Tim's best effort at a transcript of the press conference. All answers are paraphrases.
Brandon: Relief comes from the fact that it's all out there. Made the notice of allegations public within 24 hours of receiving it—same story here. Lot of pages, lots of detail, documents speak for themselves—what happened, why, how they plan to deal with it.
Who's to blame for the situation?
Brandon: I take full responsibility for issues across the athletic department. Sloppy handling of information. Failures in checks and balances as well as through the chain of command. No single person to blame.
Probation is expected. Do you anticipate that? What would probation mean to the program?
Brandon: We have identified probation as a self-imposed sanction. 2 years is appropriate. No additional sanction, but a significant amount of reporting to the NCAA over the duration. Puts the program under the microscope.
Will there be any other discipline against the individuals other than a letter of discipline?
Brandon: One guy [Herron] was terminated for lack of integrity in the process. Everyone else will receive a reprimand in the file. They didn't perform duties to the appropriate level, causing the violations.
Should the NCAA define exactly what S&C and QC should do?
Brandon: When the smoke clears, a bunch of topics need to be discussed. Can improve job descriptions in NCAA rule. We misunderstood between compliance and NCAA re: interpretation of those rules. We can work with them to tighten up those definitions - what is and isn't permissible. Not a criticism of the rules, but we can see where we interpreted it wrong and make the improvements.
How do you avoid this becoming a distraction again?
Rodriguez: Players and staff stayed focused through the investigation last year, which started mid-season. This ongoing case shouldn't affect players at all. They're excited about the upcoming season, and it's a relief to get it over with. Shouldn't distract.
Recommending as a punishment that they lose more practice time. What if the NCAA says it's not good enough? What if NCAA says recruiting or postseason restrictions? Would that surprise or upset?
Brandon: More thorough review will indicate that the sanctions include a little more. Terminated the individual who had the integrity problem, reprimanding those involved, removing QC staff, and prohibiting QC from sitting on coaching meetings, etc., for a year. We believe based on the advice and precedents, we've matched up the consequences with the content of the violations. NCAA has the ultimate authority, and we'll speak in front of them in August.
NCAA says Rich fostered an atmosphere of non-compliance. Why do you disagree?
Brandon: Strongly disagree. Internal investigation showed that's not the case. Compliance group says this is one of the most open coaching staffs. They had the ability to access whatever they wanted. Rich and crew made no effort to hide anything from the compliance staff. Rich understands following the rules, and has a history of doing so.
Provision in Rich's contract that says he could be terminated. Why hasn't he been fired?
Brandon: COULD be cause for termination. I don't think the violations that occurred are significant enough. Said in February that he wouldn't be fired, and the investigation didn't change their mind on it. We don't believe termination is appropriate under these circumstances.
The NCAA looks to take each violation on its merit, and respond accordingly. The people we've retained said that's right to do.
What if NCAA says scholarship or recruiting violations?
Brandon: every case with Reductions in scholarships or coaches, or postseason bans, has stemmed from serious lack of institutional control or a competitive advantage. The NCAA can disagree if they want, and we'll have our day in front of them.
What were the precedents? [Ed.: Jesus. "Can you do my research for me?"]
Brandon: You can piece it together from various other cases.
How much has this investigation cost?
Brandon: I have no clue. It's not relevant. Did what we had to do to protect our interests and employees.
Is the M image tarnished?
Brandon: There's nothing good about any of this stuff. It's unfortunate. Our history and tradition is out there for the world to see. We'll let our integrity continue to stand as it has. We made mistakes, but we're being transparent, accountable, and doing something about it.
Who was responsible for crafting the response?
Rodriguez: My counsel and the University worked very closely. I was obligated to give an individual response. We'll continue to work closely, correcting the issues that we need to correct. We'll get together to prepare for the meeting with the infractions committee. Everyone that was interviewed has been forthright and accommodating.
Do you now have a chance to focus on football?
