at least it's not just us?
free press jihad
BONUS Dead Horse Beatin' during Dead Horse Beatin' Week on MGoBlog! A promise: this is the very last thing written about the Free Press in this space.
On the Day of Slight Reckoning I mentioned that the epic seven-page Free Press article addressing it failed to even mention the U's assertion that the initial reports were "greatly exaggerated if not flatly incorrect." I should point out that Rosenberg's follow up article which, like all of these articles, quotes some guy named Michael Buckner—the News, Free Press, and AA.com have all quoted this guy in the last couple days in multiple articles for each—touches briefly on the University's pointed shot:
"When the media reports painted a picture of serious student-athlete abuse, the university immediately investigated these claims, as its primary concern has always been the welfare of its student athletes. ... The university is satisfied that the initial media reports were greatly exaggerated if not flatly incorrect."
Numerous former players, current players and parents of players told the Free Press that the football team violated NCAA rules that govern practice and workout sessions during the season and off-season. The players also described quality-control staff members handling voluntary seven-on-seven scrimmages.
In any event, the infractions committee is unlikely to spend much, if any, time on media reports.
Obviously, this is a response that completely fails to address the criticism leveled by the university: the picture painted by the initial article made it seem like Rodriguez was an uncaring task-master violating NCAA regs willy-nilly in a demonstration of his will to power. It then dismisses the importance of "media reports" to the committee. As defenses go it's… well, it meets the exacting standards of the Free Press. Jon Chait demolished the original piece (again) a couple days ago and I'll just quote him:
The paper reported that "the Wolverines were expected to spend two to three times more than the eight hours allowed for required workouts each week." It further alleged, "Players spent at least nine hours on football activities on Sundays after games last fall. NCAA rules mandate a daily 4-hour limit." And it further portrayed this alleged epidemic of rule-flouting as the product of Rich Rodriguez's obsession with conditioning, and the near-mania of his prized assistant Mike Barwis - a natural conclusion from the article's anonymous sourcing from players and parents of players disgruntled with the new coaching regime. The Free Press article breaking the allegations is entitled, "A look inside Rodriguez's rigorous program."
Chait has also addressed the infuriating Free Press editorial, for which I thank him because now I can just close it and not write and delete several paragraphs with a curse density immense enough to make a Scotsman blush.
If you want a truly comprehensive breakdown of all the ways in which the article was sensationalized, this site will wear out even the most dedicated torch-bearer. The best high-level view from me is probably the Words on Agenda And Bias in the aftermath of the Great Albom What-Is-Your-Job Debacle. If you're looking for something shorter and in a very narrow column, that guy who still reads the Free Press because he wonders "how was Rosenberg supposed to determine what was true and what was not?"—guh—received a number of responses, the best from Section 1 and M-stache, in a thread that oscillated from dismissive flaming to patient explanation from better men than I.
After all of it poor neg-bombed MgoMatt, the poster of that thread, returned to edit his original post like so:
EDIT: Based on the responses below, I suppose my standards for responsible journalism are pretty low. I blame 24 hour cable news.
True. But Matt's standards are also the exact same ones Rosenberg and the rest of the Free Press hold themselves to. Note the defense above: "players told us this." How were they to know different? People said things, the Free Press reported them. Asking for anything else is madness, and anyone questioning the framing of the story… well, we're objective. We just happen to find it "sad" that Rich Rodriguez is Michigan's coach, you know, objective-like.
ESPN's dealt with a number of screwed up recent stories featuring anonymous sourcing, leading to an apropos column from ESPN ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer:
In theory, anonymous sources are a last resort. Reporters are challenged to get people to speak on the record, but sometimes that's just not possible. If the source remains unnamed, it must be a trade-off for candor and quality of information. Of course, there are times when information a source ardently believes to be true … turns out to be false. That's why independent corroboration by a reporter is key. Bad sourcing or lax oversight can result in the equivalent of a journalistic drive-by shooting, aided and abetted by information cloaked in a shroud of anonymity.
Check, check, check, straight outta Compton. So it goes.
Softball go. Reminder: tonight and tomorrow Michigan takes on Tennessee at Alumni Field for the right to advance to the Women's College World Series. Tomorrow's game is at 7:30 and is on ESPN (just plain ESPN); the Friday games are at 4:30 on ESPNU and (if necessary) 7:30 on ESPN2. Tickets are 5-10 bucks. Actual athletic competition between people! No documents at all!
For the billionth time. I linked this on the sidebar but I think it's worth posting up. Dave Brandon on Rodriguez and whatnot:
Insert the usual hosannas about Brandon and his ability to act as the face of the athletic department in tough times.
Be attractive in private, thanks. Remember Mike Cox doing a bit of modeling for Bivouac? Yeah, that was a secondary violation:
Nov. 11, 2009
The violation: A football player engaged in impermissible modeling for two local stores.
The punishment: The stores were issued cease-and-desist letters to remove all images of the player from their websites, and the athlete was declared temporarily ineligible. His eligibility was later restated.
