Another podcast. In case you just cannot get enough of listening to me talk, I was on the FanSided Friday Tailgate podcast. Starts off with a considerable amount of meta talk before moving on to the State game and some other general college football picks.
HYPE VIDEO. The rest of the internet has gone crazy for this UAF hype video and it's obvious why:
EXPLODING POLAR BEAR DOOM. Michigan plays Fairbanks next weekend. Further evidence that university administrators hate life:
Hockey open w/ Polar Bear from Fairbanks, Alaska for the UAF Nanooks AKA "The Alaska Nanooks". This is the intended directors cut with the original music choice, rejected by the UAF people for being "too 80's" as if there is such a thing.
Yes, Paul will be directed to insert an exploding polar bear into next year's hype video. Or wolverine. Whatever. Maybe both. We'll give the wolverine a lacrosse stick.
Maybe we should actually explode all non-blog polls. First Stewart Mandel note: he picks Michigan State, 3.5-point favorites, as his "upset special" this week. Maybe this is why his straight up prediction record this year is 20-20.
Second: AAAARGGGGH. Here's Mandel on the possibility that Boise State might end up in the national championship game:
Should they keep winning late into the season and start knocking on the title-game doorstep, we'll witness something else: significant outcry from those who feel the Broncos are undeserving.
However, there's very little precedent for voters suddenly downgrading a team without cause. And contrary to what you might believe, the BCS computers aren't likely to cause the Broncos' undoing. For one thing, they only account for one-third of the overall standings, not to mention an unblemished record goes a long way in the computers' eyes. Last season, both Utah and Boise State actually finished the regular season ranked higher by the computers than the voters. The Broncos may get docked a couple of "style points" should they endure an undue scare against a San Jose State or Idaho, but realistically, the only way they could fail to make up three spots in 10 weeks is if the voters start vaulting other, more "deserving" teams above them following a big win or two.
Argh! Boise has done exactly one thing to warrant the #5 spot they're in this year: beat Oregon. At the end of the year they will have done exactly one thing to warrant whatever spot they finish in: beat Oregon. The scare quotes around "deserving" are amongst the most idiotic in the history of the rhetorical device. They prioritize the uninformed opinions of writers and people who don't even watch Boise play over things that happen on the field. Boise has no right to the national championship game and if they make it there it will be a travesty that will further convince everyone else to never schedule anyone in the nonconference. Braves and Birds has more on this travesty.
Mandel's the same guy who used to vote WVU up high specifically because he thought the 'Eers had an easy schedule, and now he's justifying the placement of Boise high up as if that's some sort of birthright. This man had an AP ballot. ARGH!
This is not going in the hype video. Rumeal Robinson is in some legal trouble of a horrifying variety:
Helen Ford has been known in the Cambridge community as a woman with a big heart and open arms for numerous foster children. But she never expected that one of her adopted sons, former NBA basketball player Rumeal Robinson, would play a part in evicting her from the place she called home for more than 30 years.
Robinson was arrested by the FBI for bank fraud, bank bribery, wire fraud, and a lot of other nasty stuff. Sounds like things went sour for him after his… NBA career. Insert typical middle-aged white sportswriter 600 words about how the young folk can't keep their money on their mind. I'm at a loss; the NBA should just hire someone to show up at every player's house every two months to slap them and scream "FIRE YOUR ENTOURAGE AND GET A SAVINGS ACCOUNT." Probably Charles Oakley if the NBA would like their guy to remain alive.
Side note: the picture of this woman painted in the comments is vastly different than the one painted by the article, with multiple commenters offering up various serious-seeming stories about her Not Being Very Nice. Not that that would excuse anything that's been alleged here, obviously.
Spot on. We had a photoshop of Mark Dantonio as Rodney Dangerfield, and I feel another coming on in the event of a Michigan win on Saturday:
#22 Michigan at Michigan State
Holly: Rich Rodriguez IS White Goodman IN Dodgeball. Say, did you know Sparty’s chestplate contains actual kevlar? Nice moves, although it won’t save them. RichRod is a smug, entitled bastard, but shoo-law does he have a lot of projectiles in his smug, entitled arsenal. Sometimes the lovable losers win, and sometimes they get their front teeth broken at the gym. (And sometimes the losers ain’t all that lovable. Dantonio, you never call.)
Orson: Michigan State IS Khan IN Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan. Khan had to have a “XX Years XXX Days XX Hours” clock in his bunker on Ceti Alpha V. You know this to be true, just as you know we could have just as easily cast Dantonio as the flower pot falling from the sky in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the reincarnated object killed again and again by Arthur Dent’s unending carelessness. Khan, though, has the right ring in terms of attitude. Michigan State is all effort and survival, but ultimately the lack of experience in three-dimensional combat that Rich Rodriguez’s offense has will doom the Spartans (though like the Enterprise in the film, Michigan will suffer significant damage due to lack of shields.)
I think those are W predictions for M, FWIW, which is nothing. As Orson says, THIS MEANS BET ON THE OTHER TEAM UNLESS THAT TEAM IS COLORADO.
