ncaa: the scandals
Never trust a man with a ridiculous unibrow.
Basketball recrutniks will remember one Patrick Beverly, the late-rising Chicago wing that Amaker had seemingly locked down before a late trip to Arkansas suddenly flipped the kid. Beverly would go on to be a freshman All-American in 2006-2007. After a strong sophomore year he was ineligible as a junior and left Arkansas; he currently plays in the Greek league. If Beverly had signed up with Amaker there's a strong possibility he's still around today.
Anyway, afterwards there were more than the usual grumblings about dolla dolla bills y'all, many of them from moderator types on Rivals who usually shoot those things down. There wasn't any proof, though, and these things get old and people forget them.
[Oklahoma] acknowledged Wednesday that it was investigating phone calls made by former basketball assistant Oronde Taliaferro to determine whether he had committed any NCAA violations. In a statement, the school indicated that Taliaferro had made calls to a Merrill Lynch representative in Florida and the content of those calls was under review.
Oklahoma claims Taliaferro did not break NCAA rules by simply making the calls. The school's investigation started after a TMZ.com report that former player Keith "Tiny" Gallon had received a wire transfer from a Merrill Lynch representative. …
Taliaferro resigned in April after three seasons on coach Jeff Capel's staff, and the school said he wanted to "focus on other employment opportunities." Warren and Gallon have both entered their names in the NBA draft. …
The Tulsa World and The Oklahoman reported Wednesday that the school released documents showing that Taliaferro exchanged at least 41 phone calls and 25 text messages with Hausinger between May 2009 and March 2010.
Getting that cheddar, yo. Also of note: when Beverley exited Arkansas he outed a massive team-wide cheating scandal before someone got him to recant. Chances Beverly's change of heart were because of the majesty of Fayetteville: minimal. Also see new Golden Knight Isaiah Sykes. Here's to the NCAA hammering Oklahoma and taking a hard look at Arkansas.
Excellent work by the local papers in both these situations, by the way. #*&$ing stretching is the end of the world over here.
don't call it a comeback, jihad's been here for years
After Tuesday's press conference we have all been apprised of what Michigan stands accused of and can go back to the original article and this site's response to that article and evaluate those claims for accuracy. One thing leaps out at me about my response: having little experience with "major violations" that didn't involve hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash changing hands, I didn't comprehend where the line between "secondary" and "major" lies. It turns out that everything down to a few TRENCH WARRIOR hats is major, so this paragraph that wraps up my deconstruction of the journalism-type substance turns out to be wrong:
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.
…but only the word "secondary." Michigan will get hit with a major violation after all. They will take some largely symbolic punishment. This is not victory for the University. But it's closer to a win for them (and it's not very close) than it is for the Free Press.
A series of quotes. The Free Press:
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.
"The allegations are true," Clemons said. "Nothing is fabricated or exaggerated in that story. I was there on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. depending on if guys needed treatment. You were there daylight to nighttime."
I am willing to wager many amounts of money that the Sunday lifting was of the variety that fits the NCAA's definition of voluntary, as was the film. The rehab/examinations/dinner and any downtime in between practice and film and other activities definitely don't count. At no point has anyone in the media even broached this possibility. It has not occurred to them. Some of them specifically omit it because it conflicts with their aims; some are just professional parrots.
When Michigan releases its compliance information, Michigan will check in at four hours of countable activity on Sunday. If they're over at all it will be by a small amount. I bet a dollar.
Between August 31 and October 26, 2008, football student-athletes were required to participate in as many as five hours of countable athletically related activities per day, which exceeded the maximum of four hours a day, on several occasions, including, but not limited to, August 31; September 7, 14 and 28; and October 5, 12, 19 and 26. Additionally, during the week beginning October 19, 2008, the student-athletes were required to participate in approximately 20 hours and 20 minutes of countable athletically related activities, which exceeded the maximum of 20 hours per week. [NCAA Bylaw 184.108.40.206]
Someone owes me a dollar.
There is another allegation accusing the program of even slighter overages (a half-hour at most) during the early parts of the 2009 season, after the article came out. We will see why Michigan went over when the details come out, but it's safe to say given David Brandon's statements that Michigan will argue they were erroneously lumping stretching in with various explicitly non-countable activities. 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.
They omitted useful context like this statement from NCAA president Myles Brand:
"Once you get past 40 hours, you're really pushing it, I think."
It took two seconds to Google that. It came from an article in an obscure paper called "USA Today" that featured a survey that found D-I football players spent 45 hours a week on football-related activities.
