spoiler alert: i linked this
I've also been a fan of the Rodriguez hiring. I still remember how excited I was when I checked my Blackberry on a train from New York to Washington on a Saturday afternoon and the Rodriguez rumors had hit the web. I also don't blame him -- much -- for last year's 3-9 season.
All that said, I think the turn in events makes it unlikely this hiring will turn out happily in the long term. I believe it will end in one of two ways: Michigan will go 5-7, 6-6 and 7-5 and the fan base will turn on Rodriguez; or Michigan will go 9-3 and Rodriguez will say I can coach just about anywhere so why do I need this crap and decide to start over somewhere else.
One of my responsibilities in my job is to act as an ethics advisor for a government agency. I regularly brief senior executives who join the agency about the ethics rules. For the most part, they are compliance rules -- don't work on things in which you have a financial interest, don't accept expensive lunches or gifts, etc. I also, however, talk about the infamous "Washington Post" test. Essentially there are a lot of things one does that are perfectly legal but have an appearance of not being kosher. If the Post -- or the Times or CNN -- get wind of the issue, the initial story is on page 1. When the story fails to pan out, it winds up on page B19. Everyone sees the first story; no one sees the exoneration.
So how does that impact the current situation. Well we all know the initial story is on page 1. The exoneration may come, but do you think the Freep is going to put it on page 1. Do you think ESPN is even going to run stories saying that nothing came of the allegations.
I'm not sure exactly how it came about but Rodriguez has done things to make himself a target. Perhaps it's jealousy. Perhaps it's that Rodriguez is a little arrogant. Perhaps he failed to kiss a couple of asses early on. But, whatever the issue, there's an issue. Once that happens, you have to be squeaky clean, or the first inkling of an issue will make it to page 1 and that appears to have happened here.
The fact that Rodriguez is doing exactly what 100+ other coaches is doing is irrelevant. No one else cares.
There may be some things that can rescue the situation. Perhaps the most likely is that I'm wrong about Rodriguez taking a hike. Hopefully his skin is a lot thicker than most people's and that that 9-3 season will not only quiet the critics but make him satisfied with his lot in Ann Arbor. Other scenarios are some of his brethren coming to his defense. We're not fans of Jim Tressel or Kirk Ferentz, but if they were to come out and say we've seen the stories and don't think there's a story, that would help immensely. Someone in the MSM could do some investigation of Rosenberg and totally destroy his story. If that were to happen soon, that too could lead to a favorable end to the story. I am, however, not optimistic and that makes me a little depressed at a time when I -- we -- should be looking forward to a season of redemption.
i've liked the RR hire since i heard of it. i just missed the bo era, but the predictable and underachieving teams since the early 90s were just maddening. sure, we won big ten titles. and once in a while we knocked off an sec team in a bowl game. but for the most part, we lost big (or worse, little) games it seemed like we should have won. there are a couple of anomalies - i don't know where we pulled that nc from in 97, nor the defeat of florida in 2007.
don't get me wrong - i have a lot of respect for lloyd carr, and i'm proud to have had him as coach at michigan for so long. he brought an air of responsibility and respectability to a fan base that really believes we do things the right way.
which brings me to my point. there's no denying these players spend upwards of 40 hours a week on football. how many of those are "voluntary" or mandated, honestly, i don't think there's a distinction. a virtual distinction, sure, but in reality, they're all mandated. i'm ok with that. to win, you have to be willing to make the sacrifices and put in the time.
if we're guilty, i'll take my lumps. ok, we broke the rules. give us our punishment...
but then go out and punish the other 100+ programs who do exactly the same thing. i doubt that michigan is unique in their interpretation and application of the "rules" regarding practice time. to keep up with the joneses, you have to work as hard as the joneses. so i do believe that everybody is doing it.
but what about the student side to these student athletes? is everybody going to stop doing "it"? or are the rules archaic enough to be changed? and if the rules are changed, what should they be changed to?
this is not really a new suggestion. maybe it's not particularly original. but i haven't seen it anywhere since this thing exploded. give these students a "professional sports" major. throw in some football (or hockey, baseball, basketball, rowing, golf, etc.) as part of their class load, and give them credit for it. that's quality learning that could (should?) lead to the attainment of a degree and definitely leads to the development of important life skills. throw in some finance and money management courses. maybe something on how the professional sports operate as businesses; what it means to have and/or be an agent; and, if you want, throw in the rest of the general ed requirements that all the rest of us have to take. during the season, let the sport be 8/12 units they're enrolled in. if you don't want to take up the whole year eg hockey, go to a quarter system that may more directly line up with the seasons.
not all these students will go pro. their degree will still serve them well. brian has raised many examples of athletes who used their "general studies" degrees to great advantage. and this is no different than art students, or architecture, music, english, history, and even some engineering students (not saying there's anything wrong with any of those majors - my sister is an art major and very happy; i have degrees in engineering and biology, and am working on a degree in education).