Get to campus get to campus get to campus. The first indication that the 2010 hockey recruiting class is as dirty as previous suggested is a Hockey News list of the top 50 prospects for the 2010 NHL draft that features three Wolverines in first-round spots:
|11||Jon Merrill||6'3||205||D||U.S. Under-18||Feb-92||Ryan Suter|
|15||Jack Campbell||6'1||171||G||U.S. Under-18||Jan-92||Rick DiPietro|
|23||Luke Moffatt||6'0||190||RW||U.S. Under-18||Jun-92|
In addition, D-man Mac Bennett has already gone in the second round of this year's draft.
Word. Stuart Mandel points out something that's been bothering yrs truly:
I've yet to hear a logical explanation for why ESPN has chosen to relentlessly interweave snippets from sappy 15-year-old Dave Matthews songs like Ants Marching into its college football broadcasts. It's true that when I hear that familiar fiddle, I do think of college -- as in, people blasting Under the Table and Dreaming in my freshman dorm hall at 7:30 in the morning -- but not football.
It's hard to think of an act that would be more ill-suited to hype me up for college football than Dave Mathews Band. It is wussy music. Every commercial break should be filled with snippets from Pat Benetar's Heartbreaker:
You're the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasy
The invincible winner, and you know that you were born to be
INVINCIBLE WINNER! Anything that sounds poorly translated from the Japanese and would conflate Taylor Potts getting his brain scrambled by Sergio Kindle with sex given the context is an invincible winner indeed.
The Chesney has stopped, though, which means at least one person at ESPN isn't a lizard monster from the fourth dimension whose five senses replace hearing with evil. And thank God for that. Seriously, was that just an opening weekend thing or did ESPN see what they had wrought and repent?
Lines of note. Michigan is –18 against Indiana—vote of confidence. Illinois is –15 against Ohio State, Wisconsin –3 against Michigan State, Notre Dame –7 against Purdue (road game, implies that Michigan should be a 10 point favorite at home given the ND line pending changes in opinion on the two teams and since that's minus Mike Floyd it'll probably be more than ten, though that's obviously a long way off and this entire highly speculative aside is of debatable value), and Penn State a whopping –11 against Iowa, which uh?
This is strange. So Tim Staudt, who writes for the Lansing State Journal, took time out of his column to defend one Rich Rodriguez against the rampant Detroit media. For serious. His target is the recent News story that Friday's UV shrugged at:
Don't football coaches have a right to seek the best mortgage for their homes they can find? The News' argument is that Martin might not fire those coaches if he thinks it's in Michigan's best interests, because maybe they'll end up defaulting on their loans without employment. Another example of why some distrust the media.
That's strange enough. The stranger part: I don't agree with him. The News article was something worth publishing a story on, as it does represent a mild conflict of interest and apparently caught Bill Martin contradicting himself. It did not get splashed across the front page and turn into a national news story. The thing properly frames the importance of its content:
"In the scheme of conflicts of interest, this doesn't seem that major," Lowenstein said.
I guess you could interpret the article's attempt to justify its existence (noting that Martin's ability to make decisions about firing any of the coaches who have loans out could be compromised) negatively, but I didn't and neither should the fanbase at large. If Michigan fans complain about everything we just come off like whiners.
Also the moon landing is fake. Braylon Edwards, meanwhile, on said hunt for witch-type object:
Q. What’s your reaction to the allegations from former Michigan players that Coach Rich Rodriguez required players to work out more than N.C.A.A. rules permit during the off-season?A. I don’t believe that guys are working extra hours. Everybody works hard. For this to happen like this and get out, that’s not the case. I don’t believe it to be the case. I believe that this is an inside plot to get him fired. I went to Michigan. I’ve been to college and everybody works hard.
The only thing left to discover is which message board lunatic Braylon is.
Band stuff. Whenever I write about the band the comments turn into a war zone and people send me emails ranging from "word" to "I have lost all respect for you," and it generally seems not worth it. So I'll refrain from offering further opinions, but I will clarify some old ones and point you to some good work elsewhere.
The clarification: man, I don't know about bands. I don't know if piccolos are loud or quiet or if the band can or should increase the brass. I do know that a lot of different people who do know about bands say that there's no reason the band can't be louder, and I have been around plenty of bands that seem louder than Michigan's. So I don't think it's impossible. It's just about what you want to prioritize.
The other work: Hoover Street Rag pinged both Haithcock and Boerma. There's plenty of news in it, couple with denials that they've decreased emphasis on noise and some indications that the prevalence of piped-in music is beyond what the band was told would occur.
One thing I will note: I hate that "Thunderstruck" plays before the teams runs onto the field. Previously, the crowd chanted "let's go blue" as one of the drummers beat out a slow, menacing beat. I like that better than wishing Michigan Stadium's speaker system didn't suck.
Rodriguez said Monday morning that he wasn't sure if Butler would face further disciplinary action, since the Big East officials working the game did not specify, in writing, the reason for the ejection. Later in the day, though, a Michigan sports information official spoke was told by the Big Ten that Butler was flagged for a flagrant foul, and will not face an automatic suspension. If Butler had been ejected for fighting, he would have been suspended from the first half of the team's next game.