That was one of nine Michigan football secondary violations since 2005 revealed in the document dump. The rest are pedestrian stuff involving a phone call here, 60 bucks there, etc. Birkett does point out that Michigan's had a relative paucity of secondary violations in comparison to Lane Kiffin, or Ohio State, which has averaged almost 42 per year for its athletic department over the last decade.
Oversigning ramps up.
The single dumbest thing written about the Day Of Slight Reckoning, non Hat Guy Edition. Yes, Hat Guy wrote something, and it exists in its own Hat Guy category, impervious to logic, reason, and the American Way. Outside of Hat Guy territory, the crown goes to Lynn Henning:
Once upon a time it was Michigan State that got into all the trouble. It was East Lansing where there were stability problems. …
Michigan State is now the regional example for how a Big Ten athletic program should be run. There was a bad mess with November's dormitory fracas. But between Mark Dantonio's reconstructed football program and Tom Izzo's spotless work in making MSU basketball an elite and ongoing force, MSU has become the Michigan of 20 and 30 years ago, while Michigan has taken MSU's unenviable place as the campus where too much bad sports news originates.
"Fracas"? The number of kids kicked off the team reached double digits! It was the second consecutive year a large group of Michigan State football players descended upon a group of innocent bystanders and heard the lamentation of the women! Just the most recent incident has outstripped the entire Rodriguez era when it comes to player arrests… by a factor of five! Dantonio was directly responsible for the second incident because he let Glenn Winston walk out of jail and directly on to a practice field! This is brushed off in a single sentence!
You think you could let six months pass without 20% of the Spartan team beating down some engineers before declaring it a paragon of righteousness and virtue. Apparently not. People on the board have mentioned that when you contact Henning he seems like a nice guy—one willing to listen—so there's that, but good Lord that's dumb.
Also, Mark Dantonio's "reconstructed" football program won one (one) more game than Michigan last year, losing to a MAC team along the way. If not for the fact that MSU was the second-luckiest team in the nation in 2008, Dantonio's first three years at Michigan State would look exactly like his three years at Cincinnati and the last 30 years of Spartan football.
Just when you think you're a hardened observer of sportswriters, incapable of being stunned into a series of italics-laced exclamations at the sheer stupidity of an argument, they go and prove you wrong. Hat Guy, by the way, made fun of Michigan for firing Herron for lying to the NCAA.
Maybe we can have something resembling competition? The American Needle decision handed down by the Supreme Court seems like the prelude to something instead of actually something—all they said is the lawsuit can go ahead—but the most relevant outcome may be a weakening of EA's iron grasp on sports games ever since 2K got uppity and EA started shoveling money at the leagues for exclusive licenses. This can only be good, as some of the 2K games were pushing, or far better than, EA's editions of the same.
In other video game news. Hot on the heels of the announcement that CHL teams will appear in NHL 2011, Paul Kelly of College Hockey, Inc. announces that colleges will appear as well:
"We've actually been in discussions with EA for a couple of weeks," Kelly began, "and while we don't have a formal announcement to make at this moment, we are certainly in discussions with EA Sports and they are very interested in having a college component to their game. We, the colleges, are very interested in having that happen and we are just currently in the process of figuring out what dimensions that ought to take."
Hockey players will be under the same restrictions as football and basketball players, but you'll be able to figure out who C #12 is. This might be short lived if the Ed O'Bannon case ends up going in favor of the plaintiffs: while EA will probably have to figure out a way to license likenesses for football and basketball, hockey will just get dropped.
Hockey destinations. Chris Dilks of Western College Hockey has a brief correction on Boo Nieves's plans:
Nieves was drafted by Indiana, but he's actually going to be attending Kent School in Connecticut next year, where he'll be coached by former Michigan captain Matt Herr, and then probably playing in the USHL for his senior year.
FWIW. The OHL is not a threat here.
As far as 2011 question mark Lucas Lessio goes, Waterloo's GM thinks they've got an excellent shot. They're also bringing in Alex Guptill (now Michigan's only other 2011 commit with Derek Deblois arriving this fall) and hope that will suffice as enticement:
We're taking a calculated risk," O'Handley said of Lessio. "We know he has options. Nick Ebert (current Black Hawk) has options, so it is no different. If you get him, to some degree you win the lottery.
"We wouldn't have done it if there was absolutely no way. We wouldn't have done it if it was 50-50. And, we're going to have to work hard to get him."
Note that the USHL has two drafts, the Futures Draft Nieves went in earlier, where players are not eligible this year but you can maintain their rights, and the Entry Draft, in which you get the guy's rights for a year and if you don't sign him you get nothing. Lessio was picked in the Entry Draft, so Waterloo's put a lot on the line to acquire him.
Speaking of that 2011 class, Michigan might need to get cracking on it. They lose Rust, Hagelin, Caporusso, Vaughn, Winnett, Llewellyn, Langlais, and Hogan after the season. They've got two forwards committed, leaving them to find another three forwards, two defenders, and a goalie if they're going to keep the same levels of roster depth. (Joel Vienneau, the Canadian goalie they were looking at for this year, committed to Minnesota for 2011.) They likely aren't—this fall's Michigan team will be the deepest I can ever remember—but they need at least another forward, defenseman, and goalie to feel comfortable going into '11, especially since there will be a number of flight risks next offseason.
