Part one of the all-singing all-dancing season preview.
This is literal and metaphorical. Yesterday I got up at eight and shut off at some point between at 3 or 4 AM. I've spent the last two days discussing probably nonexistent NCAA violations instead of putting the final touches—read "writing the last third of"—this year's season preview. In the last year and a half I've spent one summer rolling my eyes and beating back an incredible wave of idiocy about Rich Rodriguez shredding every last bit of information on the West Virginia program and another attempting to explain to pastors and civilians the odd circumstances that led to a 3-9 season at hallowed Michigan. In between, hallowed Michigan went 3-9. None of it was particularly enjoyable.
I'm tired of reading obvious bullshit and having to explode it. I'm tired of filing particularly annoying articles in the folder where I keep the stuff to unearth and laugh at later. I'm tired of explaining and debating and debunking never getting around to the statistical work I did the first couple years of the blog's existence. I'm tired of oscillating between anger and uncertainty, apathy and sadness. I wanted to become unmoored from the static existence that was late-era Schembechler football, but it turns out the current is mostly undertow.
Most of all, though, I'm tired of this backup laptop, its half-gig of RAM, erratic wifi, and maddening inability to understand that I've plugged it into the damn wall. Seriously. Hurry up, Malaysia.
Rich Rodriguez is tired, too. He stood in front of a room of cameras and reporters yesterday and the first thing he said was "I don't usually have notes, but…" and then he sort of trailed off and fumbled with some paper and for a moment it seemed like he forgot how to read or just had to stare at the paper and wonder what had happened after Pat White injured his hand against Pitt, how he had gotten here and what a mistake it had been.
There was nothing for it, though, so the words formed themselves and stumbled out. Time goes one direction, at a constant rate.
As you might guess from the title, I write one of these every year. Last year's documents the whole sordid Rodriguez-defection-West-Virginia-hissyfit in elaborate detail—it comes complete with a Shot At Love With Tila Tequila reference—before wandering around to Michigan's prospects going into 2008 somewhere about 80% of the way through. It was that kind of offseason. This offseason was that kind of offseason, too.
Though the outlook was "grim," good God I had no idea how accurate this statement would turn out to be:
Michigan’s going to run out on the field and play like they’re one of those teams trying to make inferior talent work.
Yes, yes they did. Not so much with the working, and sometimes not even so much with the trying, but by God yes the running and the inferior talenting. "Great fun" it sounded like. Great fun it was not aside from a couple improbable plays against Wisconsin and an impossible afternoon against Minnesota.
The final paragraph was half-right:
It’s going to be a fiasco. It’s going to be ugly and tantalizing and dispiriting and awesome. I can’t wait.
Fiasco, ugly, dispiriting: check. Those other two qualities are pending.
A brief tour of the depths my mind sunk to when it wasn't turning in 200-word game columns featuring Henri, The Otter of Ennui:
DESPAIRING ASSERTIONS ABOUT THE STUPIDITY OF INFORMATION FLOW
Rich Rodriguez takes some time to talk about the internet's depressing tendency towards mocking and anger in some depth. The media takes the three sentences sure to generate the most outrage and create the dumbest image of Rodriguez, and the internet responds with mocking and anger.
I mean… what can you even say here?
IMAGINED CONVERSATIONS IN THE STYLE OF THE BIG LEBOWSKI
We've been frantically trying to reach you, EBay.
Where are my goddamn wins, you bum?
Well… we, I don't…
They did not receive the wins, you nitwit! They did not receive the goddamn wins. OUR STREAK WAS IN YOUR HANDS.
This is our concern, EBay.
EXTREMELY LOW-GRADE ASSAULT BEEFS
A couple rows above me, a middle-aged man stood on a bench and booed and booed.
He was angry. I was angry.
I stooped to pick up whatever flingable bit of detritus I could find, seized upon an empty water bottle, and chucked it at the booer. I missed,* lightly damaging an older man a row behind him. But I did get his attention. And the old guy looked like he was on The Other Side, so eff him.
WHATEVER THIS WAS
Fear/Paranoia Level: 0 out of 10. (Fear is the mindkiller. Fear nothing anymore; in your despair you find the freedom only the forsaken can experience.).
Desperate need to win level: 0 out of 10. (Needs lash the soul to the rack of imperfection. You need nothing. You experience all things, and all things experience you.)
