel, Director of Athletics, Faculty Athletics Representative, the Conference Office, and any involved staff members.

There is currently no timetable on how long the inquiry may take or even when it will commence. Go Blue!

Coach Rod cracking under pressure of allegations of violations as Game One approaches

Today, during his first Monday game week press conference of the 2009 season, Coach Rod nearly broke down crying while giving an emotional opening statement responding in general terms to the charges levied in yesterday's Free Press. Here is the press conference video:

Go Blue!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Anticipating the fallout

In today's print edition, The Detroit Free Press published on the front page of the paper potentially explosive revelations regarding alleged NCAA violations committed by Coach Rod and his staff. Michigan's Football Program has never suffered a major NCAA sanction. Michigan has always been considered to be very strong in self-policing and has generally dealt with potential violations in any of its Athletic programs by instituting self-imposed penalties prior to the NCAA levying harsh sanctions for any misconduct. In this situation, the University is taking the gambit to dismiss the allegations out-of-hand rather than get out front of the situation.

Judy Van Horn, the Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, released a statement on behalf of the University which stated as follows:
During the season, the NCAA limits ‘countable’ practice activities to 20 hours per week. There are activities that don’t count, such as rehab and getting taped. We educate our coaching staffs and student-athletes (in all sports) to keep everyone informed of the rules. Also, 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.

(emphasis added)

This is the second time in the past two years that the Michigan Football Program has been the target of a newspaper's expose regarding potential NCAA violations. In March, 2008, the (now defunct) Ann Arbor News published a four-day series of alleged academic violations that occurred during Coach Carr's tenure. The University strongly denied those allegations and ultimately the Ann Arbor News' 7-month long investigation resulted in nothing more than a minor flap and certainly no action from the NCAA.

The University's administration (i.e., President Mary Sue Coleman, A.D. Bill Martin, and Assoc. A.D. for Compliance Judy Van Horn) are largely relying on Coach Rod's intepretation of the rules and his belief that there has been no violations committed. Coach Rod's official statement, released through the University, stated: "We know the practice and off-season rules, and we stay within the guidelines. We follow the rules and have always been completely committed to being compliant with all NCAA rules." However, this is not the first time the Administration has had to rely on Coach Rod's interpretation of rules. When Coach Rod first arrived at Michigan he assured the Michigan administration (i.e., Pres. Coleman and A.D. Martin) that he should not have to pay the full buy-out provision of $4 Million to West Virginia University. Subsequently, Coach Rod and WVU became embroiled in nasty litigation and it was widely seen from the start that, despite his indignant responses to the contrary, Coach Rod had no real legal defense. His reading of the contract was self-serving and was not going to convince anyone. Rather quickly, as everyone remembers, the U of M got dragged into the middle of this litigation nightmare. Ultimately, after months of bad press, the matter was settled with WVU getting every single penny of the $4 Million it was owed. Once burned, twice shy. The administration should rely on Coach Rod's interpretation of rules at its own peril.

Thus, the University is in a quandry. Does it act quickly on its own to get out front of potential sanctions or does it deny the allegations and hope they blow over as happened with the alleged academic scandal? The University clearly seems to have chosen the latter course. If the allegations of NCAA rules violations by Coach Rod turn out to have merit then the penalties imposed by the NCAA could be stiffer as a result of the University's failure to act on its own. The University is pinning its beliefs on Coach Rod who does not have a sterling track record of integrity. That is a scary feeling. Go Blue!

UPDATE: (Sunday evening, 8/30/09)- Athletic Director Bill Martin announced earlier today that the University of Michigan has launched an investigation into allegations that its football program regularly violates NCAA rules limiting how much time players can spend on training and practice. A.D. Martin's announcement was made in response to the allegations contained in today's print edition of The Detroit Free Press. In a written statement, Martin said, "We are committed to following both the letter and the intent of the NCAA rules and we take any allegations of violations seriously." Martin further stated, "We believe we have been compliant with NCAA rules, but nonetheless we have launched a full investigation of the allegations in today's newspaper." Martin also said that the school had reached out to both the Big Ten and the NCAA about the allegations. He said the university would have more to say after its inquiry was done. Thus, the University administration appears to be now hedging its bets as they try to stay out front of this issue in case the allegations prove to have some merit. Go Blue!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Free Press story: Coach Rod allegedly violated NCAA Rules