Rodriguez: This is not the only thing I've been working on. Issues within the program and my response have been time-consuming. Moving on from this (knowing what the investigation entails). It's important to be transparent, and this shows that.
What did you want to get across in your response?
Rodriguez: No one main point. Wanted to present the details from the investigation. We go in front of the committee, and have to explain what happened, the response lays the groundwork for that. There will be more questions we have to answer. My response details what I needed to explain, where communication broke down, and where we can improve.
No evidence of disregarding student-athlete welfare?
Brandon: Super important. There was innuendo about that we were mistreating players—to the level of abuse—which wasn't true. None of that was the case, and there was nothing in the practice time issue that endangered welfare of student athletes.
Rodriguez: That was the most important issue for me. We've always looked out for student athletes, and will continue to do so. The investigation made clear that the student athletes never felt endangered - and never will. Rodriguez enjoys developing student-athletes.
How is extra hours not interpreted as a competitive advantage?
Brandon: Not counting stretching as warmup is a violation. It's still a significant leap of logic to call that a competitive advantage. The amount of time that went over could not be perceived as a competitive advantage.
Was it a new coach issue?
Brandon: We had a whole new coaching staff, with a whole new routine. Most of the people in administration have been around for a long time. There was a combination of many factors. We will never have lower-end chain of command people having discussions about things, without reporting it up the chain of command. We're going to handle any issues at the senior levels.
What was it like to have the school defend the charge against you?
Rodriguez: there have been mistakes made at various times by various people, and I've had to answer for it. Talking about an atmosphere of non-compliance is a serious allegation, and my response and the school's response indicate we don't think that's the case.
"I have named the boy Caleb," he announced to her finally in a soft voice. "In accordance with your wishes." The woman made no answer, and slowly the man smiled. He had planned it all perfectly, for his wife was asleep and would never know that he had lied to her as she lay on her sickbed in the poor ward of the county hospital.
"The University is satisfied that the initial media reports are greatly exaggerated if not flatly incorrect."
-University of Michigan
So there are about a zillion documents to go over but here are your thunderbolts of justice:
- Michigan has reduced the number of QC staffers by 40 percent (ie, by two) and prohibited them from attending practices, games, and coaches meetings for 2010. A new bylaw specifically allows QC staffers at coaches meeting, but Michigan won't take advantage of this until 2011. Michigan will not add more QC staffers until the 2011 season ends.
- Michigan will give back 130 hours of practice time over the next two years.
- Michigan has taken "corrective action" to prevent a repeat.
- Two years of probation.
…aaaaand that's all, folks. No scholarships, no reductions in the number of actual coaches, and they didn't even fire anyone other than Herron—the other QC staffer they're losing is Braithwaite, who's now an actual coach. This is actually less severe than the mild sanctions this site has ballparked since May. The NCAA will accept the report essentially as-is in August and Michigan will get on with it.
This is it, by, the way: these documents are the official results of the investigation release to the public and the NCAA. Michigan took this seriously enough to bring in third-party NCAA investigators and this is what they turned up. If there is anyone out there still defending the original article as something other than a one-sided hit job that cost Michigan thousands of dollars and should cause any Michigan fan to boycott the Free Press until the people who wrote and edited it are gone, read the PDFs. Just a couple days ago someone was complaining that characterizing the violations as "stretching" was a dishonest representation of the violations and hurt the site's credibility. It's true that there is a tale of sordid institutional miscommunication buried in the documents, but "warm-up and stretching" is literally 90% of the hourly overages. The QC issues came because Rodriguez thought they were classified as S&C assistants, which they were not.
Compare that—a very serious document that will have consequences if it is wrong—to the Free Press report detailing lurid excesses, student abuse, and complete disregard for NCAA regulations. If newspapers cared about truth in reporting as much as the university does about its compliance with NCAA regulations, everyone involved with the story would be looking for a new job.