It was a tough, apathetic year in which the main goal of the blog was to yell at people I thought were stupid or shortsighted, which is, I imagine, like getting in a knife fights against an endless army of Skip Bayless clones. There is a certain grim satisfaction to the work that must be done, but eventually you end up covered in viscera and no closer to making the world a less annoying place.
The team, meanwhile, left or sucked or sucked and left with a few notable exceptions. They looked lost, caused my brain to fritz out as per above, and drove poor Johnny into a malaise that saw him pop up infrequently and then only to level a complaint we all felt at some level: this isn't my team anymore.
This, as did everything last year, caused a small internet war to break out. People were booers or bottle-tossers, skeptics or believers. Michigan fans probably put more time into flaming the hell out of each other than any fanbase has in history. But nothing is good for unity like a war.
I had a hard time parsing out the emotion I felt yesterday, a melange of anger, skepticism, selfish pathos, scorn, more anger, and something strange. And then I'm on the radio yesterday and I think of something. I signal to John Bacon that I have something to say and once Wayne Drehs finishes up his thought I say it. I don't remember it exactly what I said but I remember the thought.
Rich Rodriguez is a fundamentally artless person.
I have winced at many a Rodriguez press conference. Corny jokes about the Lion King, awkward phrasing, distinct lingering unflattering accent, typical coaching banalities, etc etc etc. Basically all the cultural things that differentiate Rodriguez from Carr are negative to me except insofar as he doesn't tolerate 350-pound starting offensive linemen who just quit the team a few weeks ago. That I'm with. It's just all the peripherals that I'm leery of.
This is some part of why portions of the local media have gone bats lately and a major source of ammunition for the little guy with a pitchfork who sits on your shoulder and whispers "doooooooooooom… doooooooooooooom" into your ear. But it was incredibly helpful yesterday when Rodriguez was trying to work through his statement. Because not for a moment did it cross my mind, or apparently the minds of even the most cynical observers, that Rodriguez's emotion was not genuine. The Free Press folk immediately scurried back to their cave to write an editorial that opened with "The issue is not how much Rich Rodriguez and his fellow University of Michigan coaches care about the young men who play football for the Wolverines."
Lloyd Carr might have handled that differently, been snappy or angry or more aggressive but one of the things that became clear as his tenure lengthened is that a journalist that unfairly attacked one of his players would find himself between a grizzly cub and his mother. The most important thing to Carr was the making the kids under him happy and successful. Though Rich Rodriguez has different ideas about what qualifies, yesterday it appeared that went for him too. For the first time (and possibly the last time), Rodriguez reminded me of Lloyd Carr. I want the head coach at Michigan to react like that when his reputation is threatened.
So this is bizarre after everything. But this year one of the many, many reasons I want Michigan to win—you try hitching a career to your favorite team—will be a new one. I'll be rooting on a personal level for Rich so he can have a press conference during which he can make an awkward comment about all this with a smile on his face, and I can wince inwardly at it.
This is slightly dated but we know why, right? Let's just skip the recriminations and go to the bits. Bits about the first depth chart release:
- Rumors of Greg Mathews' demise are apparently exaggerated, as he remains atop the depth chart at outside WR.
- Kelvin Grady is second to Odoms, and only Odoms, at slot. Massive rise there.
- Offensive line is exactly as expected.
- Adam Patterson is over, man. He's behind a redshirt sophomore walk-on. That's Will Heniger, by the way, and if Graham goes boom we're in serious trouble.
- Roh is second to Herron at deathbacker.
- Yikes: Brandon Smith is idling behind Kevin Leach; hopefully just inexperience at the position there.
- Where's Hawthorne in the Brown backups? 5-10 guy who I thought was a corner Floyd Simmons is third string.
- Mike Williams has apparently wrested the starting job opposite Woolfolk from Vlad Emilien.
- Oh, god, starting secondary, remain healthy.
- Olesnavage, as expected, is slightly ahead at kicker.
- Morales may have shaped up but he's not even on the depth chart at long snapper. Ryan Van Bergen(!) is.
- Odoms. Hold on to the ball. Hold it. Love it.
