to play football, not to play trumpet
Bylaw Blog is the "Unofficial Blog of NCAA Compliance," which just goes to show that you can find anything on the internet. Its author is an anonymous employee in the compliance department of a Division I school who pegged Michigan's findings in a totally speculative post that some people got upset about but turned out to be accurate. He goes by Compliance Guy. I flagged him down and asked him a number of questions about where we are now and what's likely to happen in the future.
1. What is the process that Michigan has gone through to reach this point? I might be a little bit fuzzy on the details, but this is what I think has gone on so far:
- Notice of Inquiry
- Michigan internal investigation undertaken with assistance/cooperation from NCAA.
- Michigan files report with NCAA
- NCAA responds with Notice of Allegations.
Is this an accurate picture of how the process works?
Flop the notice of inquiry and Michigan's investigation starting and you have the basic order. Michigan would have started the investigation the moment the story broke. At a certain point, either because of what Michigan was telling the NCAA or what the NCAA was hearing from somewhere else, the enforcement staff got involved and issued the Notice of Inquiry.
2. Past this point there are a couple more steps. Michigan will respond. They may or may not issue self-imposed sanctions. And then they'll go in front of the committee. How often do accusations of major violations get degraded to secondary violations in practice? Is the NCAA-issued NOA going to closely resemble the final findings at the committee or is it likely to get walked back? If so, how much?
A major violation case, once it gets to this point, rarely is argued back down to a secondary infraction. To get to a Notice of Allegations, especially in this case, the enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions would have worked very closely to decide if there were major violations, ultimately the COI's decision.
Individual major violations are sometimes downgraded to secondary violations during the response and hearing. In the Kelvin Sampson case at IU, one of the original five major violations--that Sampson and assistant coach Jeff Meyer gave Derek Elston a backpack and t-shirt and recruited him during a camp--was found to be only a secondary violation. Of course, the COI can add too, like the failure to monitor charge that came after the committee hearing.
The final report is going to look very similar. The most likely charge to be downgraded is actually the excessive practice, since it was never grossly beyond the limits like originally alleged by the ex-players. But the lack of documentation at the time makes it difficult for Michigan to prove that the violations were "isolated or inadvertent" and did not result in a "significant competitive advantage."
3. The five accusations:
1) Michigan quality control staffers "monitored and conducted skill development activities," assisted with "warm up and flexibility," watched film with players, and occasionally attended coaching meetings.
2) Similar in nature in points a) and b). c) consists of disciplinary measures after missing class in summer. d) consists of varying but relatively small amounts of excessive mandatory activity.
3) A graduate assistant lied during the process.
4) Rich Rodriguez "failure to monitor."
5) Athletic department "failure to monitor."
Are my characterizations of all these charges correct? If so, how serious are each of them?
#2 is, very generally, excessive practice. Michigan allowed excessive practice in one of three ways:
1) Did not count stretching and warm-up, thus requiring too much CARA (countable athletically related activity);
2) Disciplined players for missing class over the summer, when no required physical activity is permitted for any reason; and
3) Allowing excessive voluntary activity during the summer.
The third type is likely the most bewildering to fans. The NCAA tightly regulates even voluntary activity during the summer in football. The large team peer pressure and culture of discipline in football can cause it to get out of hand, so the NCAA limits how long you can work out with strength coaches in the summer, even voluntarily and sets periods of time where strength coaches cannot work out with football student-athletes at all.
The most serious charge is the failure to monitor charge for the university. It does allow for a wider variety of penalties. The "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance" charge for Rodriguez means his continued employment at Michigan might change things. The ethical conduct charge is serious, but only really affects Herron. The other two violations are normally secondary in isolated incidents, but went on long enough to be considered major. Of the two, exceeding the coaching limits by a significant amount (11 is the limit with a total of five extra) is more serious.
There's also a sixth violation floating around, as an element of other violations but should be considered almost like a separate violation: the failure to submit practice logs for over a year and a half. Why that happened is going to be one of the COI's burning questions and the lack of the logs makes raising a defense to the charges that much more difficult.
