things go poorly
Dear Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Snyder,
I read with interest your report about allegations of NCAA football violations at the University of Michigan. However, I felt that there were a number of areas in which the investigation and/or report could have been improved with more detail and comprehensive information. Certainly, there are space limitations for articles and deadlines to complete a project, but given the gravity of the subject, the report could have been more accurate and representative in the following ways:
1. Methodology - What specific questions were asked of players and parents? Was a breakdown of how the hours were spent asked of the players? I felt that additional characteristics were needed about the sources used (e.g., Carr recruit vs. Rodriguez recruit, number of former players vs. number of current players). I could come to a very different conclusion about the allegations if the report indicated that the sources were nine former players/transfers and one current player than if it came from 9 current players and 1 former player/transfer. Note that this can be done while still protecting the anonymity of players and parents who requested it. The report would have also greatly benefited from gathering information from a larger sample of individuals. While not all of this information needs to be included, the report would’ve greatly benefited from more detail about the nature of the interviews, what was asked, and source characteristics.
2. Confirming and Disconfirming Evidence - In the search for accurate answers to issues, individuals absolutely must seek out disconfirming as well as confirming evidence. This is true for scientists as well as for journalists. Unfortunately, I only found confirming evidence in the article published by the Detroit Free Press. If more players and parents would have been interviewed, disconfirming evidence would likely exist on this issue.
3. Report Context - The report also did not include any information on the recent (2008) NCAA survey results the USA Today published about the amount of hours collegiate student-athletes spend on academics and athletics. The NCAA study contained a large sample of collegiate student-athletes (N=1,600+ football players, N=21,000+ athletes), and indicated that college football players spend an average of 44.8 hours per week on combined involuntary and voluntary practices and workouts (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/2008-01-12-athletes-full-time-work-study_N.htm). Were you aware of this study? If so, I would have either requested data from the study to get more information or at least mentioned the survey in the report. This certainly does not absolve any program from violating hour limitations placed on daily/weekly practices and workout limits nor does it address all the issues present in the UM report, but I felt it certainly would have indicated to the reader that this is an issue that is more widespread (in fact, it’s probably commonplace) and not an isolated problem with one program or one sport. Furthermore, it would have placed the report in a better, more accurate context.
4. Selective Quotations - What did the other players indicate about practice and workout requirements? The articles included selective quotations from players who had negative things to say about practice and workouts as well as an indifferent comment from a freshman (Je’Ron Stokes) who was indifferent about the issue (as noted in the article). Were all players aware of what was being investigated during the interviews?
5. Resolution of Conflicting Information - The report indicates that that one player (sharing the sentiment of others) indicated that workouts in the past two off-seasons at Michigan “affected people’s grades. People were falling asleep in class.” Yet, UM reported that the 2008 cumulative Michigan football GPA is the highest it has been in nearly 20 years. These two conflicting pieces of information needed to be fleshed out more, or at very least mentioned together.
I sincerely hope you strongly consider creating a more comprehensive, balanced, and well-rounded report on such issues in the future.
The pattern is always the same. Local paper reports on alleged misdeeds by the local football team. Blogosphere immediately and reflexively explodes, crying "Witch-hunt!"; and boycotting the paper and accusing the reporters of bias, grudges, you name it; and protesting that the coaches wouldn't so much as jaywalk. Recognize this pattern? From KU to USC to, um, UM basketball. To that end, I challenge you to list examples in which this pattern didn't play out accordingly -- in which charges of systemic problems turned out to be totally bogus. Can't think of many, can you?
Thou doth protest too much, I think. Most of you can't really feel that confident that RR is the victim of a baseless witch-hunt. Seriously, in your heart of hearts, you're at least a little concerned that RR, while perhaps a fine coach, is a bit...murky. Problem is, you either won't or can't admit it. Because you only want to hear what you want to hear. Because you can't handle the the (possible) truth. Because you're seeing this through blue-colored glasses. Which is usually a fine quality, but not so much when we're talking about potentially serious violations that, if true, seriously impact our players. I'm shocked that nobody seems the least bit concerned about this. And a little ashamed.