[Editor's note: Tom's put out a torrent of content about this weekend's BBQ at the Big House. Other items in you may be interested in:
- MD DT Darian Cooper didn't name any leaders following the trip but did say Michigan helped themselves: "They weren't trying to hype anything, and I really liked that. We just got to sit back and talk about life and not all football, which was great."
- FL RB Demetrius Hart did not make it in due to the expense of two trips to Michigan back-to-back. "Nothing has changed" as far as the Harts' opinion of M.
- Michigan has offered three additional kids in Ohio: DE Austin Traylor, TE Nick Vannett, and C Ryan Kelly. Traylor says he will visit; the interest levels of the other guys is unknown. Vannett is reputed an OSU lock.
Now on with this particular show.]
One of the prospects in attendance at this past weekend's BBQ was McKeesport linebacker Branden Jackson. Branden is a 6-foot-5, 220-pound middle linebacker for his team who runs a 4.5-4.6 forty. Here's what he had to say about the trip, and his versatility.
TOM: What did you know about Michigan before this trip? Why did you have interest?
BRANDEN: I just knew that Michigan was always good. They have a good track record, a huge alumni base, and they have those nice helmets. I liked some of the players growing up, and I also knew they had the biggest stadium, but that was about it.
TOM: So what were you expecting out of this kind of visit?
BRANDEN: I was really just expecting to get a feel for the school, the players, and the environment. I wanted to see if I could fit in, and I got exactly that. Exactly what I thought I would.
TOM: What about the environment, or atmosphere, stood out to you?
BRANDEN: The campus was really nice. I knew it would be, but it was really nice. Once I got around some of the players, too, I knew I wouldn't be left out. Everyone was just real nice, and made you feel comfortable. They weren't hyping anything, they were just being real about what they go through. I hung out with Tate Forcier, and Roy Roundtree a little bit. Roy's hilarious, he was cracking jokes the whole time. I talked a little with Stephen Hopkins, too. It was good to hear from someone that just committed, and just got up there.
TOM: Did you get to have as much fun with any of the coaches?
BRANDEN: Yeah, coach Gib [Gibson]. Since I met him, he's been real cool. He's always been down to earth with me, and he's in to modern things, too. He's not too old school, and I like that. I actually talked to the defensive coordinator, too. He was a little older, so I didn't know how much we'd have in common, but he was real cool, too. I was surprised, he knew a lot about some modern things.
TOM: What was the conversation like between the coaches?
BRANDEN: We were just talking about the things I'd get out of Michigan. The education, how big the alumni base is, and how that can help with jobs. We talked about the defense, and if I came there, I would play outside linebacker. They like quick, aggressive, and athletic linebackers. We also talked about how the head coach wants to offer kids that will add to the family atmosphere, and help create a bigger family, which was cool.
TOM: Does the outside linebacker spot fit you? Are you comfortable with that?
BRANDEN: I'm 6-foot-5, and 220-pounds, but if you look at me, I don't look like I weigh that much. I have really good speed, and I feel like I'm smaller for the middle spot, so the outside is probably better for me. I actually used to play safety, but we were short on linebackers, so I had to play in the middle. I'm aggressive, though. I like to come off the edge, even though I'm in the middle, I cover tight ends all the time in our defense. I'm pretty versatile; I could really be anywhere on the field. The last time I ran the forty was around a year ago, and it was a 4.5 something.
TOM: I know you wanted your teammate, Delvon Simmons, to come with you, too. He didn't make it?
BRANDEN: No, he couldn't make it, but I'm going to tell him everything about it. He'll definitely want to come back up with me in the summer. We talk about going to the same school all the time. I say if it happens, it happens, but he says it's definitely going to happen. I don't really know yet. It's too early for me to narrow things down, until I take more visits. Michigan is definitely up there, but there's no list, yet.
