this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
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 126.96.36.199]
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.
if you are a Michigan fan with a Free Press subscription you should terminate it immediately.
I terminated my subscription to the Free Press two days after they published their piece of trash article last August.
I don't even look at anything that comes from them anymore, what a waste of time they are. I will never forgive them for how they tried to attack us.
I couldn't agree with you more Brian! The Freep is dead to me. I've replaced the Freep with Mlive. Detroit News is where its at anyways.
is why? What provoked this. If any representative of the Freep would answer and actually address the question head on, I would say OK, I admit that Michigan violated some rules, I can point out that infact, these are rules that are never enforced and routinely violated, and you say that is no excuse for MICHIGAN to break them, and I say OK, your right. But the same question exists. Why?
What is the vendetta? Why Michigan? Why now? Aside from a few Blue hatin Spartan fans that are ussually joking and not even serious about their "Michigan hatin," there is or was not intense hatred for this team in this State, was there? Who was the catalyst. And whose agenda was advanced?
I would love to hear the answers to these questions, but every representative of the Freep is so defensive as to the hatchet job they did, that nobody will address the question.
(ugh... everybody talks about that show so i decided to start watching it and now i just want to finish the damn series so i'm watching 3-4 episodes a day and ugh... it's not even that good but i just wanna know the damn end)
Jim Stapleton, EMU regent (and former U-M administrator) has always disliked Bill Martin, first for firing his friend Brian Ellerbe (no joke), then for firing Amaker, and then for not hiring Ron English. Stapleton has connections to the editorial staff of the Free Press. If he couldn't get Martin to hire his pal, maybe he could at least make like hell for the guy Martin did hire...
Some of the motives are pretty plain.
Sharp - He is what he is, the journalistic equivalent of an internet troll. He does it for the lulz.
Rosenberg - He hates Rodriguez. Whether it's because he wanted Miles, or because he lost his insider access when Rodriguez threw the doors open, who knows. But Rosenberg hates RR and believes it is his mission to save Michigan from him.
Jim Schaefer (was the co-author of the Dorsey piece) - He's an Ohio State grad and a die hard Buckeye. I don't care what award he won for his work on the Kwame scandal, assigning him to any story about UofM athletics is journalistic malpractice, and akin to the Washington Post hiring Rush Limbaugh to investigate the Obama administration.
As for the man behind the curtain, I've heard about Freep editor Paul Anger's alleged ties to MSU, which would explain why the sports writers there are allowed free reign when it comes to disregarding ethics during their reporting on Michigan football. But I've never seen any conclusive proof that Anger is an MSU grad. Not saying he isn't, I just don't know.
There's Anger's LinkedIn page, it says he graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh
It's sports editor Gene Myers who supposedly has ties to MSU boosters.
This comment will keep me from negging you nine times out of ten, from here on out.
Unlike a lot of us here, I have been to Freep since the initial story. I was stunned by its voracity and in denial of the blatant bias.
However, only four weeks into the season, the bias became consistently clear.
In week three, after Notre Dame beat MSU, one of the columnists there wrote an article summarily headlined "Spartans Show Character in Loss (to ND)".
In week four, after Michigan beat Indiana, the leading column was headlined "Wolverines Must Play Better (than against IN)".
So consider that in week 4 of the 2009 season, MSU was 1-3 and Michigan was 4-0, while Sparty was getting positive headlines and Michigan negative headlines at the Freep. NCAA article aside, the bias was still apparent.
So week 4 of the 2009 season was the last time I visited Freep. I used to hit that page 8 to 10 times a day, 50 times a week. Why they'd deliberately go out of their way to alienate the majority of their readers is a mystery to me. Ignorance or arrogance? Probably both, but they'll pay if they haven't already.
because I already boycott the Freep in electronic form and don't buy it in physical form. (I think delivery to adjoining states is probably more expensive than any paper is worth.) And I don't get back to AA often enough to have a boycott of advertisers mean much, although I would be happy to carry around a list so that I might inquire and politely confirm with those merchants when I am in town. "Will there be anything else, sir?" "I was wondering if you still pay for ads in the Detroit Free Press?" "Oh, yes we do." "Ah, nothing for me then. I'll be back another time. Good day."
Their jihad is stupid anyway. It's not like trying to get RR forced out is going to prolong the life of the Freep or the careers of Rosenberg and Snyder; unfortunately MSM seems to like constant, logic-free hate, so Sharp will always have a job. I'm sure he's been criticizing US hockey for not scoring enough second- and third-period goals and ragging on Rafalski for saving everything for the Olympics.