Hockey lack of destinations. The buzz around the hockey program is that they would not lose anyone early to the NHL this year, and here's further confirmation of that from Mike Spath:
There is no rumored candidate expected to bolt for the NHL. In fact, the Wolverines seem to be taking a cue from forwards Louie Caporusso, Matt Rust and Carl Hagelin, who all declared their intentions to return for their senior seasons.
Also I must have missed this, but in April Michigan named captains: Hagelin gets the C (obvs), Glendening is the ultra-rare second captain as an ultra-rare junior (was the last one Ortmeyer? I think I'm missing one), and Rust and Caporusso get As.
Etc.: New Michigan blog Holdin' The Rope takes a page out of the OSU playbook and analyzes the development of Terrelle Pryor in the Rose Bowl. If you're wondering, no, Michigan's baseball team can't swing an at-large bid to the tournament.
Wetzel & Co at Yahoo break a major story about parts of the Kansas athletic department being complicit in Final Four ticket scalping, providing both a major story to blow Michigan's off the front page nationally and an example of how an investigative piece can be scrupulously fair. One complaint: late in the piece Yahoo cites "published reports" about complaints primo seats at Allen Fieldhouse are going to scalpers without even bothering to mention where the report was published.
Michigan's epic document dump provides a harrowing window into the world of TPS reports, staplers, and increasingly alarmed emails that is the University compliance environment. I started reading these things and I could not stop, delving deeply to 73-page Exhibits that are little more than compliance folk making heroic efforts not to bludgeon the football administration and hardly getting responses.
A couple things are clear.
Brad Labadie should be fired. Now. I'll leave the decision as to whether he should be put in stocks on the Diag up to Brandon, but I vote yes. The vastly ineffectual management of Scott Draper should also see him go out the door. If either of these individuals had competently executed his job, there is a strong possibility this whole thing never happens.
Brandon said yesterday that none of the seven people who got naughty notes put in their permanent record would see further repercussions. I strongly disagree with this decision.
You Can Take This Job Description And Shove It, Except You Can't Because It Doesn't Exist
The CSO made several attempts to obtain written job descriptions for the quality control staff from Scott Draper and Brad Labadie during 2008 and 2009. A copy of the written correspondence related to these efforts is attached as Exhibit 15. Draper provided the first version of the job descriptions on August 28, 2009 after the University began its investigation following media inquiries. See Exhibits 3 and 4.
Exhibit 15… good lord.
Judy Van Horn asks Ann Vollano to get job descriptions for all sport-specific administrative staff. Her only sin here is saying "Let's strategize on how to implement."
Van Horn emails Draper about a meeting that Draper may or may not have to attend about "compliance monitoring systems that are under Brad's purview":
There have been some glitches with systems that Brad thought would work better under Rich but haven't as well as times where Brad has felt hounded by CSO staff and CSO staff have felt him to be nonresponsive. I think we need to touch base to make sure we can close out 2007-08 and have a workable plan and strong relationship moving into 2008-09.
In this email Van Horn mentions the CSO is expanding monitoring of QC-type people, a "growing employment area" subject to "increasing NCAA scrutiny and controversy" and they are proactively attempting to get these agreements in place in order to avoid any troubles.
If there is an issue with Brad, I need to know about it. If he was disrespectful or anything along those lines that is something I need to address. If it is not, then as his supervisor I should be made aware of it and handle it with Rich. … Please help me understand what is going on I am in the dark. If there is an issue I need to be made aware of it. Brad reports to me.
Vollano sends a memo requesting job descriptions for all sport-specific staffers in an effort to ensure Michigan is "meeting NCAA coaching staff limit requirements," asking for a response no later than August 22nd.
Vollano emails Draper, reminding him to turn in the form requested in August. Draper says he did it, asks Vollano to look for it again. Vollano says it is not present and the CSO has been "on high alert looking for it." Draper says he will re-do it and bring it in in the morning. Rich Rodriguez is CCed on this email. He does not receive further correspondence.
Vollano emails Draper having received football's "limitations form" but still needs the job descriptions.
I have left a couple of messages but I thought that maybe email would be easier. I want to remind you that I need job descriptions for all of your non-coaching-specific staff members, As you may recall, the "Designation of Coaching Category" form for the 2OO8·09 academic year was changed and to include space for each member of your non-coaching sport specific staff to sign. In addition, a copy of each sport specific staff person's job description was to be attached. I have your form but I do not have any job descriptions for any of the non-coaching sport specific staff. The job descriptions should include the title of the position and a description of duties. Once we have the job descriptions, we will have the staff members sign an agreement related to their role with your sport. The role of non-coaching, sport-specific staff continues to receive increased scrutiny from both the NCAA and Big Ten Conference staff. These agreements will ensure that we are meeting NCAA coaching staff limit requirements. Thanks for your attention in this matter. An Email would be sufficient if it is easier for you, Take care! Ann
P.S. I have attached a copy of the form with all of the signatures and positions that you turned in. lf there are any people missing, please let me know. Thanks!