Huge week for the Friday Night Lights feature, as nearly every Michigan commit kicked off the season this weekend, and Mgoblog was live and in person for four of the games (covering 6 of the commits). Players with MGoOriginal content will be at the top, and guys who haven't hit the field yet are towards the bottom. Without further ado, Friday Night Lights:
MI QB Devin Gardner
Last Week: Game Preview. Ann Arbor.com fluff. Inkster loses to Ann Arbor Pioneer 32-35. Article #2. Devin threw 10/14 for 97 yards and a touchdown, while running 16 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. See the MGoBlog review of Gardner, including a photo gallery and HD video.
This week: Inkster (0-1) @ East Kentwood on Thursday. MGoBlog might be in atendance. Hell, let's take a vote. Would you rather have more Devin video or some Austin White video from this coming Thursday?
MI WR Ricardo Miller
Last Week: Game Preview. Ann Arbor Pioneer defeats Inkster 35-32. Article #2. Ricardo caught 3 passes for 70 yards. Photo gallery and scouting report never really got published, because there was actually too much(!) content for MGoBlog to handle this weekend, so you'll have to suffer through the MgoHighlights:
This Week: Dexter @ Ann Arbor Pioneer (1-0). MGoBlog will either be at this game, or the Huron/Tecumseh game. Leave your preference in the comments.
OH WR Jerald Robinson
Last Week: Canton South fell to Dover 14-27. Jerald caught 2 passes for 6 yards, returned one kickoff for 15 yards, and made 1 solo tackle and 6 assisted tackles. See the MGoBlog report from the game, including video.
This Week: Canton South (0-1) @ Canfield.
MI WR/TE Jeremy Jackson
Last Week: Ann Arbor Huron fell to Chelsea 35-29. Jeremy had 6 receptions for 86 yards, including a 48-yarder. He also added 3 tackles and 6 assisted tackles from his free safety spot (where he actually looked pretty good, at least at the high school level). Original MGoHighlights:
This Week: Tecumseh @ Ann Arbor Huron (0-1). MGoBlog will either be at this game, or the Pioneer/Dexter game. Leave your preference in the comments.
OH DT Terry Talbott
Last Week: Wayne defeats Cincinnati Princeton 21-4. MGoBlog was there, and you can see the photos here:
We're still having a slight delay on the HD video, but it will be posted when available. Terry finished with 8.5 tackles, 4.5 for loss (18 yards). He also had 1.5 sacks (11 yards) and 2 QB hurries.
This Week: Huber Heights Wayne (1-0) @ Canton McKinley on Saturday.
OH CB Terrence Talbott
Last Week: Wayne defeats Cincinnati Princeton 21-4. MGoBlog was there, and you can see the photo gallery above.
This Week: Huber Heights Wayne @ Canton McKinley.
SC QB Cornelius Jones
Last Week: Spartanburg defeats Union 35-0.
"Jones ran for touchdowns of 3, 1 and 3 yards and completed 6 of 7 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown."
“He’s a very athletic quarterback and you have to give Spartanburg credit, they just took it to us,” Union County coach David Lipsey said.
As with last week, Clarence Beeks gives us the dish.
This Week: Spartanburg (1-1) @ Northwestern.
|Cornelius Jones 2009|
MI RB Austin White
Last Week: Stevenson falls to crosstown rival Franklin 7-21. Austin has 14 carries for 64 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown for the Spartans' only points. Rivals has video of White's performance. Be forewarned, though - it caused my browser to lock up once.
This Week: Howell @ Livonia Stevenson (0-1) on Thursday. Leave comments on whether you'd rather have MGoBlog at this game, or Devin's game in Grand Rapids on Thursday.
TX RB Stephen Hopkins
OH WR/S DJ Williamson
OH OL Christian Pace
OH LB Antonio Kinard
Last Week: Liberty defeats East 17-6.
This Week: Niles @ Liberty (1-0).
OH CB Courtney Avery
Last Week: Lexington led 7-3 when the game was suspended due to weather:
When the game was suspended, Avery was 6 of 7 passing for 91 yards with one TD and one interception.
Once the game resumed, he picked up where he left off, leading to a 42-17 victory.:
The Minutemen had big plays throughout the game as Avery connected on 18 of 28 passes for 278 yards and three TDs, including scoring connections to Kenya Coombs (53 yards), Brian Byrne (28 yards) and Kevin
The touchdown was a 53-yarder.