Let's be clear: Even the News confirms that the team exceeded the practice limits. The freshmen confirmed same, and please stop trotting out the red-herring re the manner in which they were asked questions. They were clearly describing their practice schedules, on the record, on tape. That at least ten players, former or current, complained is a sign of some sort of trouble, if only in terms of team unity. Never would have happened in years past. Last but not least: that everyone else breaks the rules is no excuse. This isn't Alabama or Miami. This is Michigan. We play by the rules, or ought to. Student-athletes, not athlete-students.
Our collective response, so far, has been textbook: defensive, whiny, paranoid, biased, Palin-esque, a joke to every other fanbase. We sound like the KU basketball base, circa 1970s. Read this postings, replacing ND with M, and imagine what you'd be thinking. It's absurd. Posters protest bias by displaying monumental bias. Get some perspective. Let's let the investigation run its course before drawing conclusions. After all, have you been practicing with the team all year? Do you really know what happened? No, you don't. So maybe let's let the truth play out, rather than play the truth. Hysteria smacks of desperation. If RR messed-up, he and we must suffer consequences; if he didn't, we'll all be stronger in the end. We went to Michigan, most of us. We have hearts and brains. Let's start thinking more with the latter. Go Blue.
It's easy for the media and fans to take shots at Michigan and Rich Rod right now, but the true fans to support him will be laughing all the way to BCS bowls in the future. Rich Rod is taking a program who was so stuck in their old ways, that became so predictable and arrogant. RR is trying to turn it around, and transform big blue into a lean, lightning fast team full of athletes. I'm excited to see the progression over the next few years, that's the best part of being a sports fan, feeling the lows of the team and then rising/improving every year to get back on top.
I can only hope that the team rallies together this week and has big time practices. I envision this team filtering their rage from last season and using these allegations to come together this weekend and destroy WMU. I'm looking forward to seeing the speed and agility I've been reading about all summer, I want to be able to silence my friends who talk smack about the team I love so much. I was listening to David Bowie the other day and there's a line in the song Changes that struck me. "time may change me, but I can't change time." That's the truth, with patience and support we will be back on top.
Those who stay will be champions.
During one of my daily harassments to Brian I brought up the uphill battle "real" bloggers may face with informing the masses against the "lolz" bloggers. By this I mean that, for every blogger, professional or not, that takes their authenticity and reliability seriously, I feel like there's five who seek to put out the most half-assed material possible for the sole interest of proving how bad rival teams are. The recent profile of Tennessee blogs that still cannot get over the Heisman issue and come up with every conspiracy available is but the tip of the iceberg.
It's relevance has come out too clearly as of late. While message boards exploded with the latest "RR steals children from their parents, Barwis puts them in a hole and demands they put the lotion on their skin" accusations, all of that crap from the past comes up. RR shredded the only documents available. The Barwis Files MUST have included similar proof. Argh.
The only solution is to remain coherent and possibly stay out of opinion battles and between the lines of "linkable information only." I'm already kind of embarrassed at some of the stuff going up by UM fans/alum and had to even hold back from doing similar. It's incredibly frustrating and while Brian has done an incredible job of vindicating any faith some of us may have in the likelihood of this being shoddy journalism, it also makes it so much more appealing to go out there and knock some sense into people. Fight the urge to return fire with fire, though. Please.
In my opinion, writing the Press will do nothing. The odds the paper will look at it seriously and not file it under "fanatic knee-jerk hate" is minimal. Threatening to cancel your subscription? Either do it or shut up. It looks like sour grapes and, frankly, if there is stuff there that the press knows that has yet to be refuted, we should applaud the effort because integrity should be the goal - not that the Press should bury anything negative. The same should go for posting material incendiary to other fan bases or the Freep. Make them look like shit by finding holes in the article, not in how much of a nozzle the writers are.
The title is derived from my main point: within one of the waning episodes of Season One of Eastbound and Down, Kenny Powers falls into an argument that, as it progresses, makes him look worse as he looks for a way to escape it without acknowledging fault. To continue to just vent angrily while this issue goes for or against UM can only lead to both sides coming to this:
"I ACTUALLY FEEL REALLY BAD NOW; IT'S JUST THAT, *I'M KENNY POWERS!* AND I HAVE A REAL HARD TIME EXPRESSING MY EMOTIONS BUT I'M NOT GOING TO STOP YELLING BECAUSE THAT WOULD MEAN I LOST THE FIGHT!!"