Labadie responds that he "just listened to the voicemail from earlier where you said you are not taking it personally" and asks for the people who need job descriptions… that Vollano has already told him twice already on the memo.
The 28th: Draper submits a job description for QC staffers. It is a hastily slapped-together piece of crap.
The 29th: Free Press report published.
The 30th: Draper submits another job description for QC staffers.
You Say CARA, I Say "Shut Up, I'm Playing Halo"
You know the CARA forms? Yeah… about them:
The CSO made repeated requests for the CARA forms during 2008 and 2009. Most of these requests were made to Brad Labadie by email. See Exhibit 18. Scott Draper received a copy of several of the e-mail requests to Labadie. The CSO also notified Joe Parker, Senior Associate Athletics Director, Development/Corporate Relations, about the football CARA forms issues in early 2009. After the requests to Labadie produced no CARA forms from football, on May 19, 2009, the CSO office again informed Parker about the absence of CARA forms for football. Parker contacted Labadie and Draper about the issue the same day. Van Horn also notified University auditors of the issue, and the auditors found no CARA forms for football when they reviewed CSO records in April and May 2009. …
CSO officials did not meet in-person with Rodriguez to notify him of football's failure to provide CARA forms until July 30, 2009. The University is satisfied Rodriguez was unaware of the problem until he received the auditor's memorandum dated July 24th, 2009.
… The CSO was persistent in its efforts to gather CARA forms from football, including eventually seeking the assistance of the direct of athletics. The University believes, however, t he CSO should have met with Rodriguez to alert him to the CARA forms issue and seek his assistance much sooner than it did. The University believes that had the CSO done so, the CARA forms issue likely would have been addressed at a much earlier date.
The next section details what Rodriguez's part was in this. The U did not believe Rodriguez knew about the specific CARA procedures; RR states that he was not briefed until the summer of '09, but the matter was on multiple rules education agendas. Van Horn stated she and RR "agreed that Labadie and Draper would continue to be the administrators responsible for football compliance issues."
As you'd expect, the compliance issues are sheltered from the coaches as much as possible since they have more important things to be doing. The U is "satisfied Rodriguez did not know that the football program had failed to submit its CARA forms for more than 18 months."
Let's go to Exhibit 18, then. It's 73 pages.
"Compliance assistant" Rachel Strassner sends a general email asking for telephone recruiting logs, off campus contacts, and CARA forms for December '07—before Rodriguez was hired. On the 31st, Strassner specifically emails Labadie asking for CARA forms from October, November, and December of '07, telephone logs for December, and a bunch of other stuff. Again: before Rodriguez is hired.
Monthly reminder from Strassner. On the sixth, Strassner emails Labadie again requesting missing docs: one week of CARA forms from November, recruiting logs from Mike Debord, December telephone logs from all coaches, and October contact logs from most of the coaches. On the 12th she emails again asking for the missing CARA week, a number of contact logs, and everyone's telephone logs. On the 20th she's still missing the single CARA week and believes one other week has an overage.
Reminder ping. Strassner now sending emails with the subject line "Compliance Documents – STILL MISSING". The November 18th week that has been outstanding for months is still outstanding, as are contact logs and telephone logs. Questions about possible overages have not been answered.
A week later, Strassner sends an email to Michael Parrish, cc-ing Labadie and asking for CARA forms for January and February, February telephone logs, and February contact logs. Vollano replies to this, noting the university's auditor will be in on Thursday and "Auditors like to find things missing so they can put them in their reports." A week later, both Vollano and Strassner request the missing logs again. A week later, the email mentions the auditor "is in the process of reviewing football's records"; it does appear that the rogue November CARA form has been submitted along with most of the missing Carr-era documentation and the contact/eval logs from the first couple months of the Rodriguez regime.
Ping. Strassner now trying "Compliance Forms Missing – DELINQUENT." We have our first Labadie sighting as he emails that Carr and Rodriguez didn't make calls in certain months and that the CARA forms are "being completed." Quiet month after this.
Ping. Apparently everything except the CARA forms has been submitted because Strassner's gone down to DEFCON 3: "CARA Forms – Delinquent" and all the telephone/contact log mentions have been dropped. Unfortunately, as time passes the CARA forms keep building up. Labadie has not submitted CARA forms since January 6th. At the end of the month Strassner asks again. Also, CSO still needs Fred Jackson's telephone log from December.
Draper is now getting CCed on "Football CARA forms MISSING"; Strassner has taken the desperate, futile step of using the little doohickey that makes your emails "high" importance. CARA forms and the rogue Jackson telephone log have not been submitted. Getting slightly snippy: "Please let me know when I can expect these."
This is the point where Brad feels "hounded by CSO staff" and CSO staff feels he could be a tetch "nonresponsive." The department stops asking about the 2008 CARA logs here so it seems like they were submitted at this point.
Michigan sends a memo to all coaches and admin staff reminding them about CARA forms for 2008-09.
Strassner has either moved on from a student job or an internship or thrown herself off U Towers, leaving one Roy Shavers Jr the thankless task of attempting to get CARA forms from Labadie. He takes up the monthly pings. The U reduces the submission frequency from weekly to monthly. It is the CSO's hope that this will simplify the process by "avoiding the need to ask you at the end of each year to account for past weeks of your team's countable athletically related activities."