They kept every player who spoke anonymous, even those who had left the program, except for the freshmen whose words they twisted badly. They ignored a raft of articles with quotes that provide context relative to other Division I programs:
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."
And they didn't put the word "countable" in their story once. This was not ignorance: when I asked Mike Rosenberg if he knew what a "countable hour" was, he said yes. Mark Snyder, ironically, refused to answer.
They did all this in service of making Michigan's marginal rules violations—violations that college football coaches attest to SportsCenter anchors would befall 90% of Division I—seem utterly lawless. A newspaper that cared about journalism would fire everyone involved with the story now that the NCAA's worst-case scenario has definitively proven that the truth was a secondary objective in the Free Press story, if it was considered at all.
As for the program: we don't know the details of what went on yet so I can't say whether or not this has a major impact on my opinion of Rodriguez. The NCAA allegations fall in a gray area where it's not immediately clear how bad the violations actually are or are not.
The in-season overages are laughable, consisting of some days that were slightly too long and exactly twenty minutes of actual extra time beyond the 20-hour weekly limit. If the out-of-season overages are entirely encompassed by extra conditioning for kids who missed class, they're stupid on the part of someone in the department but basically honorable. I think there will be other things, though, as there are overages for both "voluntary" conditioning and summer countable hours. What those things are will matter.
The situation with the quality control staffers—obvious here from day one as the most damaging section of the allegations—is potentially worse. I've heard plenty of potential mitigating factors and some of the charges, like "QC staffer helps players stretch," are self-evidently TRENCH WARRIOR-type violations. Others seem like organized efforts to avoid NCAA rules. If they are that's at the very least stupid. If Michigan has a reasonable explanation for this that the NCAA accepts, fine. I've heard they will, but that remains the quintessential rumor you want to believe.
I'll withhold judgment on the program until then. My guess is that it will be sloppy on Rodriguez's part and worse for certain members of the compliance staff. After some heads roll and Michigan gives back some practice time, it will be over. Dave Brandon has quite a job to do reorganizing the department into something competent.
This is a softball strike against Rodriguez. Another NCAA investigation that turns up anything major and he's gone. Does it affect how much he needs to win next year? Not for me personally, and I don't think for anyone important.
What would change that? Sanctions, self-imposed or not, that seem to seriously impinge on the program's ability to compete the next two years. Scholarship reductions that last past 2010. (IE: are anything other than symbolic.)
A final note: I can't emphasize enough how much of a hit job this was. Until such time as Drew Sharp, Michael Rosenberg, and Mark Snyder are no longer at the paper, if you are a Michigan fan with a Free Press subscription you should terminate it immediately. If you link to a Free Press article it should be the print page and it should be nofollowed. If you visit the Free Press website, you should have adblock on. If you write for Michigan's Rivals site you should not write for the Free Press. It's not because they took a swing at Michigan's program. It's because they were blatantly dishonest in doing so.
His blog is long defunct but a hat tip to ny1995, who did the legwork in the NCAA infractions database and unearthed these cases. Burgeoning Wolverine Star also highlighted the FIU case I'm about to and has a take on the similarities between the two cases.
UPDATE: I asked Compliance Guy to sanity-check this and have added his comments in below.
The accusations the NCAA has levied against Michigan are not unprecedented, so a look at a couple similar cases over the past decade might prove illuminating. But first, here's an example of what qualifies as a "major violation" these days. One of the things San Diego State got nailed for:
During the 1998-99 through 2001-02 academic years, the assistant coach provided impermissible apparel to the student-athletes who played the position of offensive line. Specifically, at the commencement of training camp each year, the assistant coach distributed “flexi-fit” hats embroidered with the offensive line’s theme for the particular year. Themes have included “Big Block Boys,” “O-Line Finish the Block” and “Trench Warriors.” Further, at the conclusion of the 2002 spring practices, the assistant coach distributed shirts embroidered with the phrase “Tuff 15” to only those members of the offensive line who attended all 15-spring practice sessions. The fair market value of the shirts was approximately $35 and the hats, approximately $25.
The following section explains the committee's rationale for deeming TRENCH WARRIOR hats a major violation:
The enforcement staff and the institution agreed that the apparel items were provided with no intent to violate a rule and provided little, if any, competitive advantage. However, the violations occurred over a period of four years, was not isolated or inadvertent and thus could not be considered a secondary violation.