This Week: Mart @ Lexington (1-0).
TX RB Tony Drake
Last Week: Skyline's season doesn't open up until this Friday.
This Week: Kimball @ Skyline.
LA Slot WR Drew Dileo
Last Week: Dileo's season doesn't start until the 11th.
This Week: Dileo's season doesn't start until the 11th.
PA DE Ken Wilkins
"He's an unbelievable physical talent," Trinity coach Ed Dalton said. "He's very muscular, and he has a 28-inch waist. He looks like an NFL player today. He's not going to take a year in college to get that physical look. He already has it. He's blessed physically."
"[Committing early to Michigan] was a relief off my shoulders," Wilkins said. "I found out where I wanted to go, and there was no point in letting the pressure build up. It was a good position to be in to be wanted by all those schools, but I wanted to do what was best for me."
Trinity's regular season has not started yet.
This Week: Canon-McMillian @ Trinity.
PA DE Jordan Paskorz
A hybrid defensive end/linebacker, Paskorz has carved a reputation as one of the WPIAL's elite players. Various blog writers question how elite...
"Everyone is entitled to their own wrong opinions," DeMatteo said. "Honestly, I can only base mine from working with the kid, but it's hard to find a player of his caliber. He worked hard, he devoted time early in the morning and he didn't miss workouts [ed - too soon?]. Jordan has been a quiet leader, and at least to me, he's exemplified what a Division I player should be."
What isn't questioned is Paskorz's athleticism. His muscular frame -- and the potential to add more bulk -- is evident. He runs a 40-yard dash in about 4.7 seconds and can dunk a basketball from a standing position. Paskorz, who also plays tight end, had nine sacks for a Talbots squad that struggled to a 1-8 finish in 2008.
This Week: Hampton @ Blackhawk
FL S Marvin Robinson
Last Week: Season preview fluff:
Anchoring that secondary will be senior safety Marvin Robinson, who Reynolds called "one of the best players in the school's history."
The article goes on to mention that he is being recruited by schools like Ohio State and Michigan. OK, but which one has he committed to, moron?
This Week: Lake Region @ Winter Haven.
Via Spartan Tailgate, naturally.
I still have a zillion tabs open and can't get to all of them in any sort of depth so a quick tour will have to suffice.
Chengelis articles. A couple of former player quotes:
"As much as I want to say (Rodriguez) is the only one (to surpass the 20-hour rule) and to say he's the worst, I can't," said one former player, who asked to remain anonymous. "I'm sure that happens at every school. It is what it is."
This guy doesn't appear to be all-in, eh? Another one:
"Every team does that, more or less," another former Michigan player said. "Everyone knows voluntary workouts you don't have to be there, but you have to be there. A lot of guys don't even know about the rule, but everybody signed the sheets (indicating you kept to the 20-hour rule). It was never a big deal. Those sheets were signed, and that's the only paper trail there is."
If that's true and compliance has lists of their spot checks, this tempest will quickly suck itself into a teapot. All that's left is anonymous mudslinging from former players (and non-anonymous statements from Clemons), some of which have been directly refuted.
Also, long snapper Sean Griffin disputes the reports about quality control staff checking up on voluntary workouts:
He said he frequently worked with the special teams during the offseason and that an allegation in the report that Rodriguez's staff broke rules by monitoring offseason scrimmages was not true, as far as he could tell.
"When I was helping with the specialists, there was never a coach, a graduate assistant, or a quality control coach there," he said. "I wasn't sitting there writing everything down and reporting to a coach. I worked out with a few of the new guys.
Epistolary bit. Email sent to Deadspin about this post, containing this snippet:
In fact, the coach apparently admitted to one violation during the presser, saying that they send strength coaches into the weight room during offseason lifting "so they don't drop a weight on their foot." (Caring!) Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's against the rules.
m. *Voluntary individual workouts,* provided these workouts are not required or supervised by coaching staff members, except that such activities may be monitored for safety purposes or conducted by the institution's strength and conditioning personnel who have department wide duties.
I know that would have taken 30 seconds of research, so I understand why you didn't have time.
Smart Football devoted a ton of time and space to the thing; as always with Smart Football it's worth a read. He pulls out a couple recent teams that were dinged for exceeding practice limits:
In 2003, limits on facility use and practice time were almost completely ignored at SDSU, and, as a result, the program was placed on two-years of probation. More recently, SDSU exceeded the time allotted by the NCAA by about 15-minutes, and therefore voluntarily curtailed its practice time by an hour, broken up in 12-minute chunks over a week.
