Jihad The Second: Practical Matters Comment Count

Brian August 30th, 2009 at 12:59 PM

I made curried cabbage last night. It's a simple dish that, like most Indian dishes, can take as much butter as you're willing to risk and can be made in preposterous quantity. Basically: chop two large onions and around a head of garlic and sweat them in just under a stick of butter; add healthy amounts of turmeric, curry powder, cumin, and salt, then chop a head of cabbage and thinly slice some potatoes and throw them in; cook until everything's soft and glows like it's radioactive—

jihad-2006-2007-tercera-guerra-mundial-01lg  barwis

Oh, right. That. There are many thing to say about it and I guess I have to say them instead of working on the season preview as I intended to this fine Sunday. So we'll take them in slices. Slice the first will concern the possibility of NCAA infractions and starts now.


A reader has helpfully digested the NCAA rulebook into the salient sections:

17.02.13 Voluntary Athletically Related Activities. In order for any athletically related activity to be considered “voluntary,” all of the following conditions must be met: (Adopted: 4/18/01)

(a) The student-athlete must not be required to report back to a coach or other athletics department staff member (e.g., strength coach, trainer, manager) any information related to the activity. In addition, no athletics department staff member who observes the activity (e.g., strength coach, trainer, manager) may report back to the student-athlete’s coach any information related to the activity; [Editor's note: this has not been alleged.]

(b) The activity must be initiated and requested solely by the student-athlete. Neither the institution nor any athletics department staff member may require the student-athlete to participate in the activity at any time.

However, it is permissible for an athletics department staff member to provide information to student-athletes related to available opportunities for participating in voluntary activities (e.g., times when the strength and conditioning coach will be on duty in the weight room or on the track). In addition, for students who have initiated a request to engage in voluntary activities, the institution or an athletics department staff member may assign specific times for student-athletes to use institutional facilities for such purposes and inform the student-athletes of the time in advance; [Editor's note: a lot of noise about "required" in the article but these rules really require you to parse the semantics of "required"; playing time is voluntary, too.]

(c) The student-athlete’s attendance and participation in the activity (or lack thereof ) may not be recorded for the purposes of reporting such information to coaching staff members or other student-athletes; and [alleged]

(d) The student-athlete may not be subjected to penalty if he or she elects not to participate in the activity. In addition, neither the institution nor any athletics department staff member may provide recognition or incentives (e.g., awards) to a student-athlete based on his or her attendance or performance in the activity. [Former alleged, latter not.]

[Note: Coaching staff members may be present during permissible skill-related instruction pursuant to Bylaws and]. (Revised: 4/29/04 effective 8/1/04)

The emailer also suggests this:

As far as I can tell, the authors of the article invented the rule about "quality-control staff" not being permitted to observe voluntary off-season scrimmages.  The rules about voluntary activities clearly mention athletics department staff observing, and the following rule disallows observing "nonorganized voluntary athletically related activities (e.g., pick-up games)" for certain staff members, which a student-organized scrimmage is clearly not: Noncoaching Activities. Institutional staff members involved in noncoaching activities (e.g., administrative assistants, academic counselors) do not count in the institution’s coaching limitations, provided such individuals are not identified as coaches, do not engage in any on- or off-field coaching activities (e.g., attending meetings involving coaching activities, analyzing video involving the institution’s or an opponent’s team), and are not involved in any off-campus recruitment of prospective student-athletes or scouting of opponents. A noncoaching staff member with sport-specific responsibilities may not participate with or observe student-athletes in the staff member’s sport who are engaged in nonorganized voluntary athletically related activities (e.g., pick-up games). (Adopted: 1/16/93, Revised: 1/10/95, 12/13/05, 4/27/06 effective 8/1/06)

…but I'm skeptical he read that rule right. Even if quality control staff qualify as noncoaching, they do have sport specific responsibilities and can't observe "nonorganized voluntary athletically related activities," which I'm very sure would include the voluntary seven-on-sevens and whatnot.


The article's hugely long and goes into detail about Barwis' workout regimes and Michigan's seven-on-seven "requirements" but the only section that specifically alleges NCAA violations is this one:

"It was mandatory," one player said. "They'd tell you it wasn't, but it really was. If you didn't show up, there was punishment. I just felt for the guys that did miss a workout and had to go through the personal hell they would go through."