Takeaways: the chance that Michigan does not get hit with a major violation in August is zero. The QC stuff isn't going to be deemed "isolated or inadvertent." But "major" has clearly ceased to mean much aside from providing big scary headlines.
Compliance Guy: The term "major violation" has this big scary connotation. In fact, the default for a violation is major. It's up to the university to prove that it met the two criteria to be classified secondary:
- Isolated or inadvertant; and
- Did not provide a significant competitive advantage or provide a significant benefit.
Being a major violation means you start with a set of presumed penalties that are then argued up or down (usually down overall, the list is extensive) based on the facts of the individual case. In the past, most secondary violations did not have prescribed penalties so you had much more flexibility if the violation was secondary. Now there are prescribed penalties for most secondary violations as well.
At this point the biggest difference between a major violation and a secondary violation is public reprimand and censure. If you have a secondary violation, the NCAA doesn't announce it, and it's stored in a private database without the school's name attached. A major violation is announced and stored in a public database with the school's name front and center.
IMHO, the NCAA ought to either find a bigger distinction or do away with the distinction all together. In fact, there's actually three types of violations: Level I secondary violations (so small they are only reported to the conference); Level II secondary violations (reported to the NCAA and involve student-athlete eligibility or rules the NCAA is focused on); and major violations. I say expand the Level I list a bit and just have two types of violations: Level I and Level II, where Level II might include an infractions hearings and major penalties.
What They Did
1. An assistant coach—we'll call him Captain Dumbass—conducted "skill and technique workouts" with offensive linemen during the summer over the course of three years. 30 impermissible workouts over three years gave them a "competitive advantage."
2. Over the same timespan, Captain Dumbass conducted "impermissible technique activity" in the same fashion as the summer sessions, for another 27 impermissible workouts.
3. Captain Dumbass then lied to the NCAA and attempted to call another student athlete, disclosing the content of his interview and telling the kid to lie to the NCAA as well. He did, then he recanted.
4. Failure to monitor. "The football coaching staff, including the head coach, and members of the S&C staff were aware in varying degrees" of the sessions. The administration was not. "The majority of the coaches" were aware the sessions were not kosher, but not one said anything. Note this failure to monitor was directed at the university only.
5. A secondary violation because the S&C coach took attendance at voluntary S&C activities and periodically reported the information to other coaches.
What They Did To Themselves
They fired Captain Dumbass and eliminated the OL coach position for the entire 2004 season and 2005 spring practice. They reduced preseason practices by four, and gave up 171 hours (twice the number of impermissible hours logged by the offensive line) of mandatory practice or conditioning over the course of three years.
They also took one assistant coach off the road for the spring evaluation period for two years, put notes in folks' permanent record, and hit people with some pay decreases/finger wagging.
What Got Done To Them
Three years of probation for the university and a three year show-cause penalty for Captain Dumbass.
Compliance Guy: This is probably a good starting point for the penalties Michigan might face. Unlike the SDSU violation, this violation covered just practice violations (aka only Bylaw 17, the playing and practice limits bylaw). Michigan's alleged violations cover Bylaw 17 plus another (Bylaw 11, personnel limits) but the penalty is accounted for here: eliminating a coaching staff position for at least a year.
The COI didn't do anything of substance to FIU. Three years probation is one over the minimum and makes sense considering the violations lasted three years. And the three-year show cause penalty is pretty fair considering Captain Dumbass not only was involved in the majority of the underlying violations AND lied to the NCAA about it, but also tried to get someone else to lie about it too.
San Diego State
What They Did
1. Over the course of three years, the offensive line coach conducted mandatory offseason "deep sand training" for an hour once a week May through July. (What is it with OL coaches?) Captain Dumbass #2 then sold videos of this training as part of a three-video package featuring current student athletes. He also wrote newsletters praising attendance and listing people who had perfect attendance records.
2. Before spring practice one year, several assistant coaches met with players to discuss "academics," but each meeting had diagrammed plays and chalk-talk and whatnot. An assistant coach conducted drills at least eight times for about fifteen minutes. It's unclear if this was Captain Dumbass or not, but someone videotaped one of the drills. Football coaches also had members of the football undergo impermissible 11-on-11 activities, simulating plays with a "taped towel" instead of a football.
In the committee rationale area, there is the implication that the assistant coaches misrepresented the meetings to the NCAA by claiming the students were just so excited about the new plays that they initiated the "chalk talk"; students did not echo this. The head coach acknowledged the activities were "pushing it" and compliance should have been consulted about the workouts.