More drastic was Ball State. The NCAA investigated Ball State, though the scope went beyond just football and into a variety of sports. The NCAA found that BSU’s softball team had “repeatedly exceeded daily and weekly practice hour limitations, failed to give student-athletes a required day off each week from athletically related activities, and conducted individual skill instruction sessions in violation of NCAA rules.” That was not all, however. The NCAA also found that BSU had allowed [27 grand in book fraud, which led to scholarship reductions].
…But it is still early: these are just reports; we have nothing definite yet. And even if some players were working out on a Sunday, that alone doesn’t seem like it would equal a “major violation.” The questions are how widespread this was and how much of it flowed from the coaches — did they encourage it?
Whole thing, read it, etc.
The calling thing. The article in question quoted an anonymous player saying that members of the quality control or strength staff called players who weren't at voluntary workouts. Violation? I don't know. It's not specifically called out in the NCAA rules I reviewed. And it shows up in this article about Colorado (irony!) and Colorado State:
"They call it nonmandatory, but it's mandatory, really," CSU wide receiver Rashaun Greer said of conditioning coaches who keep tabs on attendance. "They will call (no-shows) or text, 'What's going on?' " CU strength-and-conditioning coach Jeff Pittman and his staff are keeping tabs on upward of 100 Buffs this summer. Pittman said participation is pretty much across the board, in every class. This was just chucked out in an article that alleged no violations and has been sitting, unremarked upon, on the Denver Post's website for over a month. It appears, then, that a chunk of the allegations in the article are not violations. Either that or Colorado and Colorado State are supremely dumb. Also, yes, I suppose I'm required by law to note that Toney Clemons transferred to play under Dan "This Is Division 1 Football!!!" Hawkins and there I've done it. Agh. No time (no time) to fisk Ray Ratto's epically dumb column on the thing but I will highlight this bit: it's the argument that Michigan is doing what all the other collegiate scofflaws are doing that strikes us here, first of all because it's such a little boy's argument. "Hey, everyone does it?" That's the one you drop when you get caught toilet-papering someone's house. Ironic of a sportswriter to go there but whatever. I will explain: "everyone does it" is not an attempt to excuse Michigan for misdeeds—because again we are talking about football players playing football. It's a way of evaluating the truth behind the implication that this is a Big Huge Deal that is Ed Martin For Football; if the NCAA average time spent is 45 hours a week, then it is totally plausible Michigan is asking that much out of its players without tripping over NCAA boundaries. Because everyone is.
"They call it nonmandatory, but it's mandatory, really," CSU wide receiver Rashaun Greer said of conditioning coaches who keep tabs on attendance. "They will call (no-shows) or text, 'What's going on?' "
CU strength-and-conditioning coach Jeff Pittman and his staff are keeping tabs on upward of 100 Buffs this summer. Pittman said participation is pretty much across the board, in every class.
This was just chucked out in an article that alleged no violations and has been sitting, unremarked upon, on the Denver Post's website for over a month. It appears, then, that a chunk of the allegations in the article are not violations. Either that or Colorado and Colorado State are supremely dumb.
Also, yes, I suppose I'm required by law to note that Toney Clemons transferred to play under Dan "This Is Division 1 Football!!!" Hawkins and there I've done it.
Agh. No time (no time) to fisk Ray Ratto's epically dumb column on the thing but I will highlight this bit:
it's the argument that Michigan is doing what all the other collegiate scofflaws are doing that strikes us here, first of all because it's such a little boy's argument. "Hey, everyone does it?" That's the one you drop when you get caught toilet-papering someone's house.
Ironic of a sportswriter to go there but whatever. I will explain: "everyone does it" is not an attempt to excuse Michigan for misdeeds—because again we are talking about football players playing football. It's a way of evaluating the truth behind the implication that this is a Big Huge Deal that is Ed Martin For Football; if the NCAA average time spent is 45 hours a week, then it is totally plausible Michigan is asking that much out of its players without tripping over NCAA boundaries. Because everyone is.
