This whole Detroit-Free-Press-started, ESPN-fueled scandal about possible NCAA violations at Michigan is quite possibly the stupidest thing I have ever seen. The basic story is that a couple of journalists (or should I say ‘journalists’) at the DFP talked to several current and former Michigan players and allegedly discovered that the players were practicing far more than they are allowed to NCAA rules. Instead of applying a little bit of rational thought and a bit of investigative journalism, the writers ran with it for all it is worth. Unfortunately for them, there are several reasons why their story is thoroughly ridiculous:
1. The rules – A big part of the hubbub in the article deals with the fact that the players are involved in more than 12 hours of activities on the Sundays after games. The problem, though, is that a huge portion of the activities that the players said they were doing don’t actually count towards the 20-hours-per-week practice limit. These include working out, watching video, visiting with the trainers, eating, and any down time between any of those activities. Those activities would obviously make up a big portion of the time the players spend at practice. The players can spend a maximum of four hours per day in specific activities, and I am very confident that the actual activities that count towards that limit wouldn’t exceed that amount of time.
2. Freshmen – A few of the players that the two interviewed were freshmen. Obviously, all they could talk about with any credible experience is their time at fall practice. Here’s the thing – anything that happens before classes start don’t actually count towards limits. If coaches wanted to keep players at practice for 150 hours a week in the summer then they would be completely within their rights to do so.
3. Former players – A few of the players they talked to are former players who are now at different schools. How many players out there, do you think, have nothing but good things to say about a program that they felt they had to leave? In terms of credibility these guys leave a lot to be desired. And besides, do the players know the rules specifically and well enough to know when and how they have been broken?
4. Anonymity – Several of the players they talked to are listed as anonymous sources. Again, that makes credibility challenging. It also means that the players can’t be talked to to see if they understood what the reporters were asking.
5. Rich Rodriguez – Rodriguez has spent seven years as a coach at West Virginia and a year at Michigan. Those are two high profile positions. Do you honestly believe in that time that Rodriguez hasn’t learned the rules about allowable practice time, or that he hasn’t understood the implications of exceeding them and getting on the wrong side of the NCAA? The article alleges that Rodriguez was not only exceeding the limits, but that he was blowing them out of the water. I have little doubt that Rodriguez is pushing the limits as far as he can just like every other good coach out there is, but to suggest that he is blatantly flaunting those rules is stupid and illogical.
6. Parents – A couple of parents of kids in the program have spoken up in support of the program. Parents look out for their kids, so this is interesting. The most compelling is Mike Forcier. He’s the father of freshman QB Tate Forcier , and he has also had two other sons play college ball – one at Michigan and Stanford, and the other at UCLA. He says that what Tate has gone through has been the same as the other two has gone through. That’s far from a compelling argument by itself, but it is interesting.
7. Compliance department – University compliance departments are not the friends of programs or coaches. Their job is to protect the school and make sure that rules are being followed. They have accountability to the school administration, not the ones who run the teams. The compliance department has spot checked the program, and they have obviously done regular checks as well. Do you honestly believe that the department would have no concerns at all if the problems were as bad as the article alleges? No chance.
I have little doubt that Rodriguez has been pushing the limits of these rules, but the same goes for pretty much every program out there – certainly every successful one. It’s a big difference between pushing those limits and flagrantly flaunting them. He’d have to be doing the latter for there to be ascandal like ESPN seems to hope there will be, and that’s just not going to be the case. This is irresponsible reporting run amok. It’s clearly time for the season to start so that these idiots have something more concrete and meaningful to write about.