4. On your blog you've recently documented a gradual broadening of "major violations" from serious dolla-dolla-bill ya'll type charges to considerably less severe violations, using the recent Arizona basketball issues as an example. Would these charges have gotten the same amount of scrutiny five, ten, fifteen years ago?
15 years ago, we wouldn't have the 24-hour news cycle that caused the violations to come to light in the first place. In addition, neither the NCAA nor Michigan would have had the resources to devote to discovering just how serious the violations were. Even now, we only know that limits were exceeded "some weeks."
But with larger compliance offices, bigger NCAA staffs, and a Committee on Infractions getting sick of the idea that secondary infractions don't matter, there is increased scrutiny. 15 years ago Michigan might have just reported a vague secondary violation and negotiated how much to reduce the practice time by. Now, just the fact that neither Michigan nor the NCAA has been able to completely quantify how big the violation was is not helping Michigan.
5. During the press conference new Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon downplayed a number of the charges, particularly the hours exceeded. Those were declared a misunderstanding about how stretching and other prep time was classified. It sounded like he was preparing a defense. If the NCAA and Michigan worked together on this, how could they be unfamiliar with this point of view? What is the probability that arguments like "it was a misunderstanding" will have any effect?
Brandon is preparing a defense, but at this point reducing the penalty is the more likely goal rather than winning an acquittal. Secondary violations need to meet two requirements: isolated or inadvertent AND did not produce a significant competitive advantage. Convince the NCAA of both and you have a secondary violation. Convince them of one, and you still have a major violation, but a lesser one.
Trouble is that the NCAA looks at what coaches and administrators "should" have known rather than what they did know. If the NCAA changes a rule, issues an interpretation, or releases an Educational Column (non-binding, technical discussions of the rules), a compliance officer is virtually presumed to have read it. And if the coaches were never educated about the rule, not only does it not save them, but it also becomes an element of bigger institutional charges like failure to monitor and lack of institutional control.
6. Michigan's handling of the situation has been fairly controversial on the internet because Michigan fans, rightly or wrongly, feel that the university's relative openness was detrimental in the Ed Martin case. Michigan has apparently been as accommodating as possible with the NCAA. Is inviting NCAA investigators in asking for trouble or a way to mitigate any potential sanctions? If you were in Michigan's position, what would you have done?
That's a tricky question because as a public institution, Michigan can only be so secretive. A great deal of the investigation can be open to the public via open records laws and the Freedom of Information Act. Look at the fervor caused by one informational meeting with the trustees that Michigan attempted to keep quiet.
What is the measure against which Michigan's openness is being judged? I'm sure most fans are pointing at USC and how the Reggie Bush investigation took five years and it seems like USC is in front of the COI almost out of the blue. But USC is a private institution, and doesn't have to worry about bitter rivals, wronged alumni, and nosy reporters demanding every scrap of paper. Michigan probably hasn't made public anything that wouldn't be made public before.
Looking back to the Ed Martin scandal, Michigan's willingness to cooperate was likely a key consideration in getting the second year of postseason ban overturned on appeal. Cooperating with the NCAA is wrongly portrayed as "going above and beyond vs. defending yourself." It's an obligation of being a member of the NCAA.
Michigan fans like to talk about the integrity and class in the program. If that means anything, it means acknowledging your mistakes, taking your medicine, and working to improve. It doesn't mean being difficult just because it seems USC is.
I think Michigan's handling of the case has been a model of how to deal with a major infractions case so far. And the result will likely be fairer penalties and a case that is disposed of quickly rather than casting a shadow on the program for a number of years.
7. Would one GA lying to the NCAA seriously hurt the university as a whole, assuming that he is then fired?
It's highly unlikely. A single, isolated unethical conduct violation generally hits the person who committed it rather than the institution. The primary tool the COI uses for this is the show-cause penalty, which states that any institution who hires the person must appear before the committee and "show cause" why they should not be punished the same way the previous school was.
As a counterexample, Dave Bliss' unethical conduct, in instructing players and coaches to lie in the Baylor case, is much more serious on an institutional level. When high level administrators (ADs, presidents, etc.), head coaches, or people who should know better (compliance staff) commit unethical conduct, it speaks to institutional control.
