The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
The shocker: when asked whether players had approached him about the alleged violations or if he had uncovered the story himself, Rosenberg said that he was not approached by any players directly, past or present, but that through the course of talking with Michigan players he ascertained that the program might be in violation of NCAA rules, and follow-up interviews confirmed his suspicions.
I'll repeat that: Rosenberg said that no players came to him with reports of NCAA violations. He had to ask.
Now, from the way this article was written, any logical reader would assume that there was great dissent and unrest within the Michigan program, and that players on the team had come forward to tell the Free Press about violations. But based on Rosenberg's interview, that was not so. Not even ex-players with an axe to grind came forward with allegations, they simply corroborated the details of the Free Press' findings.
Now, this does not mean that Michigan has not broken or severely "strained" the rules. They may have. But that has not been the big story here. As we all know, the story has been that current players went to the press about violations, which many have been quick to declaim as "crybaby" behavior and signs of program discord. Based on Rosenberg's interview, that didn't happen.
I was absolutely shocked at the seeming irrelevance with which Rosenberg made this statement. It was also telling to hear the show's host remind Rosenberg that during past interviews he had admitted to being "critical" of Rodriguez, which Rosenberg acknowledged while refusing to provide specific reasons for his feelings.
Also, when asked how many current players he had interviewed on the topic of violations, Rosenberg said he could not remember(!!!).
One last note: at no point during the 20-some minute interview did Mike Rosenberg say that he'd written the story or pursued the topic for the safety or health of the athletes. I thought this would have been an easy, albeit somewhat absurd, justification for the story; to claim that it was newsworthy to protect student athletes from NCAA-banned overwork. But obviously that was so far from Rosenberg's mind and his rationale for writing this piece that he didn't think to bring it up.
I myself have no real connections to Michigan. I am not from Michigan, rather the east coast. I did not attend Michigan: I just recently graduated from a small liberal arts university in the south. In fact I will be attending my first ever Michigan game September 12. I am a fan simply for the sheer fact that my older brother grew up a fan. Maybe it was the Fab Five that sold him or the heroics of Elvis to Desmond. But I've been a fan ever since I can remember. I love Michigan football; more than my New York Yankees, more than my Pittsburgh Steelers. And what I know for certain is that I Believe In Michigan. I believe in our tradition, I believe in our coaches, and I believe in the young men who take the field every saturday of the fall season.
I believe in Rich Rodriguez and what he and his entire staff is doing for our program. I am confident that he has complied with all the regulations set forth by the NCAA. I have close friends who play Division 1 football who agree that in season (summer-fall) their days are incredibly long. They echoed Chad Henne's sentiments about the amount of hard work it takes to be part of a successful Division 1 program, and that alot of "extra hours" must be logged by the individual if they want to succeed or bear the fruits of their labor if you will. Naturally players are "punished" for not participating in optional work outs and captains practices. The punishment comes from the lack of reps, the lack of conditioning, lack of knowledge of the playbook, etc. They don't play simply because they didn't put in that extra work and the guy in front of him did, he earned his place, and for his committment and self-motivation he is the better player. The best players will play. Rodriguez didn't just come here after 20 plus years of coaching football, decide not to follow the rules, and run a proud program into the ground. This has all been a series of unfortunate events.
I believe in guys like Chad Henne and Mark Ortmann and Obi Ezeh. Michigan Men. Henne never played a down for Coach Rod, yet he was there in his defense. Ortmann and Ezeh, recruited by Lloyd Carr, has bought into Rodriguez and his staff. They too came to the defense of their coach. Brandin Hawthorne and Je'Ron Stokes, two freshman recruited by the new staff, were taken advantage of and misquoted, and are pist about it. Parents of the players have come to the defense of the coaching staff.
Justin Boren and Kurt Wermers left uncerimoniously. They are not Michigan Men; never have been, never will be. They did not buy into the coaching staff, they did not buy into the program. The program is something bigger than the coaching staff. Michigan football is greater than any individual, any group of individuals. Michael Rosenberg is not a Michigan Man. A saboteur maybe. From the start of the Rich Rod era, this man has man has made evident the fact that he wasn't in his corner. He has been on a personal crusade to get Rodriguez out and belittle his credentials. Much has been made about his article, and I don't even want to get into the fray. But I will say this: I believe this is a weak attempt by a non-believer to try and throw this team off. I feel that is Rosenberg's way throw a wrench into this season, create more turmoil, and ultimately sabotage the Rodriguez era. Call me crazy, or a conspiracy theorist, but that's the vibe I am getting. Perfect timing in what is supposed to be a new season and a fresh start. I trust that this staff has done everything they had to do.
What Rosenberg will never touch on is that Rodriguez and his staff are molding these players into young men, into leaders, and into high minded individuals. They play as a team and they play for eachother. The experience they garnered from the hardships of last season they will carry with them through life. They will use it to conquer their next challenge. 3-9 may have been the best thing for this team and for us as fans. Let's face it, as Michigan fans we've been spoiled, and it lends to the notion that we're a bit self-entitled. We should take last years experience as well and make ourselves better for it.
