Jihad The Second: Practical Matters
I made curried cabbage last night. It's a simple dish that, like most Indian dishes, can take as much butter as you're willing to risk and can be made in preposterous quantity. Basically: chop two large onions and around a head of garlic and sweat them in just under a stick of butter; add healthy amounts of turmeric, curry powder, cumin, and salt, then chop a head of cabbage and thinly slice some potatoes and throw them in; cook until everything's soft and glows like it's radioactive—
Oh, right. That. There are many thing to say about it and I guess I have to say them instead of working on the season preview as I intended to this fine Sunday. So we'll take them in slices. Slice the first will concern the possibility of NCAA infractions and starts now.
A reader has helpfully digested the NCAA rulebook into the salient sections:
17.02.13 Voluntary Athletically Related Activities. In order for any athletically related activity to be considered “voluntary,” all of the following conditions must be met: (Adopted: 4/18/01)
(a) The student-athlete must not be required to report back to a coach or other athletics department staff member (e.g., strength coach, trainer, manager) any information related to the activity. In addition, no athletics department staff member who observes the activity (e.g., strength coach, trainer, manager) may report back to the student-athlete’s coach any information related to the activity; [Editor's note: this has not been alleged.]
(b) The activity must be initiated and requested solely by the student-athlete. Neither the institution nor any athletics department staff member may require the student-athlete to participate in the activity at any time.
However, it is permissible for an athletics department staff member to provide information to student-athletes related to available opportunities for participating in voluntary activities (e.g., times when the strength and conditioning coach will be on duty in the weight room or on the track). In addition, for students who have initiated a request to engage in voluntary activities, the institution or an athletics department staff member may assign specific times for student-athletes to use institutional facilities for such purposes and inform the student-athletes of the time in advance; [Editor's note: a lot of noise about "required" in the article but these rules really require you to parse the semantics of "required"; playing time is voluntary, too.]
(c) The student-athlete’s attendance and participation in the activity (or lack thereof ) may not be recorded for the purposes of reporting such information to coaching staff members or other student-athletes; and [alleged]
(d) The student-athlete may not be subjected to penalty if he or she elects not to participate in the activity. In addition, neither the institution nor any athletics department staff member may provide recognition or incentives (e.g., awards) to a student-athlete based on his or her attendance or performance in the activity. [Former alleged, latter not.]
[Note: Coaching staff members may be present during permissible skill-related instruction pursuant to Bylaws 126.96.36.199.2 and 188.8.131.52.3]. (Revised: 4/29/04 effective 8/1/04)
The emailer also suggests this:
As far as I can tell, the authors of the article invented the rule about "quality-control staff" not being permitted to observe voluntary off-season scrimmages. The rules about voluntary activities clearly mention athletics department staff observing, and the following rule disallows observing "nonorganized voluntary athletically related activities (e.g., pick-up games)" for certain staff members, which a student-organized scrimmage is clearly not:
184.108.40.206.1.1 Noncoaching Activities. Institutional staff members involved in noncoaching activities (e.g., administrative assistants, academic counselors) do not count in the institution’s coaching limitations, provided such individuals are not identified as coaches, do not engage in any on- or off-field coaching activities (e.g., attending meetings involving coaching activities, analyzing video involving the institution’s or an opponent’s team), and are not involved in any off-campus recruitment of prospective student-athletes or scouting of opponents. A noncoaching staff member with sport-specific responsibilities may not participate with or observe student-athletes in the staff member’s sport who are engaged in nonorganized voluntary athletically related activities (e.g., pick-up games). (Adopted: 1/16/93, Revised: 1/10/95, 12/13/05, 4/27/06 effective 8/1/06)
…but I'm skeptical he read that rule right. Even if quality control staff qualify as noncoaching, they do have sport specific responsibilities and can't observe "nonorganized voluntary athletically related activities," which I'm very sure would include the voluntary seven-on-sevens and whatnot.
The article's hugely long and goes into detail about Barwis' workout regimes and Michigan's seven-on-seven "requirements" but the only section that specifically alleges NCAA violations is this one:
"It was mandatory," one player said. "They'd tell you it wasn't, but it really was. If you didn't show up, there was punishment. I just felt for the guys that did miss a workout and had to go through the personal hell they would go through."
In addition, the players cited these practices within the program:
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.
Players said members of Rodriguez's quality-control staff often watched seven-on-seven off-season scrimmages. The non-contact drills, in which an offense runs plays against a defense, are supposed to be voluntary and player-run. They are held at U-M's football facilities. NCAA rules allow only training staff _ not quality-control staffers _ to attend as a safety precaution. Quality-control staffers provide administrative and other support for the coaches but are not allowed to interact directly with players during games, practices or workouts.
If verified, the quote about punishment would violate blah blah blah subsection D above. What qualifies as a "punishment" in a regularly scheduled S&C workout is unknown. Working out harder?