I add my e-pinion to those that find irony in MSM spouting ill-informed crap and then taking no responsibility for it afterward while bloggers put forth calm, rational, well-prepared articles complete with quotes on the record.
While causality between the original article and the Freep's need for revenue cannot definitively be shown, it is nevertheless a fact that circulation is declining (and has been for a l-o-o-o-o-ng time) at the Freep.
From Crain's Detroit Business, dated 16 Feb 2010:
The Freep has one of the 25 largest circulations of any paper in the country, (source: Business Insider, 4/27/09). Between Q4/08 and Q1/09, its circulation declined almost 6%. That was before Roseypalm's little August article.
By September, the Freep's circulation was down *another* 10%, (TechCrunch, 10/26/2009). Most media analysts expect a further decline to be reported at the end of the next period, in March 2010.
"Why that hatchet job?" There's your answer. In other words, they're doing anything and everything to bring in readers, whether online or in print.
Think that never really happens? I am reminded of an article I once read in Car and Driver, (possibly the best print periodical in business). The article was re-printed (when I read it) in the mid-1990s. The original was written in 1969. C&D, owned by Ziff-Davis Publishing, wanted to make a name for itself. So, the Editor-in-Chief decided to "kill a car" to make news, boost interest and circulation.
The car they decided to crucify was the 1969 Opel Kadett L (my apologies, I tried to find a source online, and couldn't track one down). The subtitle of the review was, "The Opel constitutes a never-ending stream of the third-rate and the underdone, a rolling potpourri of mediocrity."
It pretty much goes downhill from there.
They succeeded in their mission beyond their wildest imaginations. For the reprinting in the 1990s, C&D told the "story behind the story":
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Fortunately, Opel did not portend the car of tomorrow. But this rabid review helped Car and Driver on its way to becoming the car magazine of tomorrow.
The writer was Cook Neilson, at the time a young staffer down the Ziff-Davis Publishing hall at Cycle magazine. Neilson would go on to become editor of Cycle during its glory days in the ’70s. This is how he recalls the Opel assignment:
“I think [new editor] Leon Mandel was trying to establish a don’t-tread-on-me posture at the beginning of his regime, and the Opel and I were not-quite-innocent bystanders—the Opel because it was genuinely wretched and because, as the owner of an SS396 Nova, I loathed everything the Opel represented.
“Why Leon chose me to do the piece remains a mystery—but my writing it remained one of C/D’s best-kept secrets [road tests did not carry bylines in those days], if for no other reason than C/D didn’t want it known that such a hatchet job had come from some fresh-out-of-college motorcycle mouth breather. That I didn’t know as much about cars as most of C/D’s other staffers wasn’t a problem for Leon—he didn’t know anything at all about cars.”
Current editor-at-large Patrick Bedard remembers the controversial road test this way:
“This was a ritual assassination. The trigger had already been pulled when I interviewed for the job of technical editor in November 1967, but the impact wouldn’t occur until a month after my hiring.
“Leon Mandel had just moved into the editor-in-chief’s chair. Our address was One Park Avenue, New York, New York. New journalism was dawning. Tom Wolfe was the print media’s sensation. Mandel was passionate. ‘Car and Driver is the best f**king magazine in the world,’ he told me. ‘It just happens to be about cars.’
“To get the world to notice us, he decided to kill a car. The cringing Opel station wagon was handy. The hit man was Cook Neilson.
“We got noticed, all right. General Motors canceled all of its advertising in all Ziff-Davis magazines (Modern Bride even lost Frigidaire, a GM division then). Honeywell, involved somehow, dropped its ads in Popular Photography. Collateral damage was everywhere, and we staffers at Car and Driver had to suffer snubs from the innocent victims as we walked the halls of One Park. We didn’t care. We were hot.”
That about sums up what the Freep tried to do to UM Football and Rodriguez. But in 2009, unlike 1969, there is MGoBlog.
anyone comes across a revenue-generating link here to the paper in question, it is a simple matter to convert it to a harmless print link. There actually has been discussion about the ethicality of this in the past, but now this is consistent with Brian's latest express wishes.
The first step will be to render it from a hyperlink to simple text. The way I do this is to right-click on the link, and then to click on "properties" in the resulting window. (This is how it works in Firefox -- this will work with hidden links as well). This will pull up a window with the link in a harmless text form which you can cut-and-paste into your browser target window. You may need to resize the "properties" box to show all of the link.