There are three people in regards to this recent event. The first group will sit back, hold no judgments until the facts are clearly presented, then form an opinion on that. The second will continuously bash Rodriguez. They will say he should have been fired after last year; he doesn't care about Michigan or its proud tradition. They will say that he's here to run the program into the ground and that he's only looking for the next big pay check. To that I say: Unless he's taking over for Urban Meyer or Pete Carroll, he ain't getting it. It doesn't get bigger than Michigan. They will say he has no family values and he recruits questionable character. These people can talk a big game when things go bad, and then feel entitled to drink the champagne when we win. It's inevitable.
But then there is the last group. The group that believes in what is being done at Michigan. That understands football. That realizes that it must be broken down, before it can be built back up. That knows the personel isn't quite there yet, but its coming. That realizes the amount of hard work these players and coaches put in Sunday through Friday. And knows that come Saturday, these guys will play their hearts out and play with pride. They believe in Rich Rodriguez and Mike Barwis, and Calvin MaGee, and Greg Robinson and the rest of the coaching staff. They believe that Brandon Graham will lead this team because he had unfinished business. They believe that Brandon Minor will push himself and his teammates to be the best because he is so disgusted by what went on last year. They believe that this team will rally around two freshman quarterbacks because they offer the best chance to win. They believe that this team will win when they deserve to win, and that that time is now.
I believe that these recent events will make this team and the Michigan family stronger and more resilient. I believe that Rich Rodriguez will take us to the other level, and he will do so with all his power while complying with NCAA rules. I am 100% unconditionally behind him. I believe that Coach Carr's recruits will bridge the gap between the old and the new, and that Coach Rod's recruits are really going to help us turn the corner. I believe that Michigan will soon become feared by their oppenents, and that the Spread is soon going to fire on all cylinders. I believe that we are privileged to be Michigan fans, and I will always be proud to call myself so. I firmly believe that those who stay will be champions.
I believe in Michigan football. I will always believe in Michigan Football.
WMU has a lot of places to fill after graduation, only returning 11 starters from last season with 4 being on D.
Returning Starters; DE, DT, LB, LB
The defense does get a +1 in transfer Doug Wiggins(S) who previously played at Miami and sat out last year. Wiggins may not be as successful as Delmas was last year but he will bring some seniority and guidance to the other new starters in the secondary. Closer to the line Pritchard(LB) will probably have his name called all year, he had the 2nd most tackles last year with 86(behind Delmas with 111) including 10.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. They also return the all important MLB in Zajac, though he has only made 5 starts, he played in 12 games last year and should be a key contributer this year. The line its self returns half the starters and will be including a JUCO in TJ Lynch. He could be the pass rushing DE Cubit loves. He isn't listed as a starter in the media guide but he is sure to see time this year. Overall this D was instrumental in the upset of Illinois last year, just about everyone saw time in that game do to injuries.
Returning starters, QB, RB, WR, C, OG, OG, OT
Hiller returns, obviously, as well as the majority of the line. Losing one OT. The returning line played all 13 games last year with only the returning center and guard not starting every game (starting 8 and 12 games respectively). Behind Hiller is Burdi who broke off a few nice runs last year, the longest going for 42 yrds and a TD, I would doubt he sees much time but if Hiller goes down he could be a decent threat to run. In the remaining skill positions they return starting WR Juan Nunez who only has 11 starts to his name and RB Brandon West. The WR corp were banged up last year after the Illinois game losing 2 big contributers who have since graduated. Looking at the depth chart, the roster only includes about a handful of starts beyond Nunez. That is not to say this will be a weak unit but they too will be playing many underclassmen at the receiver positions. Brandon west was a 1000 yard back in 2008 (5.0 ypc) and with all that Oline returning there is no reason he wont be again this year. Behind him they return their number 2 and 3 RBs as well. Matt Stevens is now the #1 TE, when the TE is a viable option in the offense Cubit does not hesitate to use them, but with his 7 total starts and ho-hum stats I am not sure how much he will be utilized.
There are definite questions that wont be answered till the game is played which is what everyone is so excited about. The biggest offensive question is the receivers, If they are up to snuff then you can expect a balanced attack of rushing and passing. If those receivers don't run the right routes or make mistakes it could end up being a heavy dose of the running game with just passes of the shorter variety to keep the defense off balance. There is no doubt that Cubit's offense can showcase stars, Hiller this year, TE Tony Scheffler and WR Greg Jennings both from 2006 were 2nd round picks to the broncos and packers respectively. It is very possible there is a sleeper hiding within the roster.