And if "quality control" staff were observing seven-on-seven, a claim disputed Michigan compliance department spot checks, that would be a violation as well. And the "nine hours" on Sunday would be a violation if the voluntary workouts gray area was breached.
There is some expansion on blah subsection D:
Under Carr, off-season seven-on-seven drills were run by players, without coaches or staff members present, players said. The only staffer there would be a trainer, in case anybody got injured, as allowed under NCAA rules.
Several players said Rodriguez's coaches were more likely to insist they participate in seven-on-seven scrimmages, which have become more frequent. They also said that members of the program's quality-control staff frequently watched seven-on-sevens.
"They usually just watched and would write down who wasn't there," one player on the 2008 team said.
Another said graduate assistants would track them down.
"The phone would ring: 'Where you at? ... You gotta come.' 'I'm in class.' "
Ah, smell the objectivity: "insist" is another man's way of saying "suggest you participate lest you fall behind the rest of the team and find yourself on the bench." But taking attendance is verboten. Calling players on the team probably not.
The rest of it is filler, like quotes from some freshmen about the offseason workout program…
"Hooooo!" Stokes said. "A typical week is working from 8 a.m. in the morning to 6 or 7 at night, Monday through Saturday."
And that was starting in June?
"Yes, sir," Stokes said. "We do the weight room at least three times a week, and seven-on-sevens and one-on-ones. Speed and agility on the other days. Every day we have something new to get ready for the season. The coaches have done a great job of stressing the importance of getting us ready for the big season that we're about to have."
…that would be totally evil if Rodriguez was an idiot who hadn't dealt with NCAA compliance for 20 years and hadn't made sure the strenuous workouts fit the definitions of "voluntary." This is unlikely. The same goes for the assertions that Rodriguez had his players exceed daily limits on required activities and 20-hour-per-week maximums on practice time: all of those sections rely on vague quotes about what the team does from players who aren't complaining and include things like workouts that, again, probably qualify as voluntary. Here's the big reveal on exceeding maximum hours per week:
With three hours on Saturday and a full day on Sunday, players tallied about 12 hours on those two days. They were off Monday. Players said they would spend an additional three to four hours with the team on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, bringing the weekly total to 21- 24 hours.
If any section of any of those days fit the definition of voluntary, that's not a violation.
a. During the summer of 2006, members of the men's basketball coaching staff, including the former head coach, were present during, and in some instances, briefly observed men's basketball student-athletes' participation in the team's strength and conditioning program. Additionally, student-athletes were sometimes required to report to a coach the reason they did not attend a conditioning session.
b. During the summer of 2007, members of the men's basketball coaching staff, including the former head coach, regularly, but not to the extent of the prior summer, were present during, and in some instances briefly observed, men's basketball student-athletes' participation in the team's strength and conditioning program.
c. During the fall of 2006 (August through October) and spring of 2007 (March through May), members of the men's basketball coaching staff briefly observed men's basketball student-athletes' participation in a few on-campus out-of-season pick-up games, including one occasion in the spring of 2007 (around April 24), when some coaches observed a prospective student-athlete, completing an official paid visit, participate in an on-campus pick-up game with some of the men's basketball student-athletes.
This was part of a laundry list of other violations, including an impermissible car trip and two separate instances where boosters or coaches paid for school fees or tuition. But what really got SEMO in hot water was the head coach's response to the investigation; that and the collective malfeasance-lookin' thing got SEMO the dreaded three words that indicate serious ire on the part of the NCAA:
Other violations include unethical conduct by the former head coach for knowing about the program's involvement in NCAA violations and providing false and misleading information to the institution and enforcement staff when questioned about his involvement in and knowledge of possible NCAA violations; unethical conduct by the former assistant coach for failing to act in accordance with the generally recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics for his knowing involvement in NCAA violations; and the institution's failure to monitor the men's and women's basketball programs.
All this added up to three years of probation and one scholarship taken away for one year, AKA nothing whatsoever.
So, Yeah… What Might Happen?
You're not dealing with amateurs here:
Van Horn said, "Compliance and administrative staff conduct in-person spot checks of practice during the academic year and summer. We have not had any reason to self-report any violations in this area with any of our sports."
At the very least a detailed list of clean spot checks will assuage the NCAA if they choose to investigate. "Failure to monitor" can't be alleged when there is monitoring. This is a major reason big schools report a lot of minor violations and escape the NCAA hammer: they pay attention and back it up with documents. Meanwhile, the accusations leveled are anonymous, unverified, and vague. It takes a huge leap to go from this article to even the tiny wrist-slap SEMO received.
The Free Press says the NCAA's reaction is "impossible to predict," but I'll predict: it'll be slightly more strenuous than their reaction to the NCAA's reaction the Ann Arbor News academics story. Since their reaction to that story was to ignore it, that only implies a cursory look through the books.