I always believe that in the 2 weeks before the season starts, as a fan, you don't want to hear peep out of fall camp. College programs shift into season-mode. They go into media lock-down. No meaningful news gets reported, because programs like Michigan keep the press as far away from practice as they can. If the media/blogs report anything other than fluff, it usually means something is wrong. Usually, it's an injury to a key player that will break the silence.
In this case, the bad news is much, much worse.
ESPN's Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg weighed in on the allegations made my former and current Michigan football players that coaches made the voluntary off-season workouts mandatory. Also, in-season practices lasted much longer than the time allotted by the NCAA.
Adam writes that the allegations are serious, but not as serious as who made them, and why.
Let's be honest here. We'd be naive to think that many, if not all FBS colleges practice much more than the official time allowed by NCAA rules. And while these off-season workouts are "voluntary"...like many former WVU Rodriguez players have been quoted, "The workouts are not mandatory...but neither is playing time".
But what is unique about Michigan's situation is the fact that we have such a new coaching staff, and we've experienced so much attrition in the short time that Rodriguez has been here. Having a coach that works his players harder than they've ever worked before is not such a bad thing. Rodriguez and S&C coach Mike Barwis are well known for their tough conditioning and extreme work ethic. Having a team that is much better conditioned than the opposition is a huge advantage. But the problem is when that team has players who are compelled to speak out against their coaches because of the effort and hours they have to put in.
Put it simply...NCAA violations like this happen at every school. Adam Rittenberg says, you never hear about it for two reasons.
1. The NCAA-mandated time limits for practices and workouts aren't exceeded in excess.
2. Players aren't motivated enough to speak out against their coaches and trainers.
This is the bigger issue, I think. Of course we don't know exactly which players came forward to the Detroit Free Press. They did so anonymously. What concerns me the most is that not only was it former players...but current players as well.
You could blame the Detroit Free Press' writers Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder, but it was the Michigan players that came to them, not vice-versa. Much different from the Ann Arbor News' witch-hunt of academic violations by the Lloyd Carr administration from a year ago.
There is no end in sight for issues like this. It's likely that Michigan will receive some attention from the NCAA, but probably not enough to garner any sanctions. Michigan's football program has never had an NCAA sanction imposed. The only thing that this kind of accusation can do is drive apart the program further than it already is. More friction will be created between players and coaches. And with less than a week from Rodriguez's 2nd season at Michigan, this is the worst thing that could happen to this team.
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