I'll get off the soap box now but it would be nice to see the fanbase rally to simply use the internet, logic and research to shoot these accusations to shit instead of being the fanbase who yelled the loudest.
Dear Mr. Snyder and Mr. Rosenberg,
In light of your recent article on the University of Michigan Football program, it made me think of why there was not any reporting done on the ever day life of a Michigan engineering student.
In your article, you claim that football players spend 15-21 hours during the off-season working out and then up to 20 hours over the NCAA mandated 20 hrs/week during the season. So let's assume they are spending 40 hours a week on working toward their professional career.
I spend 60 hours/week working toward my professional career of being a Space System Engineer. I don't sleep sometime, eat bad/fatty food at random times during the night, drink coffee, and sacrifice my social life. You may ask why I do this? Is it mandatory and do you need to be working that hard to just get an undergraduate/masters degree? The answer to that is no. I could easily do the bare minimum, but I will tell you that will not make me the best at what I do.
I participate in extra-curricular organizations/projects that are completely voluntary. No class credit/pay/compensation. I do it b/c it is required for me to get ahead of my competition. I've seen companies flat out deny a kid who has a 4.0 b/c he had no voluntary activities to prove he was really dedicated. That is what it takes to succeed in America! If you don't do it, someone else will b/c the competition is stiff in everything especially in a down-economic time!
This country was/is built on people working unnecessarily hard. As an immigrant to this country, I have some prospective on what happens in other nations and trust me no one is as lucky as we here. If you work hard enough here, you might just get the chance to make a name for yourself.
I'm not going to hide that I'm a Michigan Fan and was taken aback by your recent article. I understand that your doing your job and attempting to bring light to a serious problem of students being exposed to harsh conditions. What I fail to understand though, is why you chose to pick on athletes or Michigan specifically other than the fact it would attract public attention. I think I get exposed to just as serious mental/physical conditions in trying to get my graduate degree, yet it is expected from me and complaining about it would get me nowhere. If I was going to write the story, I would focus on the demands of society for individuals to be perfect whether its in sports, at NASA, or frying burgers at McDonald's.
Finally, I just don't understand why you are trying to get Michigan in trouble. Our states economy is a wreck and sports are some of the only sources of state pride and community. It's possible you have a personal bad opinion about Michigan due to an association with a rival school or a letter you received in high school from the University titled DENIED, however, this opinion should be left out when reporting.
Your going up against some of the smartest people in business with the athletic department and seemingly have no chance of bringing it down.
I invite you to interview me about how terrible the demands and work load is in the Engineering School!
Huge Mega Scandal Possibly Worthy of Probation and/or Pullitzer Prize Uncovered at Michigan
The University of Michigan football team breaks the rules. All the time. Systematically. We talked to several, anonymous current and former players from the 2008 and 2009 UM teams and learned that they work out really hard, that voluntary workouts are “voluntary” workouts, and that they spend much longer than 4 hours a day or 20 hours a week on football-related activities. In short, we confirmed that they are, in fact, a competitive D-I program.
Further sleuthing, combined with our misunderstanding of “non-countable” activities, reveals that, based on our math (and misunderstanding of how the NCAA computes practice time) when the players say “we work out all the time,” they are in essence saying “our coaches break NCAA rules all the time.” Because we have added up the hours, and they are spending too many. Especially if you do not comprehend “non-countable” activities, which we do not. And why would we? If interpreting the NCAA rulebook for laymen (not to mention ourselves) would get us ESPN-level exposure, we would have done that. But it doesn't, so we didn't.
What we did do is contact some former players and tell them that while they were at Michigan they actually were only allowed to be spending 20 hours a week. When we hit them with this mind-bending knowledge (not explaining what counts toward those 20 hours since we ourselves did not understand) they were stunned, and said: “whoa man, we were spending much more than that.” And we will translate that for you; what they meant was, “Rodriguez has systematically broken NCAA rules for as long as he has been alive.”
Were we aware that we could monitor the doors of any D-I practice facility within the Milky Way for any one full day and immediately realize D-I football players participate in team activities for much more than four hours a day since that maximum of four hours does not pertain to voluntary workouts, meals, film, rehab, etc? No. We were not. Is that true? Oh. Well either (a) doesn’t matter or (b) please see our forthcoming article, “Every College Systematically Breaking NCAA Rules At All Times; Rules That Were Designed to Protect Players.”