i don't like the idea of paying student athletes - let them go pro if they want to get paid. to me, college athletics is great because of the players and their allegiance to their schools (most of them, at least). but in this day and age of the huge cash grab at the expense of these students, give them a break.
i, for one, appreciate the culture change that's come with coaches rodriguez and barwis. i don't understand how suddenly coach lost his integrity when he left wvu, but wasn't a bum at wvu, clemson, tulane or glenville state. i don't see it. from the outside, and where i'm sitting, all the negative press has been largely vindictive, with little substance. and i think he's doing an outstanding job with our student athletes.
in summary, i think some ncaa policies are a bit outdated and could use some refreshing. while the ideas presented here may seem ridiculous to some, i would argue that some creative thinking would go a long way to reconciling big-time college athletics with the concept of student athlete that so many people (including me) cling to.
scott quakkelaar '93
I am just curious how many out there agree with my HUGE opinion, or what a lot of you overall think that I don't see.
From a media relations standpoint this story sucks. Michigan is getting dragged through the dirt and most people won't read far beyond the headline.
From a team standpoint, this is probably a huge unifying moment, the line in the sand, us against the world. Think about how angry the Mgoblog community is, and consider the fact that it wasn't your teammates that were mislead and ambushed, it wasn't your coach, the guy you work with every day, who was dragged through the mud. Your anger probably doesn't even approach the team's collective anger about the situation.
With the Athletic Dept and coaches probably instructing players not to talk to any media, there's no outlet, no way to defend their coach. Each passing day is only going to make the anger more intense, as more BS is piled on. The only way to improve the situation is going to be on the field. Come Saturday, every WMU player might as well be wearing a Snyder or Rosenberg Freep jersey. I have no doubt that Michigan will be hitting hard right out of the gate.
(Note: I'm not saying we're going to be head hunting/doing stupid things like a Crable or Butler. I think it will be a tight, focused anger. Execute, execute, execute, without pity. Also I'm told there's an ESPN article that corroborates some of this. Go Obi.)
There's been some talk about this being a distraction. While I agree that this is impacting our greater community and possibly Rich Rod himself, I doubt the players that have bought into his system (aka, the starters and key contributors) give a flying f*** about Rosenberg's allegations. Do you think they're going to take Rosenberg's side over Rodriguez's, that this story has instilled doubt into their minds? They know the results of their summer work. They know they have to avenge a 3-9 season. They know only winning will shut the critics up and will be more motivated than ever.
And on the flip side, Rosenberg, and the Freep by extension, will probably lose lots of access with regard to Michigan athletics. Good luck talking the athletes and coaches now; they probably wouldn't even admit that the sun is shining or that snow is wet to a Freep staffer (Rich Rod forces students, players, to fight, with snow!)(Follow up: anonymous players state: "I've never seen anything like this" "He just stood there and laughed")
So, to summarize: Team is Angry. Will try and use anger on the field to win the games. This strategy may work. Pad levels will be good. However, if Pad Levels are bad, this strategy also may not work. Watch the game to find out.
The decline of newspapers did not start with blogs or the internet. It really started with cable TV. The whole point of a newspaper is to get you the news faster than any other way, and hopefully the correct news. Unfortunately for the Free Press, I can watch 24-hour cable news while the paper is still being printed, and I can wake up in the morning and get sports scores that didn't even make it into the paper. So the newspaper, in order to survive, has to change its entire purpose.
One way to survive, the only one I think could work, is to turn the newspaper into more of a large-scale local magazine that comes out on weekends, and maybe once during the week. Instead of reprinting wire reports, and having short, shallow articles on a host of subjects which contain less information than what is easily accessible on the web, they could devote whole pages to single investigative stories. Five-part features on corruption in city government. Multi-page explanations of the details of health care reform bills. You know, NEWS. This is the hard way. It requires people to, you know, be journalists. Maybe, if you are writing a story about, say, someone breaking a rule, it would be useful to reprint said rule, and perhaps compare the alleged behavior to the rule in a less than superficial manner. This method takes time, thought, and journalistic skill. Do it right, and people will pay MORE than 50 cents a day for it (or whatever it is that the Freep charges). Hell, we donate money to bloggers that provide them with in-depth information, when we could still have it for free!
(Side note: this is a good opportunity to show Brian a little love.)
The other option is to go the other way. To publish even shallower, more sensationalistic stories with even less information. Use the banner headline to get people to fork over 50 cents (or a lot more, since this came out on a Sunday). Never mind that the article consists of little but insinuations and innuendo; people paid us for printing it! Plus, it's not like we had to spend any time or money writing or researching it. Mission accomplished!
There is a demand for information, but current newspapers don't supply information that people can't get for free on the internet. Newspapers don't exist to provide people with news; they exist to provide their owners with money. In order to do so, they have to provide a service for which people will pay money. As any business owner will tell you, the key to a successful business is to sell something that people want, and preferably something they can't get elsewhere. Right now, the Free Press doesn't do either. And that is why it fails.
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.