3. TRENCH WARRIOR hats.
4. Failure to monitor levied at the institution, citing the sand practices being common knowledge with everyone except the institution. The head coach "observed at least seven or eight of these workouts."
What They Did To Themselves
SDSU self-imposed six total years of scholarship penalties: three the first year, two the second, one the third. They eliminated 21 practice days over the course of three years, took one assistant coach off the road for four days, suspended Captain Dumbass, and put notes in the offenders' permanent records.
What Got Done To Them After
Two years of probation.
Compliance Guy: The major difference is that the Trench Warrior hats are an extra benefit in addition to a practice violation. Giving material items as prizes for performance is not allowed, even though giving them to the whole team might be OK. They're a practice violation as well because you cannot punish or reward student-athletes for voluntary workouts.
Also notice the COI did even less than they did to FIU. Two years probation is the minimum imposed in a major violation case. There will always be a penalty of two years probation, so this is basically rubber-stamping the penalties. Why this is two years probation and not three is a big confusing, but probation doesn't mean much competitively. It means more work for the compliance office. It doesn't even mean a longer period of repeat violator status, which is always five years no matter how long the probation is.
The extra benefit piece is a big deal because it explains the scholarship penalties. Penalties have to match the violations. If you violation recruiting rules, you get recruiting restrictions, if you violation practice rules, you get less practice, and if you give student-athletes too much financial aid or extra benefits, you reduce your financial aid.
Based on the difference between these two cases, I would say reduced scholarships are still on the table, but are most likely to be self-imposed. Michigan might give up scholarships if they believe scholarships are worth less than practice and they can reduce the practice penalties somewhat by giving up something else
Michigan Versus Those Guys
Unfortunately, it's tough to tell exactly what bits of the previous cases caused the punishments levied. FIU's two-for-one hours penalty is pretty obvious, but what exactly was so much worse about the SDSU case that saw them dump six years of scholarships when FIU didn't have to ditch any? Both violations took place over three years. And involved an actual assistant coach. The head coaches knew in both cases. Captain Dumbass #1 seriously pissed off the NCAA, as did #2. I don't get the discrepancy.
Anyway, some guesses:
Braithwaite's hire implies that Michigan might lose a coach for some period of time. Michigan turned around the notice of allegations instantly and Brandon said there wasn't anything in there that was a surprise, so Michigan knew full well what the investigation would show. Here's betting one of the self-imposed penalties is removing a coach for spring and possibly fall, and Braithwaite will be that guy.
(Compliance Guy: Oddly enough, Braithwaite might end up doing what the QC guys were supposed to be doing.)
Michigan will probably give two for one on the practice overages. They come to 66 hours, so Michigan will probably try to spread 132 hours over a few years.
(Compliance Guy: That penalty can take many forms: a later fall start date, additional off days, a shorter spring, or fewer hours per week (or a combination of any or all of these).
Could Rodriguez's "failure to monitor" actually be a good thing? My research over the past couple days indicates that failure to monitor is a charge that the NCAA levies against programs when they believe people who should be in a position to know these things didn't know these things. In the cases above both head coaches knew there were shenanigans going on, so they did not get a failure to monitor charge. Only the universities did.
In Michigan's case, both coach and university got charged with failure to monitor. On the surface this is one of the FIVE MAJOR VIOLATIONS. Underneath, it actually seems like a mitigating factor. Having people violate NCAA regulations without your knowledge seems better being aware of it.
This may be a straw I'm grasping at.
(Compliance Guy: Rodriguez is not charged with "failure to monitor." Rodriguez is charged with "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance." It's basically a catchall that includes something like "failure to monitor" and "lack of institutional control" on a program level. Basically its to make head coaches take responsibility for their program, whether they knew about something and ignored it, failed to control the assistants at all, or ordered assistants to commit violations (how John Calipari has escaped this is beyond me).
It's not a mitigating factor and it's not a "good thing." But it's not necessarily going to be a very bad thing. If it is a very bad thing, it might mean some penalty directed personally at Rodriguez, like prohibiting him from recruiting off-campus for a period of time. Michigan might attempt to head this off by self-imposing internal penalties like establishing meetings between Rodriguez and the compliance office, suspending him, or withholding pay, raises, or bonuses.)
Alex Herron lying probably doesn't matter. If FIU had its coach tell a kid to lie and get caught for it and didn't get scholarship reductions, having one GA get caught being deceitful reflects on the GA, not Michigan.
