alternate headline: man does job
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.
This defense meme has been all of the internet yesterday and today, but it must be debunked. Here's freshman MSU QB Andrew Maxwell:
We're almost a full week into it and preseason camp is everything all of us freshmen expected it to be: learning a completely new style of football, working hard every day to try and move our way up the depth chart, meeting new people and trying to fit in with the flow of things, and trying to get used to this totally foreign schedule. A typical day consists of showing up for meetings as early as 7:30 a.m. and being dismissed after our final meeting at 9:30 p.m. In those 14 hours, we have meetings, practice, lunch, more meetings, film sessions, dinner and meetings.
OMG! OMG! OM—
126.96.36.199.5 Preseason Practice. Daily and weekly hour limitations do not apply to countable athletically related activities occurring during preseason practice prior to the first day of classes or the first scheduled contest, whichever is earlier.
Aw, hamburgers. Practice limits don't count during fall camp. You can stop bringing this up now.
Not that this prevented Michigan State from deleting that article in its entirety from its website. Here's an archived copy.
Just trust me on this one.
Though his Inkster team fell to Ann Arbor Pioneer by a score of 35-32, Devin Gardner showed last night why he is considered one of the top prospects in the nation. After seeing 4.5 high school football games over the course of three days, it was painfully obvious which player was the best: Devin Gardner. After Friday's Huber Heights Wayne game, I walked away impressed with QB Braxton Miller, and fully understood why he is considered the top dual threat QB in the 2011 class. However, Gardner was on a whole different level, with game-changing ability that can't even be quantified at times. The best thing to do is simply go to the...
Video Evidence (High Def, baby!):
Gardner's final statline was approximately 10/13 passing for 97 yards and a touchdown, and 16 carries for 113 yards and another touchdown. He also had two incomplete passes on two-point conversions, and one successful run for 2 points. Gardner was hurt in the fourth quarter on a dive toward the pylon, and exited the game for two plays. However, as I tweeted, "On the third down he rose again," passing for a touchdown on fourth and goal.
MGoBlog hopes to scout more Inkster games this year, and if nothing else, there's excitement practically guaranteed.
One of the things that struck me in the article was these asides inserted to make it seem like Michigan's happy-go-lucky freshmen didn't know just how oppressed they were:
“It’s crazy,” said Hawthorne, who was not complaining about his coaches and was apparently unaware of the time-limit rules. … Stokes was not complaining. Like Hawthorne, he apparently was unaware of the rules.
Of course they don't know the rules. Neither do any of the (unnecessarily anonymous) sources. All the folk who played under Carr knew was that there was some limit; they had no idea what counted towards the limit. For an example, here's Toney Clemons:
"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."
Now let me launch into a diatribe about reporters and their lack of critical thinking skills. You are faced with an accusation that Rich Rodriguez didn't skirt NCAA regulations but rode roughshod over them. Presumably he's been doing this for eight years without anyone noticing that he was more than doubling the NCAA's maximum requirements. Do you A) think "wait a minute, there's a disconnect worth thinking about here" or B) uncritically accept the allegation and start screaming hysterically? If you picked B, congratulations, you can have a low-paid job in a rapidly evaporating industry.
"On Sunday, it was lifting, film, dinner and practice," Clemons told Schad. "I usually got out around 10:20. I truly don't want to be associated with the program back there. But I am going to help benefit my teammates back there by speaking and giving testimony."
Here are various items that are non-countable activities according to the NCAA:
a. Training-table or competition-related meals;
b. Physical rehabilitation;
c. Dressing, showering or taping; …
h. Medical examinations or treatments; …
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.
o. The provision of videotapes to a student-athlete by an institution's coach that include a personalized message and athletically related information (e.g., discussion of plays, general workout programs, lectures on strategy related to the sport), provided the viewing of the videotape by the student-athlete is voluntary;
p. Use of an institution's athletics facilities (which may be reserved) during the academic year or summer by student-athletes, provided the activities are not supervised by or held at the direction of any member of an institution's coaching staff.
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.
*(Mostly the aim is to make their story seem awesomer and justify the expense. Rosenberg and his publicly-professed hatred of Rodriguez are another matter.)
Earlier: Practical Matters.
Tom has talked with the parents of a couple guys on the team. Mike Forcier, whose two elder kids have been at Michigan, Stanford, and UCLA:
"I haven't read the article yet, but I also haven't heard anything about over practice, or anything like that.
"I've had three sons in college football now, and they've all gone through the same things so far. Tate has been doing the same things as his brothers were at UCLA and Stanford."
Mike Schofield, the somewhat confusingly-named father of freshman offensive lineman Michael Schofield:
Michael came home a couple times to visit, and there was no one chasing him home to get back to practice. He played games at the dorms, they went to hospitals for sick kids, camps for special needs children, and none of that was in the paper.
They went to study halls a lot, and none of that was in the paper.
My youngest son went to Michigan's sports camp in June, and I said to Michael, "here’s your brother who gets to see and workout with your coach, who you can't even see until August." There were no coaches in disguise monitoring the workouts. The timing of this is terrible.
The worst part of all of this is that the reporters targeted the freshman, with misleading questions they can get them to say anything. I’m a fire chief, and I deal with the media. I don’t let my men deal with the media, because they can get them to say anything. They could make us sound like the worst station out there if they wanted to.
Without names, this article means nothing to me.