In addition, the players cited these practices within the program:

Players spent at least nine hours on football activities on Sundays after games last fall. NCAA rules mandate a daily 4 -hour limit. The Wolverines also exceeded the weekly limit of 20 hours, the athletes said.

Players said members of Rodriguez's quality-control staff often watched seven-on-seven off-season scrimmages. The non-contact drills, in which an offense runs plays against a defense, are supposed to be voluntary and player-run. They are held at U-M's football facilities. NCAA rules allow only training staff _ not quality-control staffers _ to attend as a safety precaution. Quality-control staffers provide administrative and other support for the coaches but are not allowed to interact directly with players during games, practices or workouts.

If verified, the quote about punishment would violate blah blah blah subsection D above. What qualifies as a "punishment" in a regularly scheduled S&C workout is unknown. Working out harder?

And if "quality control" staff were observing seven-on-seven, a claim disputed Michigan compliance department spot checks, that would be a violation as well. And the "nine hours" on Sunday would be a violation if the voluntary workouts gray area was breached.

There is some expansion on blah subsection D:

Under Carr, off-season seven-on-seven drills were run by players, without coaches or staff members present, players said. The only staffer there would be a trainer, in case anybody got injured, as allowed under NCAA rules.

Several players said Rodriguez's coaches were more likely to insist they participate in seven-on-seven scrimmages, which have become more frequent. They also said that members of the program's quality-control staff frequently watched seven-on-sevens.

"They usually just watched and would write down who wasn't there," one player on the 2008 team said.

Another said graduate assistants would track them down.

"The phone would ring: 'Where you at? ... You gotta come.' 'I'm in class.' "

Ah, smell the objectivity: "insist" is another man's way of saying "suggest you participate lest you fall behind the rest of the team and find yourself on the bench." But taking attendance is verboten. Calling players on the team probably not.

The rest of it is filler, like quotes from some freshmen about the offseason workout program…

"Hooooo!" Stokes said. "A typical week is working from 8 a.m. in the morning to 6 or 7 at night, Monday through Saturday."

And that was starting in June?

"Yes, sir," Stokes said. "We do the weight room at least three times a week, and seven-on-sevens and one-on-ones. Speed and agility on the other days. Every day we have something new to get ready for the season. The coaches have done a great job of stressing the importance of getting us ready for the big season that we're about to have."

…that would be totally evil if Rodriguez was an idiot who hadn't dealt with NCAA compliance for 20 years and hadn't made sure the strenuous workouts fit the definitions of "voluntary." This is unlikely. The same goes for the assertions that Rodriguez had his players exceed daily limits on required activities and 20-hour-per-week maximums on practice time: all of those sections rely on vague quotes about what the team does from players who aren't complaining and include things like workouts that, again, probably qualify as voluntary. Here's the big reveal on exceeding maximum hours per week:

With three hours on Saturday and a full day on Sunday, players tallied about 12 hours on those two days. They were off Monday. Players said they would spend an additional three to four hours with the team on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, bringing the weekly total to 21- 24 hours.

If any section of any of those days fit the definition of voluntary, that's not a violation.


As you might expect, they're pretty lax. The NCAA just got done slightly dinging Southeast Missouri State for something similar. From the NCAA report on the matter:

a. During the summer of 2006, members of the men's basketball coaching staff, including the former head coach, were present during, and in some instances, briefly observed men's basketball student-athletes' participation in the team's strength and conditioning program. Additionally, student-athletes were sometimes required to report to a coach the reason they did not attend a conditioning session.
b. During the summer of 2007, members of the men's basketball coaching staff, including the former head coach, regularly, but not to the extent of the prior summer, were present during, and in some instances briefly observed, men's basketball student-athletes' participation in the team's strength and conditioning program.
c. During the fall of 2006 (August through October) and spring of 2007 (March through May), members of the men's basketball coaching staff briefly observed men's basketball student-athletes' participation in a few on-campus out-of-season pick-up games, including one occasion in the spring of 2007 (around April 24), when some coaches observed a prospective student-athlete, completing an official paid visit, participate in an on-campus pick-up game with some of the men's basketball student-athletes.