The math here: ejection for fighting = 1/2 of next game. Ejection for flagrant foul = no suspension. Act that should have drawn a flag—not an ejection—but didn't = 1 game.
Look, no one's defending Mouton here. Rodriguez changed his opinion after his initial take:
“It’s not a football act,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not what we’re about. And it hurts the team when you do that, and Jonas understood that. He understood it hurt the team and that you could be penalized.”
No one's claiming he's somehow ennobled the game. But these sorts of things happen in the game all the time and it's idiotic to single out Mouton for punishment when far more dangerous acts have escaped punishment, especially when the only reason people are talking about it is because a coach outside the conference is running down the professionalism of your officials. It's even more bush league to do it on Friday at 4 PM. Jim Delany's talent for terrible PR is unmatched.
More on injuries. The words that came out of Rodriguez's mouth about the injury situation:
“We’ve got a few guys banged up, but I think most of them should be okay,” said Rodriguez. “[Freshman quarterback]Tate [Forcier] bruised his ribs, got the air knocked out of him. The biggest concern is David Molk. He said his foot was bothering him, and it must have been early in the game … first half, whatever. But now it may be even more serious. We’ll know a little more if he broke it or whatever as we go along. That would be a big loss.”
Moosman is expected back this week, said Rodriguez, and would be the next in line at center if Molk couldn’t go, with redshirt freshman Rocko Khoury behind him.
Good that Moosman will be available; hopefully he can just get a half and some new blood can take the rest. Sounds like another light week for Minor, too.
And a tip of the hat to Rodriguez for throwing Tate out there one more time to handoff, thus reassuring 107,000 some people that they didn't need to find a luxury box to jump off of.
Treat it like Muppets. I tried this last year and got nowhere, but I'm with the Daily's Andy Reid on the "It's Great to Be A Michigan Wolverine" cheer:
My family has had season tickets to Michigan football games since I was two years old, and despite the myriad games I have attended, I’ve only heard that chant a select handful of times. Not coincidentally, all of those games are among the best I’ve ever seen.
Iconic Michigan games that deserve an extra bit of special celebration — 1997 Ohio State, 2004 Michigan State, 2005 Penn State.
And that’s the way it should be.
I was pretty surprised when I heard the chant surface during the post-game celebration after Saturday's 45-17 shellacking of Eastern Michigan. Sure, it’s cool when the Wolverines head over to the student section after each win. But the crowd should sing the fight song, chant “Let’s Go Blue” or something — instead of busting out the big guns for nothing.
Word. That chant first existed in the fan consciousness after the '97 Ohio State game and should be held in reserve for actually stirring events, not four-touchdown wins over MAC teams. Also, get off my lawn.
Etc.: Andy Staples has an article on the steep costs of unofficial visits and how officials should be moved up, which I'd be fine with since Michigan is increasingly recruiting kids from far away. Dior Mathis' mom is quoted. Daily continues what's apparently a series of profiles akin to the massive Pahokee piece. This latest is on Trotwood, Ohio, the home of Roy Roundtree, Mike Shaw, and Brandon Moore. Throw the English-Rodriguez postgame handshake onto the Weis-Miles/Carr-Belotti memorial Pile of Awkward, Probably Misleading Handshake Photos. Michigan State has thrown tickets to the Michigan game(!) open to the public. Right now they require you to buy a ticket to another State game; on Wednesday they'll be totally open.
It was with some trepidation that I agreed to be on Mitch Albom's show last week during the jihad reaction*. But I figured, hey, what the hell, the worst thing that happens is some guy listening thinks I might be worth reading. So I go on, and express my point of view. Albom asks some pointed but fair questions, and I hang up. Fine. But the next 30 minutes or whatever are then dedicated to the proposition that I am just an example of Michigan fans "circling the wagons"; none of the points made are actually addressed. Instead I am dismissed as the Google Master from the MGoBlog… by Mitch Albom of the Free Press.
While the rest of the planet has moved past the idea of true objectivity, grizzled newspapermen still cling to the idea that a fact is a fact and the manner of its presentation and the context its surrounded with have no impact on how that fact is received. Albom asked me "do you think the writers of this piece have an agenda?" in a fashion that made it clear that this would be the journalistic equivalent of crossing the streams. Sure, they heard tell some guys down yonder tried it once but that's why there's this big smoking crater and everyone's kids have three heads.
I responded "well, agenda is a loaded word" because the context I was in—hey there you go—but my immediate thought was of course they have an agenda. Albom might as well asked me if I thought the reporters were robots. (A man without an agenda @ right.) People who are not robots have agendas, motivations, desires, and so forth and so on. They want to be tall and have hair and people who read their writing who can actually remember what the writer identifies himself as. Or they want a shiny prize. Or they want to jump off a sinking ship.
The most obvious and universal agenda to want your work to be important. I'm always annoyed when I've got this cool theory that the stats don't bear out. I then have to actively remind myself to present the full story when I (usually) try to make my case anyway. Most recent example: rugby punting reduces long returns. There's a natural tendency to ignore or downplay things that detract from your argument, especially when you've put a ton of work into it. Everyone wants their work to be meaningful.