Once you have the link positioned as a target url in your browser, edit as follows:
This should be the result:
You should be able to hit "enter" and arrive at the non-revenue-generating print version of the article. It is a whole lot less cluttered, as well.
Some links lack the four-digit numeral term; in this case, inserting the "print/" term is all that is needed.
Hopefully this will no longer be needed.
I just hope this doesn't become a trend where every other year the freep will be making up shit about our program and the NCAA launches investigations. If an investigation is launched at any University by the NCAA some sort of violation will be found.
I wonder if UM can show the evidence to the NCAA that the freep did a hatchet job on them, and in the future please ignore this shitty paper if they fabricate any other stories about RR and his staff.
Make them play your game.
How do people fight back against a large organization….in the past, some have tried not to shut the organization down, just increase its costs.
-planned sickouts among workers at the orgainization or its distributors or sponsors,
-failure to plow driveways or roads leading to the workplace,
-delays in paper delivery,
-unrelated but justifiable lawsuits, etc. …
I am not suggesting that anyone do such things
…I am sure others have even better ideas
… but consider them food for thought..
Note from the link below that a newspaper in question seems to be spinning the UM fan anger as a sources of more clicks for their newspaper, probably selling this idea to advertisers.
There are a number of strategies of corporate warfare based on the ancient principles of The Art of War.
They suggest fighting the opponent away from his home turf
Rather than openly viewed plans on the web, it might be most effective to spread and organize activities by word of mouth, cell phones, text messages etc. More details below.
1. Fight them at their point of weakness, not strength. We need a plan, which should not be published on the web but communicated by word of mouth.Direct conflict (eg via the press, letters to editors etc) should be avoided unless absolutely necessary to debunk lies.
2. Use strategies which are easy to communicate to others on a broad scale and which are hard for the opponent to spin its way. Our source of strength is our unity, creativity and timing
3. Defend our positions and use exploit opportunities as they arise eg keep personal contacts with advertisers and be ready to give them an alternative source of exposure?
Use creativity and timing. Opportunities arise from openings in the environment and are cause by the opponent’s weaknesses in a particular area….eg which advertisers are not getting what they want from the newspaper? Which authors are underperforming? Did they say something that could offend existing advertisers, etc?.
4.. Vary Tactics. Be unpredictable. Use strategies which are easy to communicate to others on a broad scale and which are hard for the opponent to spin its way.
5. Look at the general areas of likely resistance (efforts to keep the NCAA issues alive, new attacks on UM/RR, approval or funding of these attacks by existing advertisers, dangers, and barriers).
5. Consider your own possible routes of attack…eg organized vs individual, loosely organized? Constant, small pressures vs. large scale, definitive attacks
6. Use the environment as a weapon…the financial environment and the fiscal weakness of the paper
7. The Use of Spies/The Use of Intelligence. Insiders who know people on the paper or casually meet with them from time to time could get an idea of their likely responses, ongoing initiatives, weaknesses and fears. (also, if there are sources of leaks in one’s own organization, it is useful to give out false info to particular people and see if it comes out, to test if they are loyal or not.
Sew the seeds of distrust, competitiveness,etc in the opponent's organization. Who is fighting who to keep his job?
Interview players who left or were recently kicked off MSU, OSU
to see how much practice time was required at their schools.
Publish in their local papers in lansing, columbus
of all local stores that sell that newspapaer. Offer to do all your shopping there if they dump the paper.
If somebody can make picket signs to use in front of the stores, pass them out too.
we should maintain a distinction between "enemy" and "rival." Some of the friendliest covering fire UM has gotten during the Jihad has been from Herbstriet and Tressel, at the time the allegations came out in August, and now that the allegations are public, from rival fansites. I don't think rival teams are the target for our return fire. (Unless we can get ahold of the name of the team RR singled out as a negative recruiter?)
Besides, you are assuming that papers in rival towns are in on the sabotage of their local teams; I think you are projecting our misfortune onto others.
I think it is us against the world until RR turns the corner on 8-9 wins and he and Brandon clean up all the compliance clusterfuck that gave the parasites their opportunity in the first place; then, we just have to outlast the shrill voices until they die out. Stay the course (with the obvious corrections).
Maybe re-erect the barricades at Fort Schembechler, or at least some kind of deal to keep saboteurs out.
