The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
In taking on this particular brouhaha, Dr. Saturday mentions perhaps the most relevant bit of context for the Freep article. As he says:
"A survey of Division I athletes last year revealed the reality: Time limits or not, big-time football everywhere is a full-time job that consumes vastly more hours than the NCAA officially sanctions -- and has to be, if the competition is putting in the same work. That players will "voluntarily" go above and beyond the proscribed limits is taken for granted."
Now quoting the linked survey:
"Football players in the NCAA's Division I Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A) said they spent an average of 44.8 hours a week on their sport — playing games, practicing, training and in the training room — compared with a little less than 40 hours on academics."
So we should in fact be able to determine exactly how far above and beyond the average Michigan footballers train under Rodriguez. According to the Freep article, Michigan footballers played in excess of the NCAA maximum (20 hours) in the following manner:
"With three hours on Saturday and a full day on Sunday, players tallied about 12 hours on those two days. They were off Monday. Players said they would spend an additional three to four hours with the team on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, bringing the weekly total to 21- 24 hours."
Which brings the absolute total to 20 + 24 = 44 hours per week. And from the USA Today survey, we know the average is ~45 hours per week. While this doesn't exactly settle the question of whether this is right or why Michigan players are going to the press, it's clear the Freep didn't do its job. The proper frame for this is would absolutely be to cite prior investigations, like SEMO and SDSU and, if it existed, a massive survey of D-1A college football players. Clearly, the Freep would have no way of knowing if these things existed.
The major issue is settled. The real questions now are
A) Why are our players going to the media and anonymously at that?
B) Is there a legitimate concern here? Are these kids suffering as a result?
As to the latter question, Dr. Saturday helpfully reminds us of the incentives:
"Coaches follow the letter of the law at the peril of their records and their jobs."
True this. If the NCAA is going to allow the average to be what it is, new coaches with something to prove are obviously, in the very least, going to have to be at that average. Honestly, I'm very surprised that Rodriguez isn't well over the average. This potentially reflects far more on Carr than it does on Rodriguez assuming there really isn't a quality of life issue here. Mr. Hinton makes just that point:
"In that sense, assuming that Carr's staff really were the sticklers they're widely reputed to be (an assumption backed up by the Free Press' reports), the exuberance of their successors is just another case of Rodriguez and Barwis bringing the program into the 21st Century. The fact that they're being singled out may only be because they're doing it at one of the very few places that knows the difference."
As to the former question, the disconnect between what the players were doing and what they must now do to see the field may very well be the difference maker here. If Lloyd truly was running his program differently than anybody in the country toward the end, this kind of reporting would only come out here, about Michigan football. This is perhaps less the Freep's doing (outside of their inability to contextualize anything at all) than fall out from an iconoclast leaving the program.
I'm not too sure what to make of the "allegations". It seems that there were some former players (and I'm not too sure if the current players that were mentioned were just the freshmen that he cut and pasted their quotes) that didn't like the change in culture and want to throw stones.
My take: What it seems to me is that Rodriguez, Barwis walk in last year... see the dumbbells ala jack lalanne circa 19-ought-8... and after picking their jaws off the floor, they say "we have a ton of work to do". So they have their meeting with the players, say "this is how it's going to change", and in their minds they know they will suck, but let's whip these fluffballs into shape for next year. Workouts become hard, reallyyyy hard (comparatively, you know, like actual workouts now), and some don't like this change. Workouts beyond the 8 hours are "voluntary" as everyone winks, but just like every other sport, it's about who wants it bad enough. All they knew from the Carr days was full large pizzas and lifting some weight some times, right? Some shined in these situations, some didn't, got left behind, and now complained to a willing Freep who is more than happy to sensationalize it to end up on the ESPN.com ticker. The Brandon Minors excelled, the Borens didn't in this environment.
Mod Edited Formatting
In my mind, the Freep article left a host of important questions unanswered in its attempt to brand the Michigan football program NCAA rule-breakers.
1. Most obviously, who are these guys? The phrase "current or former" players is vague. How many are currently on the roster? How many left the program early? How many graduated? How many lost playing time under Rodriguez? How many were Carr recruits? All these questions could have been answered without compromising the anonymity of the sources. Why weren't they?
2. Speaking of anonymity, why were the former players allowed the opportunity to speak without attribution? The Freep offered this justification for granting anonymity: “The players and parents agreed to talk only if they were not identified because they said they feared repercussions from the coaching staff.” How does this apply to former players? Were they worried Mike Barwis would come to their houses and pull some MMA moves on them? I used to work for a media watch non-profit, and they liked to call these “spinonymous sources” – individuals granted anonymity on dubious grounds with an obvious interest in pushing one side of the story. A disgruntled transfer who has already cut all ties with Michigan would certainly fit in that category.