(Compliance Guy: Agreed. He'll get hit with a show-cause penalty, unlike the two similar noncoaching staff members in the Central Florida recruiting violation who were not hit with show-cause penalties because they were so forthcoming.)
Scholarship reductions don't seem assured. FIU conducted 57 actual practices supervised by an assistant coach that the head coach knew about and didn't get much more than the practice reductions. However, since Michigan is capped at 84 this year due to some foul-ups with walk-ons I'm betting Michigan takes a small hit for 2010 only since taking that hit has zero impact.
(Compliance Guy: Agreed. It's possible that Michigan will just get coaching staff and practice penalties. But the goal of penalties is to erase a competitive advantage, and Michigan might add in a seemingly unrelated penalty to avoid an even bigger practice reduction, or the COI might deem it appropriate to impose the scholarship limitations to erase that competitive advantage (less likely).)
Whatever Michigan self-imposes is probably going to be the end of it. In both cases above, the NCAA looked at the penalties, said "okay," and tacked on some probation.
The above scenario is a worst case. I'm not sure how much credence to put into the rumors flying around that once the full report comes out Michigan will have seriously mitigated many of the charges—that's a classic example of something you want to believe—but they are out there and I've heard from a couple good sources that the details here will be less than damning. We'll have to wait for the Michigan response and self-imposed penalties to find out.
Again, tons of thanks to Compliance Guy for the clarity. His blog is The Bylaw Blog.
Via the Hoover Street Rag
There's a notable difference between third-party blog reaction and that from newspapers. Blogs first, with a focus on people who don't love or hate Michigan because of their team affiliations. Doctor Saturday:
Stare into the face of bureaucracy, Michigan, and quiver at its awesome power.
Know also that every program in the country -- and I'm pretty confident when I say every program -- would run afoul of at least one of those infractions (or similar ones; it's a big manual) on a somewhat regular basis, as the minimum cost of employing fallible human being while continuing to dead-lift with the Joneses. Other programs, however, weren't the target of an investigation by a major metropolitan newspaper that left no stone unturned in its efforts to make a splash against a high-profile program. Michigan was, which is why it was Michigan's coach, president and new athletic director (not even officially on the job for two more weeks) in front of the cameras today feigning contrition over barely spilt milk.
Team Speed Kills, which from its name you can probably deduct is an SEC blog:
If this is all the NCAA could find after having a newspaper article for a road map, it leads to the conclusion that either (a) the Detroit Free-Press blew this way out of proportion or (b) the Association is even more incompetent than I thought. Since I'm not sure (b) is possible, we'll go with (a).
…when you look at what the NCAA is accusing Michigan of, there isn’t that much there. So, yeah, the school is likely the victim of some journalistic hyperventilating by the Detroit Free-Press.
The Big Lead's Ty Duffy has a somewhat more negative take; he is a Michigan fan in the "kill him now" camp and not a neutral third party. I've scoured the RSS for other opinions, but the charges pass without notice most places. More locally, Black Shoe Diaries takes issue with DocSat's assertion that similar violations would be turned up everywhere:
We don't have any idea what's going on anywhere, I think that's the news.
Neither Yahoo blogger nor beat reporter and maybe not even football coach really are certain of anything; the rules are complex, all the source material is totally unattainable for most of us and we don't have an enforcement agency with the power to comfortably investigate.
Of course, like critics of the tax code often say, it's probably the complexity of the rules that make enforcement impossible and hopelessly selective.
…the allegations fall somewhere in between the minor and serious realms. The quality control staff is in position to take the blunt of the heat with Brandon reiterating Rodriquez’s job was not in imminent danger as a result of the findings — which I don’t think any of us ever doubted.
The yawning is everywhere.
Newspaper folk, on the other hand, tend towards the hysterical. The Wizard of Odds, which is a blog but is a blog written by a LAT refugee, demonstrates the overall tone:
Rich Rod Era at Michigan Reaches a New Low
Indeed. This guy in the "Niles Star" is about to get more hits than he's ever gotten in his life:
It’s time that the University of Michigan cuts its ties with coach Rich Rodriguez.
Tuesday was one of the lowest days in Michigan football history as the NCAA delivered its notice of allegations against the program.
I don't think this counts as a disinterested party, but the Orlando Sentinel's Andrea Adelson:
It is hard to figure out how Rich Rodriguez is going to survive this — no matter what incoming athletic director David Brandon says.