Mike Rosenberg and Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press have teamed up to publish a potentially explosive article regarding alleged NCAA violations committed by Coach Rod and his staff. The allegations focus on three main areas:
  • Practice time: NCAA rules only permit 8 hours per week total and a maximum of 2 hours per day for summer workouts. Michigan players were allegedly required to perform 2-3 times that allowed amount.
  • In-season work time: Schools are allotted 20 hours of football related activities per week with a maximum of 4 hours per day. Reportedly, Coach Rod routinely exceeded the weekly allotment and often kept the team at Schembechler Hall for 9-10 hours the day following a game.
  • Summer Scrimmages: Only training staff are permitted by NCAA rules to be at player-run 7-on-7 scrimmages. Allegedly, quality control staff members monitored the scrimmages which is a violation of NCAA rules.

Michigan, the school with the most victories of any football team in the history of the NCAA, has never had a major violation of NCAA rules in its Football program. The school has issued a statement denying the allegations contained in the Free Press article. Also, a copy of Michigan's Compliance and Rules Education handout (.pdf) is here. Go Blue!

Chalk Talk: Old video of Coach Rod explaining the Spread Offense

As the season approaches, many Wolverine fans still do not have a clear understanding of the terms and formations used in the Spread Offense. These two videos from Coach Rod's West Virginia days are excellent primers:

Go Blue!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Freshman Forcier competing for Wolverines' QB job

Go Blue!

*Video by Mike Mulholland/Grand Rapids Press

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The QB triumvirate

With less than two weeks to go before the 2009 season kicks off, Coach Rodriguez has yet to settle on a starting QB. Currently it remains a three-way race between Nick Sheridan (Sr./Jr. who started 4 games last season) and two true freshmen, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson. In fact, it is possible that each of these quarterbacks may start at some point during the season. Only twice in the past thirty years have the Wolverines had three different quarterbacks start games in the same season. In 1979, John Wangler (4 starts), B.J. Dickey (7) and Rich Hewlett (1 vs. OSU) all started contests. In 1984, Jim Harbaugh (5), Chris Zurbrugg (5) and Russ Rein (2) each started games under center for Michigan. Maybe not coincidentally, 1979 (8-4) and 1984 (6-6) were Bo's two worst seasons of his 21-year tenure at Michigan. In light of the Wolverines' history with rotating three quarterbacks, Michigan may be better off if Coach Rod can narrow down the choices to a maximum of two potential starters (i.e., Forcier and/or Robinson). Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Tate Forcier (5), Nick Sheridan (8) and Denard Robinson (16) from 2009 Media Day by Lon Horwedel/

Tate Forcier speaks during Media Day

Go Blue!

*Video from Dave Birkett of

Off. Coordinator Calvin McGee at Media Day

Go Blue!

*Video from Michael Rothstein of

Clips from Michigan Football Media Day

Go Blue!

*Video by Melanie Maxwell of

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Coach Rod Press Conference following 8-14-09 practice

Here is a short video clip (again shot by David Birkett of Ann of Coach Rodriguez addressing the media following Michigan's first practice in pads on Friday, August 14, 2009.

The video of the full Press Conference can be found here. Go Blue!

Big Ten Network tour hit A2 on 8-14-09

The Big Ten Network's Football Tour pulled into A2 on Friday, August 14, 2009 and was on hand to film Michigan's first Fall Practice in full pads. Here are some video clips from the BTN broadcast:

Go Blue!

Friday, August 14, 2009 was Michigan's first practice in pads

Michigan held its first practice in full pads on Friday, August 14, 2009. Here is a short video clip captured by Dave Birkett of Ann of the defensive secondary players running through a drill.

Go Blue!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

QB's on First day of Spring Practice

Dave Birkett of (the new incarnation of The Ann Arbor News) is on the scene at Fall Practice armed with a video camera. Although his cinematography will win no awards, it is neat to see the behind the scenes action he captures. This is a clip from the first day of practice on Monday, August 10, 2009 of the quarterbacks practicing a drill.

Although Fall Practice commenced on August 10, 2009, the coaching staff has been preparing for this moment for weeks. Go Blue!