Just a ping.
Ping, and then Shavers emails Labadie to remind him he needs to turn in CARA forms for August and October.
Ping, ping. The U has pinged Joseph Parker at this point and he now (Jan 8) asks Draper, Labadie, and Parrish to get the CARA forms completed, mentioning that "we need to put a process in place to ensure this information is delivered to the CSO staff in a timely manner." Bill Martin is CCed. Labadie responds that he will get CARA "cleaned up" at upcoming meetings/workouts.
Twelve days later, Parker emails Labadie again asking about CARA.
Ping, ping. Parker emails on the fifth noting that "as a follow-up to our conversation yesterday, compliance has not received any CARA Forms for football for 2008-09." Draper replies that Brad is acquiring the "last remaining signature[s]" from the seniors.
Ping. On April 3rd Vollano asks "any idea when we can get the CARA forms?" Incredibly, she then adds "I do not want to bug you about it but as an FYI, the university auditors are going to start their audit of CARA" instead of "if you do not give me the forms I will chop your head off."
On the eighth Shavers emails Vollano noting that they are missing all CARA logs and the telephone logs from November, December, January, and March. Vollano pings Parrish.
Ping. On May 7th Vollano emails Labadie with a last-ditch plea: "I just wanted to let you know that the auditors are here doing CARA. They have an empty folder for football. Any chance you bring them over?" Double incredibly, she ends the email "Thanks for your help" instead of "I hate you so much."
Labadie actually responds here: "Figured out what the voicemail was about. Sorry I've been out this morning and I just got the auto reply that you are out later today." Vollano replies the next day asking for the forms ASAP so the auditors can review them, nothing that their report goes to "Bill, the President and Regents."
Two weeks later, Parker emails that Vollano has been requesting the documents for "several months" and asks if they can submit the CARA forms by tomorrow. Labadie replies "Yep. Had them finished yesterday at workouts and they should have been delivered today."
Poor, sweet Ann G.Vollano the next day:
For this, she has been officially censured. Poor, poor Ann G. Vollano.
Van Horn and Draper set up a meeting. Unclear why, but "CARA forms" is on the agenda. A week later, Michigan sends out the annual CARA memo. A meeting agenda with Martin on August 18th summarizes the "formal communication" regarding the 2008-09 CARA Form fiasco, noting that "at the time of audit during may 2009, no football CARA forms from the 2008-09 academic year had been submitted to the CSO," that "all other varsity sports" had submitted the forms, and that an "inordinate amount of communication occurred between CSO, football administrative staff and sport administrators regarding football CARA forms."
A section later it notes that "having student-athletes provide written verification of the time they spend in CARA activities protects the head coach and institution from unfounded allegations."
August 28th: CSO finally receives CARA forms for winter and fall of 2008. They are signed by Rodriguez, but not student-athletes.
August 29th: Free Press report.
August 30th: Vollano emails Labadie a special individual ping stating they need the August 2009 CARA forms. Labadie replies in 21 minutes. Subsequent CARA reports are submitted monthly with student-athlete signatures.
You'll note a few things other than a torrent of email from poor, sweet athletic department compliance personnel virtually begging Labadie for CARA forms: the documentation problems started before Rodriguez even arrived, that Labadie had been "hopeful" the bookkeeping processes would be better under Rodriguez, and not even the freaking auditors being in the office looking at an empty folder could get a response other than "ohhhhh, that's what that voicemail meant." The main document also states that Labadie was the responsible party for the warm-up and stretching time that put Michigan over on Mondays during 2009, although Labadie said that this opinion was based on conversations with Barwis. Why the person in charge of football compliance administration thinks he should talk to Barwis instead of compliance is unknown.
Most importantly, either Labadie lied to Draper when he said he was just getting the "last signatures" from the seniors for the 2008-09 forms or Draper lied to CSO. The main document states the CARA forms, hastily submitted the day before the Free Press report, have no student signatures. Draper, for his part, made zero effort to check up on his employee despite his apparent desire to play Tropico at work all day. He had no idea there was anything going on for months, and complained to compliance that he needed to know what was going on with the person who reports directly to him.
The worst part of all of this is how comprehensive, intelligent, and concerned the compliance side of all this was. CSO constantly badgered Draper and Labadie for the missing documents and was in the process of putting together a system that would hopefully have clarified what the QC assistants could and could not do. They anticipated potential problems with the QC staffers! Judy Van Horn just won a prestigious award and it's not hard to see why: Michigan's compliance department was machine-like in its precision. Its primary flaw was being far too polite to the unresponsive Draper and Labadie—not once did Strassner threaten to mail Labadie's pets to Albania, or shave his head in his sleep, or put him in a bun and leave him on Justin Boren's doorstep. If they had been cut-throat about it and immediately raised holy hell with Martin, Rodriguez, and others this may not have occurred.