So no one gets away without having their motivation examined anymore. No one. Jim Carty just put up an interesting post about "faith-based reporting," which is the idea that increasingly the people in the room at press conferences are working for GBW or the Wolverine or this site and make little pretense about being generally in favor of Michigan winning football games. Unsurprisingly, I disagree with large swaths of it (around 50%) but no section more than this one:
The suggestion that Rosenberg shouldn't have worked on the piece is nothing less than bunk, as I've covered above. He's a terrific journalist - just recruited to contribute for SI.com, incidentally - and one of the most fair people I know. Nothing he's written in the past would be cause for him to be removed from this piece. The suggestion that the Freep somehow took advantage of the freshman because it didn't fully brief them on their full agenda is similarly silly.
That's gone, man. The days when people could be expected to take it on faith that the reporters in question were noble just-the-facts truth-seekers, ma'am, has been steadily evaporating for 30 years and boiling off since the people formerly known as the audience started firing back. I do not care what people who personally know the guy think. I automatically suspect bullcrap in all ways that fit into conventional narratives or wishful thinking too easily, whether it's LOL NC$$ hates SEMO or Andrew Maxwell casually outing MSU on the MSU official site. There is no way I'm exempting a columnist who's regularly deployed false assumptions in the pursuit of Rodriguez or a newspaper that headlined said columnist's ill-researched Justin Feagin column "Win at all costs poor formula for Rodriguez." Carty interprets the Deadspin post defending Rosenberg's objectivity as legitimate; I don't see how anyone who's followed the Free Press' inflammatory headlines and snotty opinion pieces can come to that conclusion. A preposterously long breakdown of said article is at the foot of this post. I've thrown it behind the jump because it's tedious.
My base assumption is that unnecessary lack of transparency is always in the service of concealing dishonesty. And there are plenty of instances of concealment or outright dishonesty in the article in question:
- Misrepresenting quotes from two freshmen. Even leaving aside the questionable ethics of asking players questions about a piece you're planning without disclosing the unusual focus of the piece, the quotes from Hawthorne and Stokes are flat misrepresentations of what they said. At no point did they say any of the activities were "required," and in fact literally everything they list can and likely will fall under the NCAA definition of a noncountable hour. The problem with quoting the freshmen is not that they were not briefed on the agenda of the piece but that quotes were blatantly misrepresented.
- Providing anonymity for flimsy reasons. I'd be surprised if a single current player is one of the anonymous sources providing damning quotes. It's certain that at least some of them come from departures. And there are no potential repercussions for a departed player outside of what happened to Toney Clemons at Colorado, who was told "don't do that again" and directed to release a statement that made him seem like less of a dip. That is not sufficient justification for anonymous quotes in a story that you think makes a case for major NCAA infractions.
- Cloaking the distribution of current and former players. Even if you provide anonymity to the departed players, there's no reason to cite ten people interviewed for the story, drop the bombshell of "current and former," and not clarify whether or not the only current players in the story are the aforementioned duped freshmen. There is zero reason to not put "current" or "former" between the words "anonymous" and "player" after the anonymous player drops a damning quote.
- Ignoring the extremely obvious context. As previously stated, "everyone does it" is not a moral defense (which, IME, is unnecessary) but it's certainly a technical one.
In a media environment where you are always (rightfully) under suspicion it's imperative to show how the piece came together, to forthrightly address reasonable criticism, and provide the primary-source data that you used to construct the story.
The Free Press did none of this. Worse than that, there are sections of the story that are clearly disingenuous. That kills your credibility. That goes double when you are on record as the sort of extreme Rodriguez skeptic that would trot out a host of weak sauce in a column that slams Rodriguez for doing literally the exact same thing John Beilein—who you've never said a discouraging word about—did when he broke his contract. It goes triple when you couldn't be bothered to do the simple legwork of calling Justin Feagin's high school coach or checking his juvenile record before launching a broadside at the sort of kids Rodriguez is bringing into the program. (And don't give me that "I'm not saying, I'm just saying" stuff. Couching your work in disclaimers doesn't change the thrust.)
There was a way to go about this in a fair manner: disclose the names of the transferred kids. Clarify where the damning quotes are coming from. Provide appropriate context (45 hours a week) for the allegations. Don't misrepresent quotes from kids you're about to hang out to dry.
I've heard a lot about how I'm a Michigan fan. I've heard a lot about how I identify myself as Brian. I haven't heard one word about the actual content of my criticisms. Eventually, it becomes clear the lack of response is because they simply don't have one.
*(For the record: this isn't my jihad. The whole jihad bit is a reference to the first Jihad, which was way closer to an actual jihad. It was launched when an incredibly credulous West Virginia reporter announced that Rich Rodriguez had shredded every last document concerning West Virginia football.
I mean, really, which side here is a technologically deficient society bitter about its fading glory and hugely resistant to change? That's what I thought.)