8. Is there any possibility Michigan escapes a major infraction at this point? What do you think Michigan's penalties will be? If you think some of the accusations are walked back, what would they be in that case?
It's almost a certainty that come October or November, Michigan will be back on probation. The Committee on Infractions generally doesn't start flimsy cases. Look again at USC. Since the original Yahoo! Sports report about Reggie Bush, the COI could have sent a Notice of Allegations as a fishing expedition. But given the fact that they were dealing with a major football program, they couldn't afford to have the case blow up in their face. So they continued investigating, interview, asking for documentation, and working with USC to develop the case until they had a slam dunk.
I'm also confident the same five charges in the Notice of Allegations will be in the final report. Like I said earlier, the excessive practice is the most likely candidate to be reduced, but Michigan lacks the best tool for doing so: detailed logging of practice time during that period. Consistent and timely logs, though mistaken, would have been the best evidence that the violations were all an honest mistake.
I expect a lengthy list of penalties, but none of which are too severe. Despite Michigan's status as a repeat violator due to the Ed Martin case, the death penalty is clearly not in the cards. [Editor's note: I think this is meant to be reassuring.] Neither are more severe penalties like a postseason or TV ban. In fact, Michigan doesn't even need to vacate wins (unless it self-imposes) because these violations do not affect eligibility. I think you'll see a list like this:
- A reduction in countable coaches (one coach will have to be reassigned to a noncoaching position);
- A reduction in practice with a shorter spring season in 2011 and/or reduced hour limits;
- Possibly recruiting restrictions, including limiting the number of coaches off-campus at any one time;
- Possibly a reduction of around three scholarships for a year or two;
- 3-4 years probation (longer due to repeat violator status)
Combined I think they are a setback (which they're intended to be), but they aren't program crushing penalties that will take years to crawl out from like the Ed Martin penalties were.
[Ed: Many thanks to Compliance Guy. Again: Bylaw Blog is his internet home.]
[Editor's note: oh right, this is going on today too.]
|WHAT||Michigan v. Illinois|
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, MI|
February 23rd, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan -2.5* (!)|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
Well, they're playing for pride now. And maybe an NIT bid. This Michigan team's larger goals are out of reach, so they'll have to search within to get the necessary motivation to pull off any wins for the rest of the year, much less one against a team that still playing for its tournament life.
After a long layoff before a game in which they were facing an opponent they've already seen this year, they'll now have just a couple days to prepare for Illinois in the teams' only meeting of the season. Considering Michigan has tended to play better on long rest, and against familiar opponents, this doesn't bode well.
That said, high-level athletes have a way of responding with surprise performances when they are questioned or left for dead. Does this Michigan team have it in them? Role players and superstars alike will have to step up to salvage some pride and earn in NIT bid.
The Fighting Illini are 17-10 on the year, with a 9-5 Big Ten mark. Though they've dropped their last two, to Purdue and Ohio State, their previous game was a road victory over Wisconsin in the Kohl Center. If Illinois can finish the year with a strong run, they still have a good chance at the NCAA tournament. However, Michigan is their only remaining game against a team that is likely to miss the tournament, so the pressure is on tonight.
6-3 guard Demitri McCamey and 7-footer Mike Tisdale are key players for Illinois. They're an inside-outside combo, both among the team's leaders in effective field goal percentage. McCamey also excels at driving the lane and drawing fouls or dishing for assists. 6-9 forward Mike Davis is the team's leading rebounder, and plays the second-most minutes on the squad.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Illinois: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||Illinois Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. Ill Def eFG%||214||73||II|
|Mich Def eFG% v. Ill eFG%||226||77||II|
|Mich TO% v. Ill Def TO%
|Mich Def TO% v. Ill TO%||51||40||I|
|Mich OReb% v. Ill DReb%
|Mich DReb% v. Ill OReb%||237||190||I|
|Mich FTR v. Ill Opp FTR
|Mich Opp FTR v. Ill FTR
|Mich AdjO v. Ill AdjD||99||50||I|
|Mich AdjD v. Ill AdjO||62||54||-|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
This looks like a tough matchup for the Wolverines, who have slid lately after showing steady improvement over the first month of 2010. The only places Michigan has the advantage are not turning it over to the Illini and not sending them to the free throw line. Surprisingly, despite all of Illinois's advantages in the margins, they are only slightly better in overall efficiency numbers.