AnnArbor.com's Pete Bigelow unearths things like the Jonas Mouton Suspension Fiasco and the completely reasonable decision to negotiate the buyout in yet another This Hick Spit In Michigan's Vase (and that's "vaaahse,: not "vace") column:
At the time, Rodriguez dismissed the allegations as “unnecessary drama.”
Concerns can no longer be brushed aside. Not about the NCAA charges in particular nor the way Rodriguez conducts his program in general.
In too many instances, some large and some small, Rodriguez has written his own reality to the detriment of his program and the university.
Wojo's his usual reasonable self but even his column is a far cry from the "meh" you see above:
The NCAA didn't accuse Rodriguez's program of breaking the biggest rules, and Michigan said the violations weren't done in a malicious way. And Rodriguez won't lose his job over this, not now.
But for Michigan football, previously untainted by the NCAA, any violation is big. For Rodriguez, it doesn't help his cause, but it doesn't really change much either.
Bylaw Blog is the "Unofficial Blog of NCAA Compliance," which just goes to show that you can find anything on the internet. Its author is an anonymous employee in the compliance department of a Division I school who pegged Michigan's findings in a totally speculative post that some people got upset about but turned out to be accurate. He goes by Compliance Guy. I flagged him down and asked him a number of questions about where we are now and what's likely to happen in the future.
1. What is the process that Michigan has gone through to reach this point? I might be a little bit fuzzy on the details, but this is what I think has gone on so far:
- Notice of Inquiry
- Michigan internal investigation undertaken with assistance/cooperation from NCAA.
- Michigan files report with NCAA
- NCAA responds with Notice of Allegations.
Is this an accurate picture of how the process works?
Flop the notice of inquiry and Michigan's investigation starting and you have the basic order. Michigan would have started the investigation the moment the story broke. At a certain point, either because of what Michigan was telling the NCAA or what the NCAA was hearing from somewhere else, the enforcement staff got involved and issued the Notice of Inquiry.
2. Past this point there are a couple more steps. Michigan will respond. They may or may not issue self-imposed sanctions. And then they'll go in front of the committee. How often do accusations of major violations get degraded to secondary violations in practice? Is the NCAA-issued NOA going to closely resemble the final findings at the committee or is it likely to get walked back? If so, how much?
A major violation case, once it gets to this point, rarely is argued back down to a secondary infraction. To get to a Notice of Allegations, especially in this case, the enforcement staff and Committee on Infractions would have worked very closely to decide if there were major violations, ultimately the COI's decision.
Individual major violations are sometimes downgraded to secondary violations during the response and hearing. In the Kelvin Sampson case at IU, one of the original five major violations--that Sampson and assistant coach Jeff Meyer gave Derek Elston a backpack and t-shirt and recruited him during a camp--was found to be only a secondary violation. Of course, the COI can add too, like the failure to monitor charge that came after the committee hearing.
The final report is going to look very similar. The most likely charge to be downgraded is actually the excessive practice, since it was never grossly beyond the limits like originally alleged by the ex-players. But the lack of documentation at the time makes it difficult for Michigan to prove that the violations were "isolated or inadvertent" and did not result in a "significant competitive advantage."
3. The five accusations:
1) Michigan quality control staffers "monitored and conducted skill development activities," assisted with "warm up and flexibility," watched film with players, and occasionally attended coaching meetings.
2) Similar in nature in points a) and b). c) consists of disciplinary measures after missing class in summer. d) consists of varying but relatively small amounts of excessive mandatory activity.
3) A graduate assistant lied during the process.
4) Rich Rodriguez "failure to monitor."
5) Athletic department "failure to monitor."
Are my characterizations of all these charges correct? If so, how serious are each of them?
#2 is, very generally, excessive practice. Michigan allowed excessive practice in one of three ways:
1) Did not count stretching and warm-up, thus requiring too much CARA (countable athletically related activity);
2) Disciplined players for missing class over the summer, when no required physical activity is permitted for any reason; and
3) Allowing excessive voluntary activity during the summer.
The third type is likely the most bewildering to fans. The NCAA tightly regulates even voluntary activity during the summer in football. The large team peer pressure and culture of discipline in football can cause it to get out of hand, so the NCAA limits how long you can work out with strength coaches in the summer, even voluntarily and sets periods of time where strength coaches cannot work out with football student-athletes at all.
The most serious charge is the failure to monitor charge for the university. It does allow for a wider variety of penalties. The "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance" charge for Rodriguez means his continued employment at Michigan might change things. The ethical conduct charge is serious, but only really affects Herron. The other two violations are normally secondary in isolated incidents, but went on long enough to be considered major. Of the two, exceeding the coaching limits by a significant amount (11 is the limit with a total of five extra) is more serious.