This was part of a laundry list of other violations, including an impermissible car trip and two separate instances where boosters or coaches paid for school fees or tuition. But what really got SEMO in hot water was the head coach's response to the investigation; that and the collective malfeasance-lookin' thing got SEMO the dreaded three words that indicate serious ire on the part of the NCAA:

Other violations include unethical conduct by the former head coach for knowing about the program's involvement in NCAA violations and providing false and misleading information to the institution and enforcement staff when questioned about his involvement in and knowledge of possible NCAA violations; unethical conduct by the former assistant coach for failing to act in accordance with the generally recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics for his knowing involvement in NCAA violations; and the institution's failure to monitor the men's and women's basketball programs.

All this added up to three years of probation and one scholarship taken away for one year, AKA nothing whatsoever.

So, Yeah… What Might Happen?

You're not dealing with amateurs here:

Van Horn said, "Compliance and administrative staff conduct in-person spot checks of practice during the academic year and summer. We have not had any reason to self-report any violations in this area with any of our sports."

At the very least a detailed list of clean spot checks will assuage the NCAA if they choose to investigate. "Failure to monitor" can't be alleged when there is monitoring. This is a major reason big schools report a lot of minor violations and escape the NCAA hammer: they pay attention and back it up with documents. Meanwhile, the accusations leveled are anonymous, unverified, and vague. It takes a huge leap to go from this article to even the tiny wrist-slap SEMO received.

The Free Press says the NCAA's reaction is "impossible to predict," but I'll predict: it'll be slightly more strenuous than their reaction to the NCAA's reaction the Ann Arbor News academics story. Since their reaction to that story was to ignore it, that only implies a cursory look through the books.



August 30th, 2009 at 1:06 PM ^

And with this, hopefully the people who pay more than the ESPN-cursory level look at Michigan football (namely, the people on this blog) can now refocus on the task at hand: Saturday against Western Michigan.


August 30th, 2009 at 1:26 PM ^

And I'm thinking two things:

1) This sets the team up for an "us against the world" start to the season. Going through the tunnel and dropping 50 or so on WMU would do a lot.

2) I think there should be a rush order on another T-shirt design for the competition. Instead of Che Guevara, I'm thinking RichRod with a sombrero ala Treasure of Sierra Madre with the tagline:

"Violations? We don't have no stinkin' violations!"




August 30th, 2009 at 2:08 PM ^

But if the team drops 50 on WMU then you can expect to hear, "Well, the only way UM improved so much was with all of the 'extra' practice they were forced to do under RichRod the Terrible."

As Brian said above, RR would have to be an idiot along with all of the other coaches, staff and Athletic Dept. officials to let something like this go on. I would expect something like to this to happen under Lane Kiffin, but not a coach who has headed two major programs for the better part of the last decade.

Let's just win some games and forget about this off season.


August 30th, 2009 at 2:09 PM ^

I will preface by saying I do not believe any NCAA violation will be found. However, as we saw in the Patriots taping scandal/violations, it does not take an "idiot" to condone practices that clearly violate NFL or NCAA policy. Bill Belicheck is clearly not an idiot. Also, on the lighter side, I once made a closing argument in a breaking and entering prosecution where the defendant accidently locked himself in a bank safe as follows: "We don't catch the smart ones."

My bet is that RR and staff clearly pushed the limits of the rules, relying on the affirmative defense that this was all "voluntary." I'm sure the Compliance staff at Michigan will basically have their heads up the football programs ass after this. That is the most likely outcome, not any NCAA violation substantiations.

Enjoy Life

August 30th, 2009 at 1:12 PM ^

Brian stated:

"that would be totally evil if Rodriguez was an idiot who hadn't dealt with NCAA compliance for 20 years and hadn't made sure the strenuous workouts fit the definitions of "voluntary." This is unlikely.

He is saying it is unlikely that RR did not make sure that the "strenuous workouts fit the definitions of "voluntary.""


August 30th, 2009 at 1:08 PM ^

as usual, Brian knocks it out of the park. As I briefly mentioned on my board message about the latest ESPN analysis, though, I don't think the biggest worry for RR is the NCAA. It's the big alumni donors. I'd like to think the folks on MGoBlog are the power base of Michigan fans. But we're not. If enough people paying for the suites, etc. get fed up and voice it to Bill Martin directly and from the checkbooks, Rich Rod is in trouble. This the first time a "major" NCAA violation has been alleged in the national print media vs. Michigan. Donors used to being able to say we're better than everyone else because our program is so "clean" won't like it. Just my two cents. And if UM does well this year, the donors will be happy. We'll see a week from yesterday.