Maybe there are things yet unrevealed by 100 pages of emails. Maybe there were behind-the-scenes reasons Labadie could not put the documents together. However, if there were the proper thing to do was to express this. Labadie didn't even get them in when threatened by an audit; it took the freakin' Freep report to get the sloppy, unsigned CARA forms in—the ones that Labadie claimed he was just getting the last signatures on five months earlier. The main document specifically states that when Rodriguez took over it was decided to leave the CARA process exactly the way it was under Carr, and Labadie still completely failed to file reports for a whole year when the system had been in place for several years and was apparently not an insurmountable task for anyone else in the department. Rodriguez's response makes it explicitly clear that no one informed him the already-prepared job descriptions for QC people had not been submitted and that the lack of CARA form submissions was also unknown. Why was it unknown?
Labadie told the enforcement staff that he did not tell Rodriguez that he had failed to submit CARA forms because he did not want Rodriguez to look unfavorably upon him.
There is no possible excuse for the massive breach in protocol here and the missing CARA forms and QC assistant job descriptions are the primary reasons Michigan is reporting major violations instead of a selection of secondary ones. Everyone involved with Michigan football compliance administration has failed massively and should be fired. Now.
just one more chance to use these babies after today
Recap. Read this again: Tentative Results of Jihad The Second.
Michigan's violations were borne of incompetence, sloppiness, and misinterpretation.
That's not why the Free Press story was major news last year. No one picks up the story "Michigan could be slightly over their daily allotted maximum in countable hours." The lurid allegations that Michigan was not just exceeding but totally ignoring NCAA limits on football-related activities are the entire crux of the Free Press article. With one brief assertion that the players interpreted the technically voluntary activities as mandatory, the Free Press dismisses the idea that a non-countable hour exists. In this they were not only totally wrong but dishonest. Honesty requires framing the facts in a responsible way. No effort was made at this.
One more tree. I previously asserted that Michigan's self-imposed sanctions would be accepted as-is by the committee given the recent precedents, but Compliance Guy foresees the potential addition of a year of probation (which who cares) and possibly the coach reduction it seemed like Michigan was anticipating when they hired Braithwaite:
While Michigan is reducing the staff that caused the football program to exceed the limits on countable coaches, Michigan is not actually reducing the number of countable coaches. This will be an area where the Committee asks why the penalty was not targeted more narrowly at the violation, and they may add a reduction in the number of countable coaches for 2010-11 and/or 2011-12.
This is phrased as a hypothetical, albeit one Compliance Guy seems to think has a better than 50/50 chance of happening. We'll see. I tend to think that Michigan has gotten very specific advice about what will be a sufficient penalty to self-impose, but he's the subject matter expert.
Man up. It's pathetic that the Free Press takes multiple direct shots from the university in their response to the NCAA and can't see fit to mention any of them in a whopping-for-print 2167 word story about the document dump today, which I will link sometime after the Sun engulfs the planet. The thing runs seven pages online and not one word is "exaggerated." At no point has the paper seen fit to defend itself from charges their initial story was essentially bullshit, and now the university itself has said as much and the Free Press chooses to ignore it.
Again, the reader is invited to compare and contrast the ethics of the two organizations. One immediately launched a massive investigation and forthrightly disclosed every document they produced or received from the NCAA within 24 hours of sending or acquiring it. The other has not seen fit to even comment on the vast discrepancies between their article and reality.
Furthermore, no other outlet featuring Official Journalists has seen fit to make anything but the most oblique reference to the shoddy reporting in the original story. How is that not news? It's hypocritical to circle the wagons.
BONUS: Brandon did interviews with "select news outlets Monday night": the News and AnnArbor.com.
Click clack. Rittenberg also highlights Rodriguez's attempt to put on a Steve Spurrier mask and bolt the room:
"I wish we could have got it done earlier. Get all this stuff behind us so the only conversation with the old ball coach is, ‘OK, who is your quarterback going to be?’ ‘Why’d you run this coverage?’ ‘What kind of scheme are you going to run on defense?’"
Okay. Deep breath. Okay. RICH RODRIGUEZ: YOU DO NOT EVER ANSWER THOSE QUESTIONS USEFULLY WHEN I TELL TIM TO ASK YOU THINGS LIKE THAT. Argh.
The QC items in detail. The practice overages were obviously petty as soon as they were announced, but the NCAA's Notice of Allegations had some accusations leveled at the use of QC staffers that were vague. At the nasty end of the spectrum, Michigan could have been running an end-around on coaching limits intentionally. It doesn't appear this was the case:
They sat in on film sessions they weren’t supposed to. They attended coaches meetings that were off limits. And they took part in summer skill-development workouts that were restricted to non-sport specific strength coaches, trainers who work with multiple athletic teams.
But Rodriguez disputed charges that his quality-control staff improperly took part in winter workouts, an allegation Michigan accepted as fact.
In his response, Rodriguez argued that his quality-control assistants doubled as part-time strength coaches, something his filing says the NCAA allows and “Michigan’s chief compliance officer” - associate athletic director Judy Van Horn - “told the enforcement staff” may be “permissible.”
Back in the day I did notice the strange distinction in the NCAA rules between department-wide S&C staff who can work with athletes basically whenever and sport-specific S&C staff, who can't. There were still some violations there that deserved the punishment Michigan has proposed but the actual illegal contact with the players was due to a misunderstanding.