Cartoon via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
One nickel to the man who guesses the speaker of this statement about how much time college athletes put into their sports:
"Once you get past 40 hours, you're really pushing it, I think."
You get a nickel if you guessed NCAA president Myles Brand. He said this in response to a survey last year that found D-I football players spent 45 hours a week on football-related activities. So, yes, literally everyone is doing it. That's not a defense if the it in question is punching old ladies in the face, but it is when we're talking about an arbitrary cap on effort imposed by a bureaucracy. It's a defense when ludicrous doubling of NCAA regulations are alleged; if the stated average time put in by college athletes in an NCAA-sponsored survey is more than double the NCAA-mandated maximum, then that provides important context. Michigan's nine-hour Sundays—baldly asserted to be violations with zero wiggle: "every week started with a violation"—are plausibly legal.
Do the math: one day is gameday and one day is free by mandate. 45 hours / 5 days = 9 hours per day. Take away eight for a full eight-hour gameday and you still end up with 7.4. Clearly the NCAA regulations do not encompass all the hours players spend on football.
This article, which provides 100% relevant context, was not mentioned by the Free Press.
Why was Toney Clemons anonymous? Clemons told ESPN's Joe Schad that would confirm the allegations, and was completely willing to speak on the record. It stretches belief to think that the Free Press didn't ask him and he didn't talk. He's at Colorado now and there are no possible repercussions aside from some guys writing unflattering things about him on the internet. And yet the Free Press report failed to name him or any other player they took a quote from except the freshmen who were undoubtedly talking about Michigan's voluntary offseason program.
Why is this? I go back to the paragraph that describes the people they talked to in impressive, but vague detail:
For this report, the Free Press interviewed 10 current or former players and the parents of four others. In separate interviews, five players gave almost identical accounts of how the program is run, and a sixth player confirmed most of the descriptions. Other players, as well as parents of additional players, discussed the conditions in general. Several players declined to be interviewed at length but did not dispute the allegations when asked specifically about them.
Ten "former or current players," of whom five or six are responsible for the quotes in the story and the description of the Rodriguez program. One of them is Toney Clemons. The other four or five… well, I'm sure anyone who's followed Michigan football over the last year and a half can mentally insert candidates for the other spots. Why not tell us that the core of the story included current players, and how many? It's not like asserting any specific number of current players is going to endanger the anonymous whistle-blowers.
The Free Press chose not to provide this information, instead choosing to leave this vague, and spurring question after question about team unity, or the lack thereof.
To combat any complacency, Meyer has ordered strength coach Mickey Marotti to design the most difficult offseason that Florida's ever had.
"If there's any resistance," Meyer said, "that guy's not going to play."
This is a direct statement from Urban Meyer that a player who "resists" his punishing, "voluntary" offseason training regimen would not play—a bald assertion of power incompatible with the idea of voluntary attendance—and was not mentioned by the Free Press. Neither was this 2005 Ivan Maisel article on the Florida program titled "Offseason? Not anymore for title teams" or this USA Today article on increasingly mandatory "voluntary" summer conditioning that cites Mike Massey.
In fact, nowhere in the entire suite of articles is another program brought up except when two current members of Michigan State's team say—surprise!—they don't violate rules. Just like Mike Forcier and Mike Schofield.
Tom talked to one of the freshmen quoted in the piece, who said he was upset with the way his words were used.
"I told them I lift weight at 8 until 10:30, go to class, and come back and work with [veteran player]. [Then] we go watch film. They turn it all around."
All of that is voluntary activity in the eyes of the NCAA. (It is possible, but unlikely, that the weights were countable; in any case the quotes from the freshmen were vast misrepresentations.)
I bring all these items up because I was really angry at the reporting in the article in a way that I wasn't even when the Free Press gave us the by-the-numbers on what happened with Justin Feagin. I got upset later at the Rosenberg column on the thing, which launched a broadside at Rodriguez* without bothering to call Feagin's high school coach or check out his record. It is totally legitimate to find out what happened and then describe the facts, and that's what the original reporting on the Feagin case did.
But the article in question here was not that. I've been struggling to phrase it the right way, to come up with the right angle on it that adequately expresses the issue without descending to That Guy On The Internet stuff, and it turns out a reader—lawyer, naturally—did it for me:
I'm in Seattle this weekend so I was up late enough last night to read and digest the Rosenberg complaint. I call it a complaint because I'm a defense lawyer in Atlanta and read complaints written by plaintiffs' lawyers all the time. Their favorite tactic is to take a benign or easily explainable fact and put it in the worst light possible so as to sort of taint the defendant from the outset. I guess I didn't realize that Rosenberg was a columnist or some sort of writer employed to persuade readers to come to agree with his opinion rather than a journalist employed to investigate and report facts. He could not have written the entire thing in a more damning way - which is just what plaintiffs' lawyers do, except their job is to advocate on their client's behalf.
I have another email from a different lawyer who makes the exact same comparison.
The article arranges things to advocate for its position. It is not objective. It mentions major violations, and the fact that Michigan has never had any, and suggests that these qualify. Not once in its vast breadth does it mention the near-universal existence of similar practices or what that implies for the likelihood of NCAA sanctions. It purposefully obscures the distribution of current and former players in the ten asserted sources, four or five of which are excluded from the information provided below.