3. How many programs have off-season conditioning programs that, if required, would wildly violate the NCAA hour limits? How many of these programs strongly encourage their players to attend, so they can get bigger and stronger and compete for playing time? Would this quote apply to all of them? “‘It was mandatory,’ one player said. ‘They’d tell you it wasn’t, but it really was.’"
4. Why are the quotes from freshmen Je’Ron Stokes and Brandin Hawthorne in the story? Were they misled as to the nature of the story? Did their quotes add anything to the story’s contention that Michigan was requiring players, in violation of NCAA rules, to attend rigorous offseason workouts? With all the Freep’s concern for the anonymity of both current and former players, why would they put true freshmen in the uncomfortable situation of having their quotes used in a way they obviously never intended? The disclaimer that the players were “not complaining” does nothing to change the fact that these student-athletes are now forever publicly associated with a story eviscerating the program they just joined.
However, as NCAA sanctions and the like were mentioned, I began to see a glimmer of hope:
1. All programs do this. As everyone knows, in college (and high school sports, for that matter) off season workouts are not "voluntary", but mandatory if you ever want to see the field.
2. The coaches never strictly declared they were mandatory. Because of this, I'm not sure the NCAA truly can come back and slam the U-M football program. Besides, what are they going to do, take away our 3 wins from last year?
3. Finally, this seems to be another facet of the "wah wah family values" that we've seen develop over the last year and half. Hopefully the NCAA will take this into consideration when reviewing the situation.
After the big game in 2007, his personality changed. He had a seizure. He was soon diagnosed with a brain tumor. He fought it valiantly to include high risk, low reward surgery, but died just a few months later at the age of 43. He left a wife and four boys under the age of 13. He was a good man, a good father and a good friend. I should have been a better friend to him but life is busy and you never expect a timetable for such things.
The neighborhood did what it could to pitch in. I would mow his lawn frequently until the boys took over. Brian was always working on some project in the yard. Seeing these uncompleted jobs really hit home with me, truly representing a life cut short, incomplete. I digress. I guess that gradually life returned to some normality for his family. They seem to be doing pretty well, all things considered. His wife said that he will be honored in some way at the OSU/Navy game. Sam/Pogue, if you are there, lift a glass or doff your cap for my friend and neighbor. I will be fortunate enough to be at the Big House with my two sons.
I am more excited than I have been in a few years for the upcoming season. I hope to see Michigan return to winning ways. I'd love nothing more than to put it to those bastards from Ohio. But when I roll into the neighborhood with an "M" plate on the front of my truck, I am greeted by blond boys making goofy OH-IO hand gestures. I have to smile. It lends some perspective. Three and nine seasons, "being owned" by Tressel, even Rosenberg's "shocking" revelations don't seem to matter much. I just plan to enjoy the ride. Here's to a great, successful, safe and healthy football season to all--even in Ohio.
What a difference one week makes. It was hard to believe this was actually the same player, and the same Spartan High team for that matter. Class 4A Spartan High absolutely dominated traditionally strong Class 3A Union High in Union's home opener. The Vikings scored touchdowns on five of their nine possessions en route to a 35-0 trashing of the Yellow Jackets. The Vikings improved to 1-1 on the season and the Yellow Jackets fell to 0-2.
One problem with evaluating players on a week-by-week basis is that (1) they improve each week and (2) it's hard to gauge the quality of the competition, especially early on. Some took my review last week as "grim", but while his performance was really nothing short of awful, it was just one game. One game that it turns out was against a very high quality opponent. Just a point that I wanted to make mention of and that everyone needs to keep in mind in reading this. Until I have more of a body of evidence to work with these should be taken as an evolving body of evaluative work. Now onto the fun...
The start of this game induced several minutes of WTF is going on here? Jones did not start at QB. Instead, sophomore Adrian(?) Kinnock got the starting nod. Obvious first thoughts were that there was an injury or some type of trouble, but Jones was back in for the second possession and for the rest of the half. This repeated in the second half (i.e. Kinnock started, followed by Jones) so this should NOT be taken as an indication of any type of a problem for Jones. In hindsight I am certain that it had everything to do with the quality of the opponent and a desire by the coaching staff to get Kinnock some meaningful playing time with the first team. From an evaluative perspective it was actually quite helpful though as it gave a nice perspective of the two quarterbacks running the same offense against Union's first defense. It was a night and day difference between Jones and Kinnock in every single facet, all significantly in Jones' favor.