That reads like a Cohen brothers script, doesn't it?
Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man. Feldman tweet:
ESPN poll: majority of football fans think over 50% of BCS teams would be in violation of "too many hours" rules if investigated by NCAA.
As per usual. Wojo's column is about the only local take worth reading…
Michigan did what it had to do, and took great pains to explain its historic actions. It admitted guilt, in meticulous and frank detail. It outlined changes. And within the pages and pages of documents, it also took the next important step, and carefully began defending itself.
With one hand, Michigan slapped firmly, humbly. It acknowledged its football program committed major violations and placed it on self-imposed probation for the first time ever, a crushing day for the school.
…even though "crushing" seems an order of magnitude excessive here. Ed Martin was crushing. The practice violations here are frustrating, borne of equal parts incompetence and sloppiness.
Similarly, Adam Rittenberg leads off his initial piece with this:
Michigan begins its official response to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations with a sobering statement.
The University of Michigan ("the University"), which fielded its first football team in 1878, has won more football games than any institution, all without a major infractions case. After more than 130 years, the University's football program is before the Committee on Infractions for the first time. The University admits the violations in fact occurred. The University is disappointed that its history of no major infractions cases in its football program has ended.
It can't be easy for Michigan fans or anyone associated with the football program to read those words.
Well… am I the only guy who thinks the Michigan reputation for sanctimony is ridiculous? The last person who should have been allowed to say the words "Michigan" and "Man" consecutively was Bo.
I don't really care that Michigan has been deflowered by the NCAA per se. I care that the picture painted by the allegations is of a complacent and/or dysfunctional athletic department, and I'm a little put off by some instances of finger pointing in Rodriguez's individual response (which may be right but adopt an unpleasantly accusatory tone from time to time). If the violations were something that seemed like a willful and knowing flouting of NCAA rules, I'd be pissed. As it is I'm pretty much indifferent. As long as the U takes the opportunity to clear out 40 years of cobwebs, I'm fine with the ethical state of the department. The organizational state is another matter.
The University's public response has a necessary quotient of hang-dog apologizing. Gosh we're really sorry, please don't kick our face in, etc. That's the organizational equivalent of coachspeak, done more to placate the committee than to accurately reflect how much hairshirting is going on in private. The penalties speak for themselves: not much.
Rittenberg, by the way, does mention the University's pointed shot at the Free Press.
Etc.: DocSat take.
Tim's best effort at a transcript of the press conference. All answers are paraphrases.
Brandon: Relief comes from the fact that it's all out there. Made the notice of allegations public within 24 hours of receiving it—same story here. Lot of pages, lots of detail, documents speak for themselves—what happened, why, how they plan to deal with it.
Who's to blame for the situation?
Brandon: I take full responsibility for issues across the athletic department. Sloppy handling of information. Failures in checks and balances as well as through the chain of command. No single person to blame.
Probation is expected. Do you anticipate that? What would probation mean to the program?
Brandon: We have identified probation as a self-imposed sanction. 2 years is appropriate. No additional sanction, but a significant amount of reporting to the NCAA over the duration. Puts the program under the microscope.
Will there be any other discipline against the individuals other than a letter of discipline?
Brandon: One guy [Herron] was terminated for lack of integrity in the process. Everyone else will receive a reprimand in the file. They didn't perform duties to the appropriate level, causing the violations.
Should the NCAA define exactly what S&C and QC should do?
Brandon: When the smoke clears, a bunch of topics need to be discussed. Can improve job descriptions in NCAA rule. We misunderstood between compliance and NCAA re: interpretation of those rules. We can work with them to tighten up those definitions - what is and isn't permissible. Not a criticism of the rules, but we can see where we interpreted it wrong and make the improvements.
How do you avoid this becoming a distraction again?
Rodriguez: Players and staff stayed focused through the investigation last year, which started mid-season. This ongoing case shouldn't affect players at all. They're excited about the upcoming season, and it's a relief to get it over with. Shouldn't distract.
Recommending as a punishment that they lose more practice time. What if the NCAA says it's not good enough? What if NCAA says recruiting or postseason restrictions? Would that surprise or upset?
Brandon: More thorough review will indicate that the sanctions include a little more. Terminated the individual who had the integrity problem, reprimanding those involved, removing QC staff, and prohibiting QC from sitting on coaching meetings, etc., for a year. We believe based on the advice and precedents, we've matched up the consequences with the content of the violations. NCAA has the ultimate authority, and we'll speak in front of them in August.
NCAA says Rich fostered an atmosphere of non-compliance. Why do you disagree?
Brandon: Strongly disagree. Internal investigation showed that's not the case. Compliance group says this is one of the most open coaching staffs. They had the ability to access whatever they wanted. Rich and crew made no effort to hide anything from the compliance staff. Rich understands following the rules, and has a history of doing so.
Provision in Rich's contract that says he could be terminated. Why hasn't he been fired?