Etc.: In the diaries, an anonymous journalist says "I just don't understand how an educated reporter could look at that and not even attempt to figure out the breakdown of "required" and "voluntary" activities." Genuinely Sarcastic has a comprehensive take. Rittenberg has one too. And Jon Chait murders the Free Press' editors.
Jihad-relevant snippets from today's press conference.
Cartoon via Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
One nickel to the man who guesses the speaker of this statement about how much time college athletes put into their sports:
"Once you get past 40 hours, you're really pushing it, I think."
You get a nickel if you guessed NCAA president Myles Brand. He said this in response to a survey last year that found D-I football players spent 45 hours a week on football-related activities. So, yes, literally everyone is doing it. That's not a defense if the it in question is punching old ladies in the face, but it is when we're talking about an arbitrary cap on effort imposed by a bureaucracy. It's a defense when ludicrous doubling of NCAA regulations are alleged; if the stated average time put in by college athletes in an NCAA-sponsored survey is more than double the NCAA-mandated maximum, then that provides important context. Michigan's nine-hour Sundays—baldly asserted to be violations with zero wiggle: "every week started with a violation"—are plausibly legal.
Do the math: one day is gameday and one day is free by mandate. 45 hours / 5 days = 9 hours per day. Take away eight for a full eight-hour gameday and you still end up with 7.4. Clearly the NCAA regulations do not encompass all the hours players spend on football.
This article, which provides 100% relevant context, was not mentioned by the Free Press.
Why was Toney Clemons anonymous? Clemons told ESPN's Joe Schad that would confirm the allegations, and was completely willing to speak on the record. It stretches belief to think that the Free Press didn't ask him and he didn't talk. He's at Colorado now and there are no possible repercussions aside from some guys writing unflattering things about him on the internet. And yet the Free Press report failed to name him or any other player they took a quote from except the freshmen who were undoubtedly talking about Michigan's voluntary offseason program.
Why is this? I go back to the paragraph that describes the people they talked to in impressive, but vague detail:
For this report, the Free Press interviewed 10 current or former players and the parents of four others. In separate interviews, five players gave almost identical accounts of how the program is run, and a sixth player confirmed most of the descriptions. Other players, as well as parents of additional players, discussed the conditions in general. Several players declined to be interviewed at length but did not dispute the allegations when asked specifically about them.
Ten "former or current players," of whom five or six are responsible for the quotes in the story and the description of the Rodriguez program. One of them is Toney Clemons. The other four or five… well, I'm sure anyone who's followed Michigan football over the last year and a half can mentally insert candidates for the other spots. Why not tell us that the core of the story included current players, and how many? It's not like asserting any specific number of current players is going to endanger the anonymous whistle-blowers.
The Free Press chose not to provide this information, instead choosing to leave this vague, and spurring question after question about team unity, or the lack thereof.
To combat any complacency, Meyer has ordered strength coach Mickey Marotti to design the most difficult offseason that Florida's ever had.
"If there's any resistance," Meyer said, "that guy's not going to play."
This is a direct statement from Urban Meyer that a player who "resists" his punishing, "voluntary" offseason training regimen would not play—a bald assertion of power incompatible with the idea of voluntary attendance—and was not mentioned by the Free Press. Neither was this 2005 Ivan Maisel article on the Florida program titled "Offseason? Not anymore for title teams" or this USA Today article on increasingly mandatory "voluntary" summer conditioning that cites Mike Massey.
In fact, nowhere in the entire suite of articles is another program brought up except when two current members of Michigan State's team say—surprise!—they don't violate rules. Just like Mike Forcier and Mike Schofield.
Tom talked to one of the freshmen quoted in the piece, who said he was upset with the way his words were used.
"I told them I lift weight at 8 until 10:30, go to class, and come back and work with [veteran player]. [Then] we go watch film. They turn it all around."
All of that is voluntary activity in the eyes of the NCAA. (It is possible, but unlikely, that the weights were countable; in any case the quotes from the freshmen were vast misrepresentations.)
I bring all these items up because I was really angry at the reporting in the article in a way that I wasn't even when the Free Press gave us the by-the-numbers on what happened with Justin Feagin. I got upset later at the Rosenberg column on the thing, which launched a broadside at Rodriguez* without bothering to call Feagin's high school coach or check out his record. It is totally legitimate to find out what happened and then describe the facts, and that's what the original reporting on the Feagin case did.