My main desire is for the NCAA to enforce its policies equally. It is absurd for them to claim we got a competitive advantage by practicing, when other teams like OSU are doing it far more (see below). I think it would be naive to think Herbie and Tressel are sincerely concerned with UM's welfare, other than to make public statements that give the issue more publicity. Also, they are worried that somebody will come after OSU.
But my point remains: I do not see the NCAA rectifying the imbalance in their enforcement until a lot of other schools, including our rivals, start to get the same scrutiny and until we can prove what is already obvious to everyone: the breadth of the real problem.
As much as I fault the Freep, I also fault the archaic model of enforcement by the NCAA. It is not helpful to wait for newpapers to conduct vendettas against a school, then single out that school for punishment, when everyone else is doing the same thing. If the NCAA wishes to improve intercollegiate athletics, it needs to continuously monitor the quality of practices in all schools. There are ways to do this, which are now being used in hospitals and many other organizations.
Why don’t they start with anonymous surveys of practice durations in randomly selected, Div 1A schools to get a better handle on the extent of the problem (I would even suggest that UM hire a survey group in ISR or an independent organization to do this prior to the August hearing).
If the NCAA does not keep up to date on quality improvement methods, they are not merely unfair but grossly ineffective.
Appendix: the statement of an OSU fan about their noncompliance
“Here’s the problem though…how can I cast stones when I’m almost 150% positive that Senator Tressel is doing the exact same thing, and probably to a greater and more efficient extent (I mean OSU IS much better than Michigan, after all)? And WHY would I want to? I fuckin’ love college football, and having a team that’s consistently above average kicks a whole bunch of ass. Have you ever made a right turn without using your turn signal? Fuck yea you have…and that’s about all this bullshit with Michigan is, the NCAA equivalent of driving 5 mph over the speed limit” (cited in link in brian's original post here)
Actually, if you want to suggest, "everybody does it," a really excellent series of questions would have been put to the Free Press:
~When you started on the August '09 story against Michigan, what made you think that Michigan was such a good investigative target?
~If the Free Press' goal was the protection of student athletes, and the meaningful imposition of NCAA rules, why stop with Michigan? Why not look at MSU, Notre Dame and perhaps Ohio State? What about Central, Eastern and Western Michigan? Whaqt about GVSU? Do their student-athletes deserve less of the Freep's journalistic protection?
~We know that the Freep was not contacted by any of the interview subjects for the August story. The Freep went afer all of those interviewees. We also know that the Freep didn't have any reports of claims of abuse by student-athletes at Michigan. The Freep asked for those later on, and it is unknown (the Freep has shown nothing) if there ever was so much as one such complaint.
So michelin, I don't think I'd ask the NCAA to start nosing into other schools, but I would ask why the Free Press picked exclusively on Michigan.
I have no problem with your ideas, they sound fine. If that approach would be successful, I am all for it. At the same time, I am not too hopeful that it would be successful. The NCAA has no authority over the Freep or any way of compelling an answer from them.
To be honest, I am not optimistic that my approach would be successful either in the current NCAA administration. However, as new people come in, eventually, someone may realize that the old methods are unfair and do not work.
The central issue with UM is that the practices gave a competitive advantage. Yet, the NCAA has not even attempted to prove that. The only way to do so is to evaluate what other schools are ACTUALLY doing, not just what the NCAA HOPES they are doing. It's very possible--in fact, I think highly likely--that UM's practices still put them at competitive disadvantge vs. many other schools. Just read the link brian posted from and OSU fan.
That said, I would actually agree with you--and I guess disagree with myself--if I seemed to be suggesting that the NCAA should "go after" OSU or MSU as individual schools. My main point is that going after any single school, based on someone's wishes, or a paper's myopic vendetta--is not likely to produce competitive balance. With that system, a school can just buy the newspaper--eg through boosters who pay advertising dollars to the paper. (The Wall Street Journal recently provided evidence that the Freep's content was initiated by a sponsor). If the school is confident that the local papers are friendly or that they can control the papers, hen they can go on cheating to their hearts' content.
Maybe there are other ways to skin a cat. But only way I now see to restore competitive balance is to first get a handle on what the schools are ACTUALLY doing. Only then can they start thinking about a policy to continuously improve the quality of compliance for all (rather than just attending to loudest person shouting accusations at one). This continuous quality improvement idea is not just a fantasy but a well-established organizational method.