Jihad The Second: Practical Matters

Submitted by Brian on 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.

Rules

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 17.1.6.2.2 and 17.1.6.2.3]. (Revised: 4/29/04 effective 8/1/04)

The emailer also suggests this:

As far as I can tell, the authors of the article invented the rule about "quality-control staff" not being permitted to observe voluntary off-season scrimmages.  The rules about voluntary activities clearly mention athletics department staff observing, and the following rule disallows observing "nonorganized voluntary athletically related activities (e.g., pick-up games)" for certain staff members, which a student-organized scrimmage is clearly not:

11.7.1.1.1.1 Noncoaching Activities. Institutional staff members involved in noncoaching activities (e.g., administrative assistants, academic counselors) do not count in the institution’s coaching limitations, provided such individuals are not identified as coaches, do not engage in any on- or off-field coaching activities (e.g., attending meetings involving coaching activities, analyzing video involving the institution’s or an opponent’s team), and are not involved in any off-campus recruitment of prospective student-athletes or scouting of opponents. A noncoaching staff member with sport-specific responsibilities may not participate with or observe student-athletes in the staff member’s sport who are engaged in nonorganized voluntary athletically related activities (e.g., pick-up games). (Adopted: 1/16/93, Revised: 1/10/95, 12/13/05, 4/27/06 effective 8/1/06)

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

Allegations

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.

Precedents

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.

Comments

bklein09

August 30th, 2009 at 2:10 PM ^

I was waiting for Brian's take all day, and I have to say that it certainly made me feel better as I was hoping it would. The most unfortunate thing about this all is the timing and the effect that it could possibly have on team chemistry. Clearly, it is a small minority of players who feel this way about the program. The freep cited 5 or so players both former and current. What they did not say however, is how many of these players are current. For all we know there could have been one current player out of the five who went along with what the others were saying. And all the quotes that were used could easily have come from former players, ala boren, who have an obvious conflict of interest as far as their relationship toward Michigan goes. So potentially we have ONE, ONE disgruntled current player, who could be a walk-on scout teamer.

I also liked how the freep mentioned that 5 other players would not comment on the workouts but did not dispute others statements. My question is what exactly the freep considers not disputing. Does that mean that the other players simply refused to say anything and therefore did not disagree? There is so much rediculousness surrounding all of this.

If the team can just rally together like they did all off-season and come out with the right attitude next week, I think the effects of this will be minimal. However, if this whole ordeal leads to distrusts in the locker room and more and more players becoming disgruntled, I think we could be in for a rough couple of years as a program. Winning can solve everything. We just gotta perform.

Don

August 30th, 2009 at 2:15 PM ^

1. Was the amount of time spent in practice/conditioning at Michigan the same as at WVU when RR was there? If it was, why was there no mention of violations in Morgantown? Did Snydenberg inquire there? They have been working on this for many months, allegedly.

2. Ryan Mundy was in a perfect situation to comment on the amount of time spent in practice/conditioning under Carr and under RR. He did mention directly that the S&C program under RR and Barwis was far more rigorous than at Michigan under Carr. He never mentioned anything about unreasonable time demands, but it would be interesting to ask him directly. Did Snydenberg?

3. Who first approached Snydenberg with the allegations? Did Snydenberg talk directly with any member of the former coaching staff about this?

4. Fred Jackson is in a unique position to know about time spent in practice under Carr and under RR. Did Snydenberg talk to him about it?

5. Did Snydenberg talk with any parents who disputed the allegations? If not, why not? If so, why aren't their statements included?

6. Lloyd Carr would have been apoplectic if two freshmen players under him had statements obtained by a reporter who did not inform the players what he was going to do with the statements. Will he speak up now?

7. Has anyone researched the articles written about the football program by Snyder when he was with the Michigan Daily? Just curious...

8. How many hours will the players spend at Fort Schembechler today? (just partially in jest...).

Bando Calrissian

August 30th, 2009 at 2:27 PM ^

As for #6, since when does a journalist have to tell his/her interview subject why they are being asked a specific question? What were they supposed to do, hand these kids an outline of their story and see if it was OK if they asked them some questions, preferably quotes that would help? That's not journalism, that's fiction.

One thing that is really getting to me around here today is the amount of vitriol being thrown at Snyder, Rosenberg, and the Free Press. They're not the problem here. If there was no story here, why did the players come to them?

Journalists have a responsibility to report on stories like this. Responsible journalism exposes and rights wrongs, no matter what the fallout may be. If you think Michigan is better off by a media that is willing to turn the other way when they see something they think is sketchy, you're delusional.