I'm a blogger and a Michigan fan and totally public about my thoughts and loyalties. You know where I'm coming from, and can evaluate the arguments in this space based on that information. Since I wear my bias on my sleeve I have to deploy facts and precedents and reasoning convincing enough to overcome that. Rosenberg and the Free Press are clearly biased but wrap themself in a cloak of objectivity that disguises the intent behind the artfully arranged statements and, if you didn't happen to be a close observer of Michigan football, makes it appear like Rodriguez is a monster. Is this objective?
That's right: Chris Webber. Bill Martin's announcement, two sentences in a press release, had "the ominous tones of a bad, old script". Is it even pretending to be objective anymore? I guess. But not well.
After the press conference today I asked Mark Snyder if he knew what a non-countable hour was. He refused to answer. I asked Michael Rosenberg, and he said yes. We then got into a conversation about the idea that many of the hours cited in the Free Press article were not countable and therefore would not trigger NCAA sanctions. I asked him why the article did not mention this, and he said it did. Here how well that assertion checks out:
At no point does the article mention the idea that some "football-related activities" are not counted:
Players spent at least nine hours on football activities on Sundays after games last fall. NCAA rules mandate a daily 4-hour limit. The Wolverines also exceeded the weekly limit of 20 hours, the athletes said.
That's it. The only wave to the idea that some of the time was legitimate in the eyes of the NCAA is this passage:
The players said the off-season work was clearly required. Several of them said players who failed to do all the strength and conditioning were forced to come back to finish or were punished with additional work.
“It was mandatory,” one player said. “They’d tell you it wasn’t, but it really was. If you didn’t show up, there was punishment. I just felt for the guys that did miss a workout and had to go through the personal hell they would go through.”
"Clearly required" then washes away the idea that any of the time requirements in the program were voluntary for the rest of the article. There is no mention of what the alternatives to doing the additional work were. Were they "we yank your scholarship" or "you won't play"? The former is a violation; the latter is life. I suggested to Rosenberg that players probably had no idea what counted as mandatory to the NCAA and what didn't, and that it was ludicrous to believe Rodriguez could be flouting NCAA regulations so vastly for eight years without a hint of trouble. He blinked, and asked what my name was.
The Free Press systematically overstated their case by omitting contextual information and misrepresenting quotes about voluntary workout programs. They have repeatedly raised the specter of major, program crippling sanctions. They took a side, and if that side turns out to be wrong the people responsible for the story should be held responsible for their errors in judgment.
They won't, of course. If and when Michigan releases the results of its internal probe and announces they've come up with either nothing or a pu-pu platter of secondary violations, people will laugh at NCAA enforcement, cite the Jerry Tarkanian quote, and laud the journalistic effort that went into proving football players play a lot of football.
I was content to drop the whole Feagin thing after that post Wednesday but two developments demand to be relayed.
What Rodriguez didn't know. Maize 'n' Brew has their own excellent take on the whole Feagin thing that's worth reading in its entirety, but its most useful bit comes when it digs up the Palm Beach Post's expose on Feagin's dastardly past:
Florida Department of Law Enforcement records showed that Feagin has received two traffic tickets in Broward County, one in Palm Beach County and was charged with a misdemeanor in Palm Beach that was later dropped. Details regarding the misdemeanor charge are unclear.
That's the extent of the public records on Feagin's malfeasance. In that article, Heritage head coach Willie Bueno reiterated his ignorance about Feagin's shady past: "I certainly wasn't aware of any arrests while he was at American Heritage."
Feagin's record consists of a dropped misdemeanor and his head coach continues to assert he knew nothing wrong; the Palm Beach Post itself thought Feagin was enough of a stand-up guy to name him their small-schools player of the year when he was a senior. What, exactly, was Rodriguez supposed to do?
Meanwhile in the land of milk and honey. AJ Sturges, the hockey player on the wrong end of some portion of Glen Winston's anatomy, has released a statement. He's not pleased with the current state of things:
Last October, I was assaulted by Glenn Winston. This was not a fight, or a disagreement. I was in bed in my room and came downstairs after hearing the commotion caused by three cars pulling up filled with screaming and violent people. I was standing in my front yard trying to figure out what was going on when Glenn Winston punched me in the head from the side. I never saw him. I did not have any chance to protect myself at all. Neither did his other victims.
That night, I received a fractured skull, five stitches inside my mouth, and a subdural hematoma, or bleeding on the brain. I was not involved in a college fight, as this story is perceived. After having nothing to do with any events that occurred earlier that night, I was attacked in my own house.
As a hockey player, I know what a fight is. What happened that night was not a fight. What happened was a violent crime. Pure and simple.
This is not a fanciful account. Sturges' story is corroborated by multiple witnesses in the police report on the matter.
Which police report, by the way, is absolutely amazing. Remember our good and great friend Andrew Conboy? Conboy, of course, was a Michigan State hockey player until he and Corey Tropp—also reinstated, by the way, what standards this university-type substance maintains—brutally assaulted Steve Kampfer late in a far gone game at Yost.