There's also a sixth violation floating around, as an element of other violations but should be considered almost like a separate violation: the failure to submit practice logs for over a year and a half. Why that happened is going to be one of the COI's burning questions and the lack of the logs makes raising a defense to the charges that much more difficult.
4. On your blog you've recently documented a gradual broadening of "major violations" from serious dolla-dolla-bill ya'll type charges to considerably less severe violations, using the recent Arizona basketball issues as an example. Would these charges have gotten the same amount of scrutiny five, ten, fifteen years ago?
15 years ago, we wouldn't have the 24-hour news cycle that caused the violations to come to light in the first place. In addition, neither the NCAA nor Michigan would have had the resources to devote to discovering just how serious the violations were. Even now, we only know that limits were exceeded "some weeks."
But with larger compliance offices, bigger NCAA staffs, and a Committee on Infractions getting sick of the idea that secondary infractions don't matter, there is increased scrutiny. 15 years ago Michigan might have just reported a vague secondary violation and negotiated how much to reduce the practice time by. Now, just the fact that neither Michigan nor the NCAA has been able to completely quantify how big the violation was is not helping Michigan.
5. During the press conference new Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon downplayed a number of the charges, particularly the hours exceeded. Those were declared a misunderstanding about how stretching and other prep time was classified. It sounded like he was preparing a defense. If the NCAA and Michigan worked together on this, how could they be unfamiliar with this point of view? What is the probability that arguments like "it was a misunderstanding" will have any effect?
Brandon is preparing a defense, but at this point reducing the penalty is the more likely goal rather than winning an acquittal. Secondary violations need to meet two requirements: isolated or inadvertent AND did not produce a significant competitive advantage. Convince the NCAA of both and you have a secondary violation. Convince them of one, and you still have a major violation, but a lesser one.
Trouble is that the NCAA looks at what coaches and administrators "should" have known rather than what they did know. If the NCAA changes a rule, issues an interpretation, or releases an Educational Column (non-binding, technical discussions of the rules), a compliance officer is virtually presumed to have read it. And if the coaches were never educated about the rule, not only does it not save them, but it also becomes an element of bigger institutional charges like failure to monitor and lack of institutional control.
6. Michigan's handling of the situation has been fairly controversial on the internet because Michigan fans, rightly or wrongly, feel that the university's relative openness was detrimental in the Ed Martin case. Michigan has apparently been as accommodating as possible with the NCAA. Is inviting NCAA investigators in asking for trouble or a way to mitigate any potential sanctions? If you were in Michigan's position, what would you have done?
That's a tricky question because as a public institution, Michigan can only be so secretive. A great deal of the investigation can be open to the public via open records laws and the Freedom of Information Act. Look at the fervor caused by one informational meeting with the trustees that Michigan attempted to keep quiet.
What is the measure against which Michigan's openness is being judged? I'm sure most fans are pointing at USC and how the Reggie Bush investigation took five years and it seems like USC is in front of the COI almost out of the blue. But USC is a private institution, and doesn't have to worry about bitter rivals, wronged alumni, and nosy reporters demanding every scrap of paper. Michigan probably hasn't made public anything that wouldn't be made public before.
Looking back to the Ed Martin scandal, Michigan's willingness to cooperate was likely a key consideration in getting the second year of postseason ban overturned on appeal. Cooperating with the NCAA is wrongly portrayed as "going above and beyond vs. defending yourself." It's an obligation of being a member of the NCAA.
Michigan fans like to talk about the integrity and class in the program. If that means anything, it means acknowledging your mistakes, taking your medicine, and working to improve. It doesn't mean being difficult just because it seems USC is.
I think Michigan's handling of the case has been a model of how to deal with a major infractions case so far. And the result will likely be fairer penalties and a case that is disposed of quickly rather than casting a shadow on the program for a number of years.
7. Would one GA lying to the NCAA seriously hurt the university as a whole, assuming that he is then fired?
It's highly unlikely. A single, isolated unethical conduct violation generally hits the person who committed it rather than the institution. The primary tool the COI uses for this is the show-cause penalty, which states that any institution who hires the person must appear before the committee and "show cause" why they should not be punished the same way the previous school was.
As a counterexample, Dave Bliss' unethical conduct, in instructing players and coaches to lie in the Baylor case, is much more serious on an institutional level. When high level administrators (ADs, presidents, etc.), head coaches, or people who should know better (compliance staff) commit unethical conduct, it speaks to institutional control.