Would Michigan basketball have been better off if Ed Martin had been allowed to pay players for another 5 years? Of course this is nothing akin to the Ed Martin scandal, but it is something that had the lid blown off by the media, and something that should have been exposed a lot earlier.

Michael

August 30th, 2009 at 3:06 PM ^

Responsible journalism would be an examination of the NCAA in general, and place what is happening at Michigan within that context. Suggesting that Michigan is egregiously violating NCAA rules, and then backing it up with essentially nothing, is in no way responsible. Last year the team SET A RECORD for team GPA, but this isn't mentioned. It's not even clear if the players who were complaining are even on the team.

Hell, even the timing of this - the Sunday before the first game - suggests that this is clearly motivated by money on the part of the free press, as well as an attempt to justify a paycheck by two dweebs.

Not to mention the obsession the free press has with tearing down Rodriguez, which has been obvious to EVERYONE.

Please, go to your room.

MGoGarbs

August 30th, 2009 at 2:12 PM ^

I work with a former closer for the M baseball team. He said in his last year, the football team "took over" the fields with their 7 on 7 drills, which went on during baseball workouts. The grad assistants were most definitely there and most definitely taking attendance and calling people.

That said, he agrees with Brian in terms of the eventual NCAA sanctions- few, if at all.

Rasmus

August 30th, 2009 at 6:22 PM ^

I don't think the "Noncoaching Activities" rule applies at all. These are not "nonorganized" activities. So that just leaves the "Voluntary Athletically Related Activities" rule, especially section (c). I don't think any part of section (d) applies unless Michigan was punishing the players for not participating in some concrete way, which I don't think has been alleged with regard to the scrimmages.

If the graduate assistants were reporting attendance or anything else about the scrimmages back to the coaches, then that would be a violation of section (c). But the article does not make that allegation. It says the players knew they were taking attendance. It doesn't say the players knew who was getting that information or how they were using it. There are good reasons for keeping track of attendance other than tattling to the coaches. The whole thing is completely absurd.

Unfortunately, as Cokie Roberts once famously observed, "It doesn't matter if it's true or not. It's out there."

kevin0353

August 30th, 2009 at 2:13 PM ^

The report is such a non issue. The is obviously a case where the Freep is desperately searching for another big issue now that the Kwame Kilpatrick story has ended. Shock journalism at best. I wouldn't be surprised if the next headline reads "Scandal at the Big House" to try to drive more readers to the Freep website.

A couple additional points that are worth merit. First, Rosenberg fails to tell us what the other 5 players said about practice and workouts. Instead, he decided to selectively report quotations from players who had negative things to say and took advantage of a naive freshman (Stokes) who appeared to be indifferent about the matter, but whose quote was spun out of context Second, what specific questions did the Freep reporters ask these players? Were they leading questions trying to bait players into producing a certain answer? Did they ask for a breakdown of how the hours were spent? Let's hope proponents (players and parents) also come forward to provide a well-rounded perspective.

This is part of the culture change at Michigan. During the latter years of the Carr era, practices had a country club type atmosphere. RRod is bringing hard work and dedication to football back to UM. The primary reason it has been brought up is due to the stark contrast in practice and preparation styles.

The climate of college football practice regulations is touchy, given the recent spike in player deaths in practice. Let's hope that the NCAA sees this for what it really is (a non issue) and decides not make an example out of UM for the rest of college football.

Blimpy Burger

August 30th, 2009 at 2:35 PM ^

FWIW.. I attend practices from time to time and was there at the most recent open media day. Rosenberg usually sends Snyder to cover practices. I've never seen Rosenberg there.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Mr. Snyder, you can't miss him. Without being derogatory, it's appropriate to have a perspective on him. At best, he's 5'6" and 140 lbs. Of the times I've seen him, I've always seen hium with a frustrated look on his face. He seldom interacts with anybody during these practices. The reporters that cover the U-M football sports beat are generally very collegial with each other.

The other thing that it may be helpful to realize is that many of the guys in the media are - simply stated - dweebs. Most haven't played competitive sports since 4th grade T-Ball. Consequently, they don't have a very good perspective on what it is they are "supposed" to be reporting on them. Beyond that, there seems to be a general absence of people skills.

I've got no doubt that Rod pushes kids up to the line. Many of Lloyd's kids simply weren't pushed and weren't required to compete for starting positions. Lloyd's system had a heavy seniority component to it. It's fairly well known that Lloyd told Gittleson & his assistants to back off on or around 2001/2002 because he wanted his kids to have a normal college experience. Lloyd's pracices weren't very intnese - Rod typically runs 3x the amount of plays in the same time. Bo would have loved Rod's tempo.