The defensive secondary will have the biggest questions to answer with everyone to be replaced. The line though could end up having a few too many holes this early in the season to be successful, but I think it will be largely unchanged in a stats point of view from last year. The Bronco's defense can play big when it counts though; holding Heisman contender Garrett Wolfe in 2006 ( who totaled 1400 ruyds in 6 games) to 25 total yards and pulling the upset 16-14, that was a huge game that year. Then you look back to their upset at Illinois last year, at Iowa in '07, and at virginia in '06 and you cannot sleep on either side of the ball with WMU.
So what do I think?
I buy into the, if you have 2 QBs you have no QBs opinion and if there is 3 then there still is no QB yet. But there are too many questions in the WMU secondary to not think that at least one of the QBs will find a throwing lane and hit a deep pass for 6. I think the inexperience on each team will be canceled out between the two of them; both sides of the ball will make mistakes but there won't be a massive TO margin. I don't think the UM RBs will get enough yards early to make this a high scoring game, by pounding the Dline early though they will take advantage of them late in the game. The WMU offense will put up yards, but without an established WR, or two, to go to they will have to rely too much on the running game to be successful.
Michigan is in a more favorable situation than a corporation that has been publicly accused of say, securities fraud. Public allegations would trigger an immediate SEC investigation, and then you're playing defense in trying to manage the enforcement body's investigation, which makes it tough to build an affirmative case that the client didn't do anything wrong. Unlike the federal government, though, the NCAA is generally willing to let a university conduct an internal review before it takes a look at the situation, so Michigan is more in the position of a company that's had internal allegations of misconduct brought to its attention.
In that situation, the point of the investigation isn't to get to the "truth" in some objective sense, but rather to answer a simple question - knowing what we know, can we go to the enforcement body in question, lay out our facts, and convince them that there's no point in investigating any further? The client is hiring you to put together a case that answers the question in the affirmative. You're going to try to discover the negatives as well as the positives and not whitewash things if you conclude that something illegal took place, but you're also going to present the facts you do discover in the best possible light for your client.
Getting specific, Rosenberg's story indicated that Michigan has signed statements from every player stating that all time spent on football beyond 20 hours was voluntary. This is infinitely stronger evidence than you usually have in a situation like this. If the question is whether X occurred and harmed a group of people, and there are contemporaneous statements from the supposed victims that X did not occur, we'd end the investigation right there. Is there more to the story? Probably. But there's more than enough to convince the enforcement body that it's not worth pursuing the issue any further. The SEC or NCAA or whoever have limited enforcement resources, and they're not going to waste them investigating situations where they'd have no hope of winning any subsequent legal proceedings. And overcoming Michigan's paper trail in this situation would be virtually impossible.
So if a company in Michigan's position came to us we'd laugh, tell them they have nothing to worry about, take a look at the paper trail, and then either end things there or write a brief disclosure to the enforcement body saying that X was alleged, we examined documents that conclusively disproved X, and that's it. And that would be the end of it.
"We want the Big Ten championship and we're gonna win it as a team! They can throw out all those great backs and great quarterbacks and great defensive players throughout the country and in this conference. But, there's gonna be one team that plays solely as a team. No man, is more important than the team. No coach, is more important than the team. THE TEAM! THE TEAM! THE TEAM! And, if we think that way, all of us. Everything that you do, you take into consideration, what effect does it have on my team? Because, you can go in to professional football. You can go anywhere you want to play, after you leave here. You will never play for a team again! You'll play for a contract. You'll play for this. You'll play for that. You'll play for everything except the team! Think what a great thing it is, to be a part of something that is, THE TEAM! We're gonna win it. We're gonna win the championship again, because we're gonna play as a team! Better than anybody else in this conference, we're gonna play together as a team. We're gonna believe in each other. We're not gonna criticize each other. We're not gonna talk about each other! We're gonna encourage each other! And when we play as a team, and the old season is over. You and I know, it's Michigan again, MICHIGAN!"
From what I can tell a workout consists of some variation of the following routine:
1) Putting the ipod and armband on, setting the playlist you like best, and bobbing your head cause you know you can't dance
2) Getting to a station, putting weight plates on
3) Doing a set (and grunting for the last 2-3 reps)
4) Looking at yourself in the mirror while you muster up energy for the next set
5) Change the song on your ipod and begin the next set
Hyperbole aside, in that routine I see a relatively small portion of actual "workout" time. I imagine teams that calculate to the minute factor that into their time limits and only say time actually lifting iron plates is "workout time".
My point is that when a player says they take even 4 hours for a workout, it's entirely possibly that would still fall within a 2-hour limit.
Thanks NCAA for making all this crystal clear.
Now a slightly off topic complaint regarding punishments experienced for missing an off-season workout - note the article never states whether that punishment is for missing time in the within-rules mandatory 8 hours of off-season conditioning or for missing a voluntary workout. It simply aims to imply that it's for missing anything. That's the only "solid" evidence the article presents to show that off-season stuff is required - YES 8 HOURS IS REQUIRED!
Furthermore, if you schedule time to workout and don't show up (voluntary or not) - shouldn't you be punished. Your'e wasting someone else's time by making an appointment and not showing up.