Vegas actually favors Michigan, which is free money for Illini bettors, if you ask me. Ken Pomeroy also thinks Illinois will fall to Michigan, though by only 1 point. Following this Michigan team all year long, it seems like the experts think MIchigan is due for a bounce-back. Unfortunately, I don't see it, and think Illinois will win by something like 65-57. Prove me wrong, boys.
OCR FTW. I'll let those inclined pore over it. It sounds a lot worse in this format than it did coming from Brandon; it sounds like they have reasonable explanations for some of it. The QC folk being impermissibly involved sounds pretty bad, though, and one Alex Herron is so fired.
NOTICE OF ALLEGATIONS
President of the University of Michigan
[NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11.1, 18.104.22.168.1.1, 11.7.2 and 22.214.171.124 (2009-10 NCAA Manual)]
1. It is alleged that from January 2008 through September 2009, the institution's football program exceeded the permissible limit on the number of coaches by five when quality control staff members (noncoaching sport-specific staff members who were not counted as countable coaches) engaged in on- and off-field coaching activities. The quality control staff members included Adam Braithwaite (March 2008 to the present), Dan Hott (January 2008 to the present), Josh Ison (February 2009 to the present), Bob McClain (January 2008 to February 2009), Eric Smith (January 2008 to the present) and Bryan Wright (June 2008 to the present). Specifically:
a. During 2008 and 2009 winter and voluntary summer workouts, and outside of the regular playing season, quality control staff members regularly monitored and conducted skill-development activities with football student-athletes that occurred two days a week. Additionally, the quality control staff members coached the football student-athletes through those activities to improve technique and develop fundamental football-related skills. [NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199.1, 188.8.131.52.1.1, 11.7.2 and 184.108.40.206]
b. During 2008 and 2009 spring and regular-season football practice, quality control staff members regularly assisted ' with football student-athletes' flexibility and warm-up activities. Additionally, on some occasions, the quality control staff members provided advice and/or corrections to football student-athletes pertaining to technique and plays. [NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11.1, 18.104.22.168.1.1, 11.7.2 and 22.214.171.124]
c. From January 2008 through September 2009, the quality control staff members sometimes watched game and/or practice film with football student-athletes and provided advice and/or corrections to the football student-athletes pertaining to technique and plays. [NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199.1, 188.8.131.52.1.1, 11.7.2 and 184.108.40.206]
d. From January 2008 through September 2009, the quality control staff members sometimes attended meetings involving coaching activities. [NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11.1, 18.104.22.168.1.1, 11.7.2 and 22.214.171.124]
Please indicate whether this information is substantially correct and whether the institution agrees violations of NCAA legislation occurred. Submit evidence to support your response. [Editor's note: rest after the jump.]
The University received a notice of allegations last night and held this press conference in response. Tim is currently holding the notice right now and it should be available online soon, but what I gathered from the press conference:
- Michigan checked up on and punished players for missing class in the summer, as suggested earlier.
- QC assistants overstepped their bounds and did some prohibited coaching activities.
- The infamous Sunday workouts from the Free Press article were indeed too long. By 20 minutes. Because it's unclear what exactly counts when it comes to stretching. Similarly, there were instances where Michigan may have been over the 20 hour weekly maximum by about two hours because of similar stretching-related issues.
Your initial take on this is likely to be "WTF where's the beef," and… yeah. 1 and 3 seem incredibly minor items that will draw something even less than a slap on the wrist. Possibly an unpleasant poke. Two, depending on exactly what that entails, could warrant a bonafide slap. Nothing found comes close to the Free Press's WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN reporting, which brazenly suggested that Michigan was exceeding allowable maximums by a factor of more than two.
Free Press: Fail
Let's stew on that: it was immediately apparent to anyone who did a cursory google search on the topic that allowable practice limits are a supremely gray area that every program in the country does an end-around on. This did not appear in the article. This is what the article suggested:
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.