It really was a night and day difference between this week and last. Jones was almost completely flawless tonight in every facet of the game. He passed for a beautiful 50 yard TD pass on a lights out play fake on a 4th and 4 and ran for 3 short touchdowns (3 yards, 1 yard, and 3 yards). The fact that the touchdowns were short doesn't mean that they weren't impressive. One of the 3 yard touchdown runs was a beautiful play fake that left everyone in the stadium, including the Union defenders, having no idea who had the ball. The most stunning part of his game was his absolute mastery on play fakes on both play action passes and play fakes to set up boot legs or quarterback draws. He had at least two runs of 20+ yards. Overall he was utilized much more effectively this week and he, as well as the rest of his teammates, executed much better this week. My suspicion is that the Dorman High team they played last week will turn out to be far better than most people expected at the beginning of the season (and they were expected to be pretty good) and that contributed to the somewhat dower performance last week. If there was one thing that really stood out in my mind tonight it was without a doubt Jones' ability to absolutely baffle the defense and a good portion of the crowd on the play fakes. It really was a sight to behold. He's definitely not the fastest guy in the world, as I mentioned last week, but he certainly is fast and his speed showed through much more this week. While not exceptionally fast by any stretch, he is slippery to tackle and shows the ability to escape trouble with his athleticism and strength. On one play in particular he broke a sure sack by backpeddling out of it and proceeded to throw an absolute strike for a first down. His long passes were much more accurate this week and continued to exhibit good velocity. My suspicion is that this entire team played very tight last week and it showed all around. The real test on that front will be when Spartan High and Dorman High face off again in the final game of the regular season (it's weird, they play twice each year). Until then it will continue to be a week-by-week evaluation with little ability to evaluate the strength of the oppenent until more games are played. All in all this was a drastic improvement over last week for Jones (in case that wasn't already obvious), and I can certainly see now why he caught Michigan's interest. He continues to be a much better passer than I expected.
(1) Jones out / started at Union 40 / TD
(2) Jones in / started at own 42 / TD / pass: 1-1 (5 yds) / rush: 2 (4 yds), TD (3 yds)
(3) Jones in / started at own 30 / TD / pass: 3-3 (58 yds), TD (50 yds) / rush: 1 (19 yds) / sack: 1 (-8 yds)
(4) Jones in / started at 50 / TD / pass: 2-2 (19 yds) / rush: 2 (8 yds), TD (1 yd)
(5) Jones out / started at own 45 / punt / pass: 2-3 (25 yds) / sack: 1 (-10 yds)
(6) Jones in / started at Union 3 / TD / rush: 1 (3 yds), TD (3 yds)
(7) Jones in / started at Union 49 / downs / pass: 0-1
(8) Jones in / started at own 43 / missed FG / rush: 2 (37 yds) / Jones left drive after 20 yd run with bruised hand and drive faltered
(9) Jones out / started at own 20 / punt
Passing: 5-7, 107 yards, TD
Rushing: 8 carries, 71 yards, 3 TD
Sack: 1, -8 yards
The following are the comments that I wrote down throughout the game:
- Tight spiral with good velocity
- Good action on play-action-pass
- Good touch and accuracy on pass across body to flat
- Game program listed his name as "Cornelius" (final determination to be made at home opener)
- Good ball fake tucked into 19 yard run with quick cutback
- Awesome play-action on 50 yard touchdown pass on 4th down
- Hides ball extremely well on play-action
- Tight accurate spiral on long balls; excellent trajectory
- Appeared comfortable out of shotgun and from under center
- Quick feet on drop backs from under center and out of shot gun
- Broke a sack with his back peddle and threw an absolute strike for an 8 yard gain to the 1 yard line
- Obvious polish difference between Jones and Kinnock (substantially in Jones' favor, as would be expected between a senior and a sophomore)
- Just awesome deception on play-action bootleg TD run left defenders completely baffled on who had the ball
- High ball on 4th down incompletion, but coverage was underneath not over the top
- Commands respect on play-action that opens huge holes for his backs
Spartan High travels to Northwestern High near Rock Hill, SC (just south of Charlotte, NC) on 9/4. I will not be in attendance as I will be up north for Labor Day and the start of the college season. My next report will come after Spartan High's home opener against Sumter High on 9/11.
If anyone has any questions I will obviously be glad to try to answer them to the best of my ability. Also, if anyone has anything they would like for me to evaluate in the coming weeks please let me know and I will add them to my list.