But the article in question here was not that. I've been struggling to phrase it the right way, to come up with the right angle on it that adequately expresses the issue without descending to That Guy On The Internet stuff, and it turns out a reader—lawyer, naturally—did it for me:
I'm in Seattle this weekend so I was up late enough last night to read and digest the Rosenberg complaint. I call it a complaint because I'm a defense lawyer in Atlanta and read complaints written by plaintiffs' lawyers all the time. Their favorite tactic is to take a benign or easily explainable fact and put it in the worst light possible so as to sort of taint the defendant from the outset. I guess I didn't realize that Rosenberg was a columnist or some sort of writer employed to persuade readers to come to agree with his opinion rather than a journalist employed to investigate and report facts. He could not have written the entire thing in a more damning way - which is just what plaintiffs' lawyers do, except their job is to advocate on their client's behalf.
I have another email from a different lawyer who makes the exact same comparison.
The article arranges things to advocate for its position. It is not objective. It mentions major violations, and the fact that Michigan has never had any, and suggests that these qualify. Not once in its vast breadth does it mention the near-universal existence of similar practices or what that implies for the likelihood of NCAA sanctions. It purposefully obscures the distribution of current and former players in the ten asserted sources, four or five of which are excluded from the information provided below.
I'm a blogger and a Michigan fan and totally public about my thoughts and loyalties. You know where I'm coming from, and can evaluate the arguments in this space based on that information. Since I wear my bias on my sleeve I have to deploy facts and precedents and reasoning convincing enough to overcome that. Rosenberg and the Free Press are clearly biased but wrap themself in a cloak of objectivity that disguises the intent behind the artfully arranged statements and, if you didn't happen to be a close observer of Michigan football, makes it appear like Rodriguez is a monster. Is this objective?
That's right: Chris Webber. Bill Martin's announcement, two sentences in a press release, had "the ominous tones of a bad, old script". Is it even pretending to be objective anymore? I guess. But not well.
After the press conference today I asked Mark Snyder if he knew what a non-countable hour was. He refused to answer. I asked Michael Rosenberg, and he said yes. We then got into a conversation about the idea that many of the hours cited in the Free Press article were not countable and therefore would not trigger NCAA sanctions. I asked him why the article did not mention this, and he said it did. Here how well that assertion checks out:
At no point does the article mention the idea that some "football-related activities" are not counted:
Players spent at least nine hours on football activities on Sundays after games last fall. NCAA rules mandate a daily 4-hour limit. The Wolverines also exceeded the weekly limit of 20 hours, the athletes said.
That's it. The only wave to the idea that some of the time was legitimate in the eyes of the NCAA is this passage:
The players said the off-season work was clearly required. Several of them said players who failed to do all the strength and conditioning were forced to come back to finish or were punished with additional work.
“It was mandatory,” one player said. “They’d tell you it wasn’t, but it really was. If you didn’t show up, there was punishment. I just felt for the guys that did miss a workout and had to go through the personal hell they would go through.”
"Clearly required" then washes away the idea that any of the time requirements in the program were voluntary for the rest of the article. There is no mention of what the alternatives to doing the additional work were. Were they "we yank your scholarship" or "you won't play"? The former is a violation; the latter is life. I suggested to Rosenberg that players probably had no idea what counted as mandatory to the NCAA and what didn't, and that it was ludicrous to believe Rodriguez could be flouting NCAA regulations so vastly for eight years without a hint of trouble. He blinked, and asked what my name was.
The Free Press systematically overstated their case by omitting contextual information and misrepresenting quotes about voluntary workout programs. They have repeatedly raised the specter of major, program crippling sanctions. They took a side, and if that side turns out to be wrong the people responsible for the story should be held responsible for their errors in judgment.
They won't, of course. If and when Michigan releases the results of its internal probe and announces they've come up with either nothing or a pu-pu platter of secondary violations, people will laugh at NCAA enforcement, cite the Jerry Tarkanian quote, and laud the journalistic effort that went into proving football players play a lot of football.
traffic is crushing the server.
update: all better.
You are not looking LIVE at the Junge Champions center, but a bunch of guys with TV cameras, myself, the two authors of It, and various other assembled media are. What's below is an attempted CIL of the press conference. Answers will be paraphrased but as accurate as possible; user contributions will be heavily moderated to keep things on topic. If you've got a question to ask, suggest away.