It won't surprise anyone that he was involved:
A hockey player and one of White's friends began fighting over a woman, and White got involved in the skirmish. Hockey player Andrew Conboy intervened and he and White fought in the street outside the house. Conboy "won the fight," according to witnesses, and White left the scene.
Several minutes later, three cars arrived at the party, filled with mostly football players. Witnesses told police the men were looking for Conboy but began "beating up everybody they could."
Three cars of football players randomly assault a house full of people, all of whom not named Andrew Conboy and one other anonymous hockey player did nothing. AJ Sturges ends up in the hospital with a brain injury for trying to calm things down. Winston lied to the police about his involvement and still hasn't offered even a meaningless apology. And exactly one player, a walk-on, leaves the team.
There's more drama down the road at the other school, but Michigan State doesn't mind the boredom.
Rich Rodriguez dismisses a wannabe drug dealer from Michigan and immediately there are suspicions regarding the tautness of his program -- procedural questions that were once mostly asked of Michigan State head coaches.
Yet on the same day, Mark Dantonio welcomed back a running back freshly released from a four-month jail term for hospitalizing a hockey player during a campus fight last fall. Dantonio placed unspecified restrictions on the player's return, reminiscent of Lloyd Carr's private penal policy at Michigan, and the actions barely raised a public ripple.
Roles are reversing. Perceptions are changing.
I'm not even mad. I'm impressed. Here Sharp acknowledges the double standard—at his own newspaper, in his own column—and uses it to criticize Rodriguez and praise Dantonio. He sits at A, takes a good hard look at B, and then leaps to Q. I hope he donates his brain to science. Meanwhile, Rosenberg is silent. He's written five of the last six Fridays.
ooooooo. Rosenberg, this is the ghost of credibility past: if you don't take the opportunity to abashedly retract your previous column and correct the matter, I die after a long illness. ooooooooo.
And so. I don't want the argument here to be chucking stones at glass shanties. This isn't really about Michigan State. It's about an incredible double standard offered up by the Free Press. The situations here:
- Player deals weed and attempts to broker cocaine deal or scams someone out of 600 dollars. He is immediately dismissed. He had traffic tickets and one dropped misdemeanor in high school.
- Three carloads of mostly football players drop in on a house party, wreaking havoc and hospitalizing someone with brain trauma. One walk-on is booted from the team and the guy who put someone in the hospital gets out of jail early to rejoin practice.
One of these qualifies as "boredom": the chaotic melee involving a dozen or more football players. One of these is evidence that the head coach is a nefarious win-at-all-costs villain, but it's not the unprecedented lenience shown to the perpetrator of a scary, violent crime.
If a hockey player falls at a party and the other program in town is run by a West Virginian, does it make a sound?
*(Right, right, the "it just gets them hits and ad views" argument: that link goes to the "print this article" page, which has no ads, and is nofollowed to prevent the googles from caring about it.)
You know, I liked Justin Feagin. As a guy thousands of miles away from the man in question and limited to assembling things other people wrote about him, I had just more than zero to go on, but I liked him anyway. He played both ways at a tiny school and smiled big and innocent on signing day and said things that seemed different and bouncier than your average bouncy, meaningless quote from a guy on or around the greatest day of his life.
He said this about Terrelle Pryor's potential addition:
"What if he does go to Michigan? Shame on me if I sit back and think he's better than me. If he wants to play quarterback, we'll have to fight each other for the job. If I win the job, then I'll know I beat out the No. 1 quarterback in the nation."
And I wrote this:
this is one of the recruits in this class I'm baselessly excited about in defiance of recruiting rankings and reason. If you're so inclined you can see Feagin doing squats until two in the morning in his quotes. … Feagin sounds like the kind of guy who will thrive under the pressure of the Rodriguez regime and is clearly a high caliber athlete.
This is going to be a pretty stupid statement, but I like the kid's quotes a lot.
Apparently, the ability to give a good quote to a local preps reporter is not highly correlated with success on the field or off. Not giving a good quote to the police when you don't have to might be more valuable. This is noted for the future.
I know what some of you are thinking. I thought it, too, albeit briefly, when the news first broke: An event like this would have never happened under Lloyd Carr's watch. And that's almost certainly true. Lloyd Carr was and is a uniquely gifted and genuine man whose priority has always been the peak mental and emotional acuity of the players under his watch, and I know I am not alone in expressing my gratitude for his immaculate representation of a university that likes to think of itself as superior to all others.
But this is not reality. An enraged Chitownblue, prompted by the idiotic diary that inaugurated the 200-words-or-more era, rounded up a dossier of 29 Michigan arrests of various sorts under Lloyd Carr. Lloyd recruited Kelly Baraka and Eugene Germany and Carson Butler and Chris Richards and Johnny Sears and Will Peterson and another, more internet famous felon chased from the team:
Even Lloyd, whom we would like to believe incapable of such an oversight, could only sit with folded hands as opposing fanbases across the country laughed at the dismissal of defensive tackle Larry Harrison, who was charged with four counts of sexual delinquency and suspected in 16 more. Harrison endangered fewer people than Feagin, certainly, but the fact remains that Rich Rodriguez does not stand alone among Michigan coaches who have seen a felonious embarrassment take place on his watch.