Oh, and Rittenberg does a good job staying objective on all this here:


Enjoy Life

August 30th, 2009 at 1:20 PM ^

When you take a survey (or ask football players questions), there is bound to be some variation in the response. If not, the survey is rigged.

The fact that around 5% or less (it looks like) of the current players have some problems with the program is virtually a statistical certainty.

It does not mean:

1) Team chemistry is destroyed forever!

2) RR is in deep trouble!

3) The laws of gravity no longer apply.

Enjoy Life

August 30th, 2009 at 1:35 PM ^

Sorry, must have lost my train of thought.

I hope the alum donors also realize this and that they got to be rich and famous because they have the ability to think. Therefore, they will dismiss this as just another sensational headline rather than get all in a lather about it.

Also, most of those donor alums are in business and realize that what M is "accused" of doing is no different than what they are doing every day (and, what helped them become rich and famous).

I think if RR wins, he stays. If not, he is gone. This will not matter a twit. Because, I think, it is much ado about nothing.

The Nicker

August 30th, 2009 at 1:23 PM ^

I think DC Blue hits the nail on the head here. I'm not exactly a stuck-in-the-mud traditionalist in the mold of our older brethren, but even I'm starting to become unsettled at the frequent issues that the program has had to deal with in the past year and a half. The bluehairs will most definitely issue warning shots after this one, if nothing else, and Martin's still got 30% of the boxes to fill up. Granted, he's also right that winning will assuage some of the concern, but not all of it.

The "Rosenberg hates us" meme does not satisfy me. Journalists have it out for all sorts of coaches and programs, keep your nose clean.

Regardless of the fact that almost every top program in the country is probably doing this, that our players would self-report this in the worst possible light is enough to tell me that there are still severe problems in the locker room. This is a problem. I don't care if Rodriguez introduced a whole new culture and it's only Carr guys that can't deal with it (although at this point simple reasoning says that thought is shot to hell), the fact that there are still so many disgruntled players on this squad is very unsettling to me.


August 30th, 2009 at 1:28 PM ^

There is nothing that says there are SO MANY disgruntled players. I am guesssing that it was Stokes and Hawthorne. And they said it without knowing it would be used in this context. Also, Joe Schad just said that his sources say that it is folks who could not adjust to the new regime. (slackers...or guys who are okay with 8-4)


August 30th, 2009 at 1:46 PM ^

the freep article indicated that current and former players were interviewed. i believe the freep intentionally left the issue open as to who the disgruntled players are (were). i'm guessing those disgruntled players left the program.

that said, how difficult would it be to get a player to admit that they dislike long, grueling workouts?

as others have said, this article is about grabbing attention. i think it's largely BS.


August 30th, 2009 at 2:46 PM ^

I agree with him that it's troubling that current players spoke out, even if it was only 1 or 2--not because there are a couple malcontents, all programs have them. It's troubling because if the implications for team chemistry and morale for guy that go speak to reporters.

Dave B

August 30th, 2009 at 1:11 PM ^

I liked how at the end of the article, they tried to make a point that all the extra work didn't show on the field last year. Evidently the lack of a consistent QB and defense had nothing to do with 3-9. Let's see how things play out this year.


August 30th, 2009 at 1:13 PM ^

I've already gotten two emails from my Michigan-hating friends that say "RR practiced three times as much as others and all you can manage was three wins?" Makes me want to blow my head off.


August 30th, 2009 at 1:24 PM ^

I don't buy the newspaper. We really are spoiled. All the info we need is on a blog like this and is educational with some entertainment. Not because it says what I want to hear, but because it is well thought out and believable. Thanks Brian

I am not too worried.(as if I have any say anyway) W's will make this meme all go away.


August 30th, 2009 at 1:30 PM ^

But maybe this could theoreticaly HELP recruiting? Most 4 and 5 star recruits think they are headed to the NFL. Having a full time job working out under Barwis can't hurt. If I was RR, I'd have team shirts made up that say: Michigan -- We practice and work out WAY too much. LOL.