HEY! OTHER THINGS! THINGS THAT ARE OTHER!
Witty: not dead yet. Freshman cornerback Adrian Witty, the last incoming recruit held up by the Clearinghouse, retook the SAT in search of a point. In the process he may have revealed why he needs another point on the SAT:
"I think I did good on it," Witty said.
Witty's missed the entirety of fall camp; if he gets in he's all but guaranteed to redshirt. If he doesn't, I believe he can prep for a semester and come in January since he's so close. The NCAA cracked down on the prep school route a couple years ago but left the window open for guys who need one or two grades, IIRC.
Paki-bomb loaded and ready to run for two yards. Did I tell you about Angry Iowa Running Back-Hating God or did I tell you?
The big injury is Jewel Hampton's right knee, which has kept him off the practice field for most of camp. Ferentz told me it's unrealistic to expect Hampton to play Sept. 5 in the season opener against Northern Iowa. The coach also didn't rule out Hampton's injury affecting his availability this season.
Hampton is "80 percent likely" to take a redshirt year according to Iowa Scout.com guy Jon Miller. Redshirt freshman Jeff Brinson, the nominal #2, missed most of camp with an ankle issue, leaving walk-on and broad comic stereotype mashup Paki O'Meara atop the depth chart.
Black Heart Gold Pants, naturally, is all over this.
Historian. This time it's a recap of Michigan's first 38-0 win over Notre Dame in two parts:
Part II is lightboxed for your perusal.
This is a different thing now. All right, Michigan's strength and conditioning program this offseason has been sweet!
"I think that's natural, particularly when you've got younger players; they're going to make a big gain in strength and conditioning from their first year to their second year. But even overall, the whole team has really bought in to what Mike and his staff are teaching down there in the weight room.
"Hopefully it'll show up on the field. Certainly, they look like they're moving around quicker, and I think their strength is certainly up from what it was a year ago."
Did I say something?
Hang the DJ. I am so down with using Morrissey as a half-serious, half-mocking approach to Michigan fandom, and sports fandom in general. There's a tag on this blog that I've used way more than I ever wanted to named "i know it's over and oh it never really began but in my heart it was so real." And next week one of your very special season preview posts is Morrissey based. (50 MGoPoints to the first person to guess which song is referenced.)
I’ve seen it happen/in other people’s lives/ now it’s happening in mine. Morrissey and contemporary Michigan continue to be made for each other, and not in the good kind of way. The joke won’t be funny once you get to the Notre Dame game, especially if Nick Sheridan as starter has to face a TAH-NOO-TAH defense unafraid to send blitzers from the corner, safety, and occasionally just running in crowds off the bench.
Son of a bitch I should have thought of that lyric last year. You haven't heard the last of this, Swindle! (You probably have.)
Schwing? Michigan's deadly 2010 hockey recruiting class looks set to get even deadlier with the news that Ontario forward Lucas Lessio has left Niagara's camp, presumably because he intends to commit to Michigan. Lessio was the #7 pick in the OHL draft and a source told the Wolverine's Michael Spath that Lessio would be the "best player to come to Michigan out of Ontario in the last decade," which would make him a more highly touted prospect than Mike Cammalleri, Brandon Burlon, Louie Caporusso, and Andrew Cogliano. Two of those guys are scoring-line NHL players and two are current or upcoming stars at Michigan. That is high praise.
As always, do not count your chickens before they show up on campus… but, yeah, Lessio has signed with St. Mikes and Yost Built diagnoses the positivity coming from Niagara's GM as Iraqi Minister of Information stuff. He actually played on Friday, picking up two goals and an assist in a 5-4 loss. It sounds like he's made his decision for justice.
Here's a Hockey News scouting report on Lessio. Summary: he good.
Etc.: Whoah. FO's ESPN insider content($) on the Big Ten predicts Michigan at 8-4… and Illinois at 4-8! Stanford decommit picks Northwestern over ND because he thinks "Northwestern has a better football program than Notre Dame." Two-part Rittenberg interview with Rodriguez: part one and part two. Dylan takes on expectations for the basketball team; personally I'll be happy with a season that ends in the second round of the NCAA tournament as long as the bid isn't in question on the last day of the regular season.