8. Is there any possibility Michigan escapes a major infraction at this point? What do you think Michigan's penalties will be? If you think some of the accusations are walked back, what would they be in that case?
It's almost a certainty that come October or November, Michigan will be back on probation. The Committee on Infractions generally doesn't start flimsy cases. Look again at USC. Since the original Yahoo! Sports report about Reggie Bush, the COI could have sent a Notice of Allegations as a fishing expedition. But given the fact that they were dealing with a major football program, they couldn't afford to have the case blow up in their face. So they continued investigating, interview, asking for documentation, and working with USC to develop the case until they had a slam dunk.
I'm also confident the same five charges in the Notice of Allegations will be in the final report. Like I said earlier, the excessive practice is the most likely candidate to be reduced, but Michigan lacks the best tool for doing so: detailed logging of practice time during that period. Consistent and timely logs, though mistaken, would have been the best evidence that the violations were all an honest mistake.
I expect a lengthy list of penalties, but none of which are too severe. Despite Michigan's status as a repeat violator due to the Ed Martin case, the death penalty is clearly not in the cards. [Editor's note: I think this is meant to be reassuring.] Neither are more severe penalties like a postseason or TV ban. In fact, Michigan doesn't even need to vacate wins (unless it self-imposes) because these violations do not affect eligibility. I think you'll see a list like this:
- A reduction in countable coaches (one coach will have to be reassigned to a noncoaching position);
- A reduction in practice with a shorter spring season in 2011 and/or reduced hour limits;
- Possibly recruiting restrictions, including limiting the number of coaches off-campus at any one time;
- Possibly a reduction of around three scholarships for a year or two;
- 3-4 years probation (longer due to repeat violator status)
Combined I think they are a setback (which they're intended to be), but they aren't program crushing penalties that will take years to crawl out from like the Ed Martin penalties were.
[Ed: Many thanks to Compliance Guy. Again: Bylaw Blog is his internet home.]
OCR FTW. I'll let those inclined pore over it. It sounds a lot worse in this format than it did coming from Brandon; it sounds like they have reasonable explanations for some of it. The QC folk being impermissibly involved sounds pretty bad, though, and one Alex Herron is so fired.
NOTICE OF ALLEGATIONS
President of the University of Michigan
[NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11.1, 18.104.22.168.1.1, 11.7.2 and 22.214.171.124 (2009-10 NCAA Manual)]
1. It is alleged that from January 2008 through September 2009, the institution's football program exceeded the permissible limit on the number of coaches by five when quality control staff members (noncoaching sport-specific staff members who were not counted as countable coaches) engaged in on- and off-field coaching activities. The quality control staff members included Adam Braithwaite (March 2008 to the present), Dan Hott (January 2008 to the present), Josh Ison (February 2009 to the present), Bob McClain (January 2008 to February 2009), Eric Smith (January 2008 to the present) and Bryan Wright (June 2008 to the present). Specifically:
a. During 2008 and 2009 winter and voluntary summer workouts, and outside of the regular playing season, quality control staff members regularly monitored and conducted skill-development activities with football student-athletes that occurred two days a week. Additionally, the quality control staff members coached the football student-athletes through those activities to improve technique and develop fundamental football-related skills. [NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199.1, 188.8.131.52.1.1, 11.7.2 and 184.108.40.206]
b. During 2008 and 2009 spring and regular-season football practice, quality control staff members regularly assisted ' with football student-athletes' flexibility and warm-up activities. Additionally, on some occasions, the quality control staff members provided advice and/or corrections to football student-athletes pertaining to technique and plays. [NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11.1, 18.104.22.168.1.1, 11.7.2 and 22.214.171.124]
c. From January 2008 through September 2009, the quality control staff members sometimes watched game and/or practice film with football student-athletes and provided advice and/or corrections to the football student-athletes pertaining to technique and plays. [NCAA Bylaws 126.96.36.199.1, 188.8.131.52.1.1, 11.7.2 and 184.108.40.206]
d. From January 2008 through September 2009, the quality control staff members sometimes attended meetings involving coaching activities. [NCAA Bylaws 220.127.116.11.1, 18.104.22.168.1.1, 11.7.2 and 22.214.171.124]
Please indicate whether this information is substantially correct and whether the institution agrees violations of NCAA legislation occurred. Submit evidence to support your response. [Editor's note: rest after the jump.]