I'm not even sure Feagin endangered anyone. He admitted to getting into some trouble in high school, but the crime here—if he actually gets charged with one—is taking $600 from some burnout and promising to get him cocaine, then not getting him cocaine. The endangerment came when the burnout had his great arson idea. The offense clearly warrants dismissal, but as far as disgraceful acts committed by Michigan football players go it's somewhere between Germany running from the cops (and getting caught!) and Carson Butler's St. Patrick's Day Nerd Massacre*.
Meanwhile at Michigan State, a guy who put a Spartan hockey player in the hospital and was sentenced to six months in jail got an early release so he could make Michigan State's first practice. This is the way a sane person, in this case AnnArbor.com's Dave Birkett, reacts to the juxtaposition of these events:
…one coach took the proper actions with his troubled player and one coach took an unnecessary gamble for reasons I can’t explain. Sure, everyone deserves a second chance, but that second chance doesn’t have to be at the same school where you committed such a major offense.
So of course Michael Rosenberg's latest article is headlined "Win at all costs a poor formula for Rodriguez." This is because Rosenberg has completely lost his shit about Rodriguez, as detailed in this space before. Last summer Rosenberg threw together a pastiche of assumptions, omissions, and flatly incorrect statements and titled it "Embarrassing ordeal reveals ugly truths about U-M coach Rich Rodriguez"—the ordeal in this case being the lawsuit over Rodriguez's buyout—that permanently submarined his credibility about Rodriguez.
This one is no better. He cites Rodriguez's recruitment of Pat Lazear at West Virginia, who got ten days in jail and a suspended sentence for his role (driving) in an armed robbery (FWIW, the weapon was a BB gun), as evidence Rodriguez will take anyone not wearing an orange jumpsuit. He does not mention the Winston thing which hey pick out which quote here is about Lazear and which is about Winston…
"[Assistant Coach] and I have researched [Player's] entire situation over several months," [coach] said in a statement released by the school's athletic department. "We have talked to a number of people, and after a thorough review, I am reassured that [player] will be a successful student-athlete and a positive member of our university community. We are eager for him to join the [Mascot] family."
"[Player] has done everything that he's been asked to do from a judicial and a team standpoint. He has paid the penalty for his actions -- publicly, legally and athletically -- and he worked hard to maintain his academic eligibility while doing so. We regret the entire incident, however at this time it is important that we support [Player] socially, academically and athletically. He still has a lot of work to do."
…functionally identical except in Michael Rosenberg's eyes. Lazear, by the way, is entering his third year at West Virginia on the Academic Honor Roll. He has not been in further trouble.
And then there's this on Willie Bueno's statement that he didn't know of any trouble with Feagin:
Should Rodriguez have known about Feagin's transgressions? Well, Bueno said Monday that he didn't know. But frankly that raises questions about Bueno, and it shows the importance of relationships for college coaches. They have to really know the communities where they recruit, and they must be sure that coaches and administrators are informed and honest with them.
Christ. Rodriguez talks with Willie Bueno, who says Feagin is a good kid without issues because he apparently believes it, and it's up to Rodriguez to "be sure" that this guy isn't lying to his face. Feagin mentioned a couple of issues in high school that "nothing came of"; as a juvenile he wouldn't have a record unless something extremely serious went down. Nothing did, so even if Rodriguez checked up on that supposed record it would come up clean. Rosenberg suggests that Rodriguez should assume every coach is a liar and undertake investigations of everyone so that a bad apple doesn't arrive. This is obviously infeasible. Hell, Lloyd Carr made that mistake at least 29 times in his career.
To date Rodriguez has dealt with two DUIs (Grady and Stonum) and one coke-deal-that-wasn't in a year and a half. [UPDATE: There was also the Cissoko-yells-at-cop incident, a disorderly conduct.] Michigan doesn't even register on the Fulmer Cup scoreboard (2008, 2009—if Feagin gets charged with something Michigan will get points above their current one), and Rodriguez racked up fewer points in his last two years at WVU than Carr did over the same timespan at Michigan. The numbers say Rodriguez's recent behavior record is better than Lloyd freakin' Carr's, and the guy who just got out of jail and walked on to a Michigan State practice field say that there's one strict program in-state but it's not run by the guy who's an Upstanding Football Coach. But because Rodriguez doesn't stare at you really hard and talk the right way, he's running a renegade program. Right. Rosenberg's just another Drew Sharp now.
Meanwhile, Justin Feagin's transferring somewhere where he'll give a good quote and smile and maybe this time he'll come through on those. But probably not. It's tough to defy your surroundings.
*(The listed in approximate order: Baraka (weed), Sears (weed + performance in The Horror), Germany (possibly joking cell phone theft coupled from dumb running from police), Butler(assault), Chris Richards (assault, B&Eing his own dorm room), Peterson(assault + theft), Harrison.)