Thanks to three exceptionally useful videos put out by MGoVideo now you can take in the performances of all three Michigan quarterbacks during the spring game in about 15 minutes. Bonus points for the awesome audio selections.
Standard caveats about spring apply, but it's still amazing to watch Denard's development.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has made it clear that today is the day Michigan will send a hundred or so practice hours onto the beaches of Normandy, where they will be cut down by the relentless pillbox gunners of the NCAA. We'll find out what the results were tomorrow. This does not count as Godwinning myself because I am attempting to make a D-Day reference and not angry enough at the infractions committee to compare them to Nazis. Promise.
Anyway: there will be other sacrifices as well. I've been unable to figure out exactly what those will be, but the word is "an eye for an eye." Since we are talking about practice, in the words of the Great Iverson, this will mean giving back the excess hours two for one and possibly putting some restrictions on quality control assistants or giving up the use of a coach for some period of time.
Back in February when the university announced the Notice of Allegations, message board folk scoured the NCAA archives for similar infractions and came up with two recent examples at San Diego State and Florida International; this blog then attempted to figure out what tomorrow would look like. Both gave up a bunch of practice hours over three years and imposed some additional coaching restrictions. San Diego State then took six total years of scholarship reductions. The Bylaw Blog's proprietor did not think that was something Michigan would see done to them:
Based on the difference between these two cases [SDSU and M], I would say reduced scholarships are still on the table, but are most likely to be self-imposed. Michigan might give up scholarships if they believe scholarships are worth less than practice and they can reduce the practice penalties somewhat by giving up something else.
IE: San Diego State probably had a chronically under-supplied roster then and the scholarship penalties were giving away things they didn't need. Michigan won't want to follow that path, though I've been pushing the idea that Michigan might take one this year because they won't be able to get up to 85 scholarship players anyway. On the other hand, the practice penalties won't be severe. Michigan's total hour overages come to 66. If they give back two for one (132 total) and they're allowed to spread that over three years Michigan will have to give up 44 practice hours this year. That's not a whole lot, especially if some of them take the form of conditioning sessions that go from mandatory to "voluntary," which seems like a reasonable thing to do since the practice overages were conditioning sessions.
Potential Complicating Factors
There are two things in Michigan's naughty file that do not have clear precedents. One is the "Failure to monitor" accusation leveled at Rodriguez. (The separate failure to monitor accusation against the university was something SDSU and FIU got hit with, so the penalties they took include that.) The NCAA took a poke at WVU to see if they were sitting on any records of malfeasance as part of their new effort to tag coaches with stronger consequences—see also the proposal to track coach-specific APRs—but the chance of that turning up anything other than a chagrin-inducing lack of records at WVU is slim. Still, it is possible the NCAA could levy a sanction against RR. Since this is a new initiative what that might be is unknown.
The second is exactly how bad the Quality Control staffer excesses were. It is one thing if they were helping out with stretching; entirely another if they were basically operating 7-on-7 drills supposed to be voluntary. That has not been made clear.
Once On The Beach
Once that's announced Michigan is basically done. In both of the similar cases above, the Committee on Infractions didn't impose any additional punishments except short probationary periods of two (the minimum) and three years. Michigan has those precedents to work off of and has hired the former head of the COI to prepare the response. The announced sanctions will be accepted by the COI basically as-is in August, and then it will start to recede into the past.
I'm actually looking forward to the word coming down tomorrow, as the distant possibility the NCAA sets fire to everything should be removed. This is especially relevant for recruits, as Michigan should be able to point to the self-imposed sanctions and declare the ability of the program to compete will not be compromised. After tomorrow, we can start talking about the important thing: wins and losses.
Michigan took two of three games at Penn State this weekend to claim a #2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. While all three games had many great positives, the ending to game two is how this series will be remembered. Michigan held a 4 run lead going into the bottom of the 9th, and the bull pen collapsed.
Weekend recap, series thoughts, and a look at the Big Ten bracket after the jump