Spewing the Venom

As I have recently been accused of spewing the venom about our Big Ten Brethern better than anyone else on the Internet . . .

The Detroit Free Press has posted a story that is stoking the fire under Rich Rodriguez’s hot seat.

The NCAA, which governs college athletics, has strict limits on how much time coaches can require players to spend on their sport. But Rodriguez’s team has routinely broken the rules since he took over in January 2008, people inside the program told the Free Press.

Numerous players on the 2008 and 2009 teams said the program far exceeded limits intended to protect athletes from coaching excesses and to ensure fair competition. Two players called Michigan’s off-season requirements “ridiculous.” The players described the coaches’ expectations as an ongoing concern among many teammates. Parents of several players agreed.

The players and parents agreed to talk only if they were not identified because they said they feared repercussions from the coaching staff.

In the past two off-seasons, players said, the Wolverines were expected to spend two to three times more than the eight hours allowed for required workouts each week. Players are free to exceed the limit, but it must be truly voluntary. The players said the off-season work was clearly required. Several of them said players who failed to do all the strength and conditioning were forced to come back to finish or were punished with additional work.

“It was mandatory,” one player said. “They’d tell you it wasn’t, but it really was. If you didn’t show up, there was punishment. I just felt for the guys that did miss a workout and had to go through the personal hell they would go through.”

In addition, the players cited these practices within the program:
• Players spent at least nine hours on football activities on Sundays after games last fall. NCAA rules mandate a daily 4-hour limit. The Wolverines also exceeded the weekly limit of 20 hours, the athletes said.
• Players said members of Rodriguez’s quality-control staff often watched seven-on-seven off-season scrimmages. The noncontact drills, in which an offense runs plays against a defense, are supposed to be voluntary and player-run. They are held at U-M’s football facilities. NCAA rules allow only training staff — not quality-control staffers — to attend as a safety precaution. Quality-control staffers provide administrative and other support for the coaches but are not allowed to interact directly with players during games, practices or workouts.

The 2008 Wolverines were shocked by how much Rodriguez required on fall Sundays. Rodriguez required his players to arrive at Schembechler Hall by noon the day after games. They would then go through a full weight-lifting session, followed by individual position meetings and a full-team meeting. Then, at night, they would hold a full practice. Often, they would not leave the practice facility until after 10 p.m.

In September 2008, three weeks into Rodriguez’s first season, senior defensive tackle Terrance Taylor talked about his previous Sunday. “It was, like, 10 hours,” Taylor said. “Everybody was like, ‘Where were you at?’ ‘I was at practice all day.’ My parents were still here. They were like, ‘Where were you at?’ I was like, ‘I was at the building all day.’ ”

The NCAA limit is 4 hours a day for required activities.

“The Sundays were miserable,” one player said. “I could never get healthy. You’d go through a game and then go through a hard workout. Sundays would just kill you.”

The NCAA also limits teams to 20 hours a week, and Rodriguez apparently exceeded that limit as well.

That’s some story. Of most interest to me is the fact that this is being published by the Detroit Media–not Columbus or South Bend or what-have-you. This is a back yard witch hunt. Even Paterno has been fairly spared by the local media regarding players in trouble with the law. ESPN’s Outside the Lines did most of the witch-hunting.

So I headed over to Brian Cook’s mgoblog, perhaps the definitive source for THEM football on the web. He has some comments as well as some comments from other parents.

From one parent:

The worst part of all of this is that the reporters targeted the freshman, with misleading questions they can get them to say anything. I’m a fire chief, and I deal with the media. I don’t let my men deal with the media, because they can get them to say anything. They could make us sound like the worst station out there if they wanted to. Without names, this article means nothing to me.

Okay–attack the media. That’s a good start.

Another parent:

“I haven’t read the article yet, but I also haven’t heard anything about over practice, or anything like that.”

Good. Good. Simple denial. The Sergeant Schultz approach. I saw noth-zing.

In the main article on the issue, a reader actually emailed the NCAA rules in question. That’s excellent. The Bill Clinton approach. Just what is your definition of getting screwed.

And then, there’s this assumption . . .

. . . that would be totally evil if Rodriguez was an idiot who hadn’t dealt with NCAA compliance for 20 years and hadn’t made sure the strenuous workouts fit the definitions of “voluntary.” This is unlikely.

How many times have we seen NCAA violations follow coaches from one school to another? Just because Rodriguez has been dealing with the NCAA for x number of years doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t try to bend or stretch the rules. In fact, if he’s gotten away with things like this before, it probably makes it more likely that he would continue to push the envelope.

All in all, though, this is pretty small potatoes. USC commits worse infractions than this practically on a daily basis and the NCAA turns a blind eye. THEM played with an ineligible player a couple years back but apparently that wasn’t enough of a league infraction to do anything about it. I strongly suspect nothing will come of this.

But where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. I think the biggest problem Rodriguez faces is some faction that appears to have no love for him.

But even this isn’t anything new. John Woolard of WVfan.com writes:

In a piece written in a question-and-answer format by Rivals.com’s Tom Dienhart, Rodriguez insists that he was the target of a “smear campaign” by a cabal of WVU officials.

So why does Rodriguez have so many cabals after him? I guess it takes a lot of cabals to coach football like he does.

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Filed under football, infractions, NCAA, Rich Rodriguez, THEM

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