This was blatantly dishonest at the time and—surprise!—it turns out that Michigan is not blowing through NCAA regulations without care. The infamous Sunday activities were 20 minutes over. Because of confusion about stretching.
First: I don't think this is going to be a big deal. But Brandon did bring up that apparently Michigan is still under probation for the Ed Martin thing because the NCAA case took forever to conclude and since the allegations date back a couple years now that Michigan was technically five months away from getting out from under that. For something that happened 15 years and two athletic directors ago.
Brandon was very clear that the NCAA takes these sorts of things into consideration and it was not likely to be a problematic thing, especially given the nature of the current allegations, but he brought it up. So I'm bringing it up.
Anyone who had any doubts about Dave Brandon's suitability as athletic director, and there were a few, must have dumped them about five minutes into this press conference. Brandon was epic. He gave transparent, honest answers that sound a lot like the fictional Rich Rodriguez who lives only in my (and perhaps your) head. You know, the one that passionately argues the case for Demar Dorsey with unassailable logic.
Brandon's Q&A session was a combination of justified deflection, smooth answers to hard questions, and one totally unambiguous declaration that nothing in the NCAA report would impact Rich Rodriguez's job security. Many people in the liveblog were giving it to Birkett for that question, but isn't it much, much better that it was asked and answered so forcefully? If it's not asked then this news cycle includes a bunch of questions about that. Now there are no questions.
Michigan has 90 days to provide a response and there will be an NCAA hearing in early August. If Michigan chooses to self impose sanctions—which was broached just like that: "if"—it will probably happen after the response and, obviously, before the hearing.
I am not entirely sure whether the allegations rise to the level of major violations but it certainly doesn't sound like it. Scholarship reductions seem exceedingly unlikely. More ASAP.
[UPDATE: Okay. Tim has just provided the documents and they explicitly state that the allegations "are considered to be potential major violations" and that if the institution believes any of them should be classified as secondary they should present that in their response.]
Drumroll please. As always, Live Blog Chaos Mitigation Post. The brief version: it's moderated so posts only show up after a producer approves them. This prevents the thing from descending into unreadable chaos.
U-M to hold media briefing about NCAA report
ANN ARBOR, Mich. --- The University of Michigan will hold a media briefing at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday, Feb. 23, in the Regents Room at the Fleming Administration Building regarding the NCAA report about the football program.
The briefing will include U-M President Mary Sue Coleman, incoming athletic director David Brandon and football coach Rich Rodriguez. They will take questions immediately following their statements.
In the months since the university launched its internal investigation I've heard a thousand things of dubious provenance that range from an asteroid hitting Ann Arbor to the NCAA taking away ten scholarships… from the Free Press. So I'm loathe to say anything definitively.
Here's the but you were waiting for: but I do have a couple of folk I trust who have proven themselves one step away from important people. These folk say the results of the investigation are "not expected to have major implications." They will report something on at least two issues:
- Michigan checks up on players to make sure they are in class, and has been doing this since Bo. (I know someone who's had football players as a TA and can confirm that polo-shirt wearing folk checked in on luminaries like Jake Long.) This has been going on during summer classes; apparently it is not kosher to do this.
- The "quality control" people at issue in the investigation have football coaching experience. One of them, for instance, is our new safeties/OLBs coach. Before his time at Michigan he had some stints at smaller schools. Someone testified that the QC people did not have coaching experience, which may have been an "honest mistake," which the NCAA will rule on. How could this be an honest mistake?
The people testifying weren't the gophers or anyone at the workouts. It sounds like they were people in compliance or elsewhere in the athletic department but not the football program who were either ignorant or deceitful, either of which would explain the rumors going around about heads rolling in the aftermath of the report.
I followed up but couldn't get any clarification as to whether not expecting "major implications" meant they didn't expect any major violations. A major violation can have a minimal effect, as we've seen consistently over the past decade, but any major violation would sully Michigan's to-date pristine record and create another totally awesome media avalanche. It would be just like Michigan to get hit by the NCAA for making sure its players are in class.
Again, I think the above is worth posting and is accurate. It may not be comprehensive and may be a positive spin on something nastier. We'll find out in about an hour.
We'll have a liveblog going at 1PM. Tim will be twittering as well.