|This is our concern, dude.|
We've been away for the past week, and as you can see the entire college football world has jumped all over Michigan for pretty much doing what every other college football team does. Except not every college football team is in the cross-hairs of the Detroit Free Press.
From very early on in the Rodriguez tenure as Michigan head coach, the Free Press, more specifically Michael Rosenberg has had it out for the former West Virginia head man who decided to take the job of a lifetime and coach at the University of Michigan.
Why does Rosenberg hate Rodriguez? I don't know.
Why does the Free Press support this hatred? Well, that one's easy. Because it sells newspapers.
From every source that I have read about this issue, all concede that Michigan did indeed break the rules. But by a narrow margin. Far from the gross and outrageous breakage of rules that the Free Press insisted Michigan was doing in it's article from last August which broke this story. The Free Press alleged that Michigan didn't just go over the allotted time allowed by the NCAA for team activities such as practice, meetings, weight training, film sessions, etc...they blew those time limits out of the water. So much as double the time the NCAA allows.
Michigan did it's own internal investigation and did find some wrong-doing. But answers were murky at best. So the NCAA was called in to investigate. They did, and Michigan addressed those findings earlier this week. From everything that I've been able to put together, Michigan did 3 things wrong.
1. In the 2008 and 2009 off-seasons (summers), Michigan players, without coaches, held mandatory team practices for 2 hours a week more than they were supposed to (10 hours instead of 8).
2. They had quality control assistant coaches acting as coaches a bit longer than they should have in both on-field and off-field activities.
3. They did not accurately report the time spent by the players at "team" activities (aka, countable hours) to the NCAA.
There is also the charge that graduate assistant Alex Herron provided false and/or misleading information to investigators (both Michigan and NCAA) about the allegations. That is less of a concern to me, a die-hard Michigan fan, because it's an easy fix if it comes down to it...goodbye Alex Herron.
But what does all this mean? And where do we go from here?
Well, the results of the NCAA's inquiry are at minimum, reason and cause for concern. Clearly, Rich Rodriguez has not done a very good job maintaining control over his program. Keeping track of time spent on team activities, whether on the field or in meetings, is ultimately the responsibility of the head coach...no matter how much of that responsibility he decides to delegate to assistants.
Now, you might be saying to yourself that every major program has to be guilty of going over allotted time restrictions. Right?
I don't know that for a fact, but I can say with some degree of certainty that it is true. This comes from multiple sources of people affiliated with other institutions that I have come across over the past 72 hours.
Think of it as going 5 miles an hour over the speed limit on the freeway. No one gets pulled over for it because it is really not a very big deal.
But if you're going 5 MPH over the limit and you've just completed the worst season in the previous 129 years of Michigan football and ended the country's longest active bowl streak...then you can probably expect a ticket. Maybe even some jail time.
And that, when you really get down to it, is what's going on with this program right now.
Now of course Rodriguez is not going to be fired. New AD Dave Brandon said during the presser that he and President Mary Sue Coleman stand firmly behind their embattled coach and he will be the head coach in 2010. No word of course about 2011.
Michigan now has 90 days to respond to the NCAA's findings and most certainly suggest a lesser course of action in terms of violations. The things that Michigan did wrong are considered by the NCAA bylaws to be major violations. If Michigan can talk the NCAA down, it may skirt any major sanctions. But if it can't, this will be the first time in 130 years of Michigan football that they've been hit with major violations by the NCAA.
If that happens, a new coach will most certainly be called for.