August 30th, 2009 at 2:50 PM ^

that would have appeal to, but the majority, especially those recruits where parents are a major influence on the school decision, IMO will react very negatively to this, particularly after being goaded in a negative way by rival coaches.


August 30th, 2009 at 1:32 PM ^

re: voluntary practices. i come from an accounting/auditing background. it is the job of QC to ensure rules are being properly followed. as far as football goes, to me, it would be a good thing to have "quality control" personnel observing "voluntary" practices and workouts to ensure that ncaa rules are being followed (ie. no coaches). i guess the key is to ensure that these QC people are disassociated from the football program.


August 30th, 2009 at 1:35 PM ^

My great source of comfort is not that "everyone does it", but that as Brian states, RR has been doing this for some time on a high level. He knows the rules and (I hope) knows how to run a program that is safe to scrutiny. In a similar fashion, the athletic department should be professional enough to have their ducks in a row. If not, they deserve their lumps for stupidity.

It is bothersome though that there is so much resistance and dissent seemingly from within. The culture obviously changed which reflects poorly on either the Carr regime's work ethic or the demands of RR(maybe a combination of both).

Kentucky basketball does not seem so conflicted and their guy has a real track record. Rodriguez should hire a PR guy.

Enjoy Life

August 30th, 2009 at 1:42 PM ^

"It is bothersome though that there is so much resistance and dissent seemingly from within."

There is absolutely NO evidence of this! Few players were actually cited in the articles. And, some that were (e.g. Hawthorne and Stokes) merely said workouts were tough. They never said they thought they were unnecessary or that they were unhappy about it.


August 30th, 2009 at 1:42 PM ^

I agree with Brian's conclusion (likely no NCAA sanctions or investigation) but two things:

1- it would not require Rodriguez to be "an idiot" for these allegations to be true: it would require him to be human. Non idiots push the envelope and rules every day and in every industry. Trying to game the system and get advantage is endemic to humanity.

2- I think the NCAA won't investigate but the school likely will. The administration is very sensitive to this kind of allegation and will no simply dismiss it. that guarantees that this issue will stay top of mind. In fact, I think it likely that the school will call a press conference this week in order to discuss this, which will add more fuel to the fire.

In the end, IMO this will end up as a minor skirmish causing much debate but with no real impact--other than increasing negative recruiting against us. Much ado about likely nothing, but nonetheless it's gonna suck for awhile.

El Jeffe

August 30th, 2009 at 1:55 PM ^

Re your #1, I think that if we were talking about the difference between 21 and 20 hours, you'd be right. But as far as I understand what's going on, there were claims that the players were forced, forced I say, to spend 9 hours on Sunday instead of permissible 4 doing football-related stuff or whatnot. RR is not an idiot to overshoot that target by a factor of 225%. More likely, he is flouting the spirit of the rules while staying ever so slightly within the letter of them.

Whether we like this or not is a different matter. I highly doubt RR is dumb enough to trample well-known rules to this extent.


August 30th, 2009 at 2:17 PM ^

that (for the sake of this argument, let's say all allegations are true) anything can be traced to back to a specific mandatory command. No one could be that dumb. So this is all shades of grey. But as we all know from the workplace, there are ways of your boss letting you know that something extra they want is "voluntary", when in reality everyone at work knows it is not. Nothing could ever be traced back, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Now I'm not arguing the Freep side, as I said earlier, I think it will turn out to be not much. But I do think it's conceivable that this could have happened.


August 30th, 2009 at 3:22 PM ^

I agree with you about the "spirit of the rules" vs. the actual rules themselves. Breaking the spirit of the rules is not an infraction.

I think there was a very heavy peer pressure element to last year's Sundays. The coaches can say, "you can leave now if you want, but we have 20 additional things prepared for you and those of you who want to play should go to room X to start." Then the walk ons probably leave since they wouldn't play in any event, but everyone else stays and follows the herd. Therefore, the intentional peer pressure and the playing time expectation break the spirit but not the rule. Everything was still voluntary.


August 30th, 2009 at 1:43 PM ^

I loved the recipe symbolism in your opening graph.

Made me laugh.

Be it bad post or investigative piece, there is always a recipe for cooked squirrel or curried cabbage thats more worth our time to discuss.