Brandon: COULD be cause for termination. I don't think the violations that occurred are significant enough. Said in February that he wouldn't be fired, and the investigation didn't change their mind on it. We don't believe termination is appropriate under these circumstances.
The NCAA looks to take each violation on its merit, and respond accordingly. The people we've retained said that's right to do.
What if NCAA says scholarship or recruiting violations?
Brandon: every case with Reductions in scholarships or coaches, or postseason bans, has stemmed from serious lack of institutional control or a competitive advantage. The NCAA can disagree if they want, and we'll have our day in front of them.
What were the precedents? [Ed.: Jesus. "Can you do my research for me?"]
Brandon: You can piece it together from various other cases.
How much has this investigation cost?
Brandon: I have no clue. It's not relevant. Did what we had to do to protect our interests and employees.
Is the M image tarnished?
Brandon: There's nothing good about any of this stuff. It's unfortunate. Our history and tradition is out there for the world to see. We'll let our integrity continue to stand as it has. We made mistakes, but we're being transparent, accountable, and doing something about it.
Who was responsible for crafting the response?
Rodriguez: My counsel and the University worked very closely. I was obligated to give an individual response. We'll continue to work closely, correcting the issues that we need to correct. We'll get together to prepare for the meeting with the infractions committee. Everyone that was interviewed has been forthright and accommodating.
Do you now have a chance to focus on football?
Rodriguez: This is not the only thing I've been working on. Issues within the program and my response have been time-consuming. Moving on from this (knowing what the investigation entails). It's important to be transparent, and this shows that.
What did you want to get across in your response?
Rodriguez: No one main point. Wanted to present the details from the investigation. We go in front of the committee, and have to explain what happened, the response lays the groundwork for that. There will be more questions we have to answer. My response details what I needed to explain, where communication broke down, and where we can improve.
No evidence of disregarding student-athlete welfare?
Brandon: Super important. There was innuendo about that we were mistreating players—to the level of abuse—which wasn't true. None of that was the case, and there was nothing in the practice time issue that endangered welfare of student athletes.
Rodriguez: That was the most important issue for me. We've always looked out for student athletes, and will continue to do so. The investigation made clear that the student athletes never felt endangered - and never will. Rodriguez enjoys developing student-athletes.
How is extra hours not interpreted as a competitive advantage?
Brandon: Not counting stretching as warmup is a violation. It's still a significant leap of logic to call that a competitive advantage. The amount of time that went over could not be perceived as a competitive advantage.
Was it a new coach issue?
Brandon: We had a whole new coaching staff, with a whole new routine. Most of the people in administration have been around for a long time. There was a combination of many factors. We will never have lower-end chain of command people having discussions about things, without reporting it up the chain of command. We're going to handle any issues at the senior levels.
What was it like to have the school defend the charge against you?
Rodriguez: there have been mistakes made at various times by various people, and I've had to answer for it. Talking about an atmosphere of non-compliance is a serious allegation, and my response and the school's response indicate we don't think that's the case.
"I have named the boy Caleb," he announced to her finally in a soft voice. "In accordance with your wishes." The woman made no answer, and slowly the man smiled. He had planned it all perfectly, for his wife was asleep and would never know that he had lied to her as she lay on her sickbed in the poor ward of the county hospital.
"The University is satisfied that the initial media reports are greatly exaggerated if not flatly incorrect."
-University of Michigan
So there are about a zillion documents to go over but here are your thunderbolts of justice:
- Michigan has reduced the number of QC staffers by 40 percent (ie, by two) and prohibited them from attending practices, games, and coaches meetings for 2010. A new bylaw specifically allows QC staffers at coaches meeting, but Michigan won't take advantage of this until 2011. Michigan will not add more QC staffers until the 2011 season ends.
- Michigan will give back 130 hours of practice time over the next two years.
- Michigan has taken "corrective action" to prevent a repeat.
- Two years of probation.
…aaaaand that's all, folks. No scholarships, no reductions in the number of actual coaches, and they didn't even fire anyone other than Herron—the other QC staffer they're losing is Braithwaite, who's now an actual coach. This is actually less severe than the mild sanctions this site has ballparked since May. The NCAA will accept the report essentially as-is in August and Michigan will get on with it.
This is it, by, the way: these documents are the official results of the investigation release to the public and the NCAA. Michigan took this seriously enough to bring in third-party NCAA investigators and this is what they turned up. If there is anyone out there still defending the original article as something other than a one-sided hit job that cost Michigan thousands of dollars and should cause any Michigan fan to boycott the Free Press until the people who wrote and edited it are gone, read the PDFs. Just a couple days ago someone was complaining that characterizing the violations as "stretching" was a dishonest representation of the violations and hurt the site's credibility. It's true that there is a tale of sordid institutional miscommunication buried in the documents, but "warm-up and stretching" is literally 90% of the hourly overages. The QC issues came because Rodriguez thought they were classified as S&C assistants, which they were not.
Compare that—a very serious document that will have consequences if it is wrong—to the Free Press report detailing lurid excesses, student abuse, and complete disregard for NCAA regulations. If newspapers cared about truth in reporting as much as the university does about its compliance with NCAA regulations, everyone involved with the story would be looking for a new job.