Folks, welcome to 2009. If you're not going to push up to this NCAA line and operate in the "grey" area, you're not going to compete with USC, LSU, Florida, Texas, and OSU. Take a look at Lloyds post 2001 bowl and OSU records and that shoudl give you a pretty good indicator of how well he was competing.

Blimpy Burger

August 30th, 2009 at 2:44 PM ^

Rosenberg had better understand the gravity of his remarks and make sure he's got all of his sources documented.

It's one thing for him to say that Rod should have done a better job with due diligence on Justin Feagin. However, it's another thing to accuse the program of willfully violating NCAA rules.

If Rosenberg (1) didn't do his due diligence properly and THOROUGHLY, and (2) if his story does not hold up to the ensuing scrutiny that will undoubtedly follow - he'll find himself out of a job. This are extremely serious allegations. If Mr. Rosenberg does not have a good understanding of the rules, the grey areas, and the loop holes - he'll blow up his own credibility/integrity.

Rosenberg's work is increasingly taking on the tone of a biased malcontent - with a motive. He needs to get over the fact that Les Miles wasn't hired for the job.

mgovictors23

August 30th, 2009 at 2:36 PM ^

First off I think that the players that said this are disgruntled players from last year and some disgruntled ones from this year. Do I think that Rich Rodriquez pushed the limit for time, absolutely I do. I like the fact though that our team works hard though and puts in work. It seems that 95 percent of the players don't have a problem working hard and it seems that team chemistry is really good in terms of the players that are willing to work.

GOBLUE4EVR

August 30th, 2009 at 3:05 PM ^

that richrod should pull a dantonio (yes i said it, but bare with me) and call out rosenberg and snyder at his next press conference. this is a lot like what parker did with the whole cousins thing. using un-credited sources to try and throw cousins under the bus. other than stokes and hawthorne what does rosenberg or snyder have??? nothing..... what does espn have with their whole "talked to a former player who started last year"??? nothing.... all they are doing is putting thoughts into our heads that shouldn't be there.

parker and the news was held accountable, why can't the free press??? its no secret that rosenberg has some major bur up his ass about RR, but to go to the extent of trying to get the whole football program in toruble to prove a point is just stupid.

West Texas Blue

August 30th, 2009 at 3:15 PM ^

Why are all the Detroit newspapers so negative? Has there ever been a fucking positive story from these papers? Can they not focus on a single positive thing on Michigan's football team? These guys like Rosenbery and Sharp are really pathetic; sad that everything that they write is so negative in tone.

Rasmus

August 30th, 2009 at 5:18 PM ^

and suggest that the Michigan coaching staff and administration has a better handle than these two reporters on what the NCAA guidelines actually mean.

I doubt there is any problem with the workouts. I don't think demanding that a player do more reps or laps as punishment for missing something counts as "punishment." I think that means things like throwing them off the team, taking away privileges, etc. It's got nothing to do with the internal rules of an organized workout regimen, as long as you're free to drop out of it at any time without being punished for doing so.

On the voluntary scrimmages, the rule seems confusing, but I'll bet the coaches know exactly what it means. My reading of it disagrees with Brian -- they should count as "organized" activities. These are not "pick-up games." Just because something is voluntary and student-organized does not necessarily mean the NCAA considers it "nonorganized." Brian needs to explain why he is so sure his source's understanding of the rule is wrong.

The in-season Sundays allegation has already been debunked to some degree -- the first two hours were spent in treatment, starting at 10 AM. So any coaching would not have started until after lunch, at, say, 1 or 2 PM. So probably we're talking four hours until 5 or 6 PM, then the team has a break for dinner. Anything after that would not be mandatory. When players came back after dinner, they presumably did so voluntarily. That wouldn't be against the rules as I understand them. We're talking two or at most three hours of extra football-related time, not the five to seven hours the article suggests.

Don

August 30th, 2009 at 5:11 PM ^

I was curious about Carr's reaction to the situation, not whether reporters have to inform people they interview about the true nature of the questions. They don't need to do that, but if they don't when interviewing kids not long out of high school then it's not surprising if the kids, or their coaches and parents, feel taken advantage of.

As for the vitriol towards the writers: the piece written by Rosenberg immediately after Witty was dismissed was one of the more distorted and slanted sports articles I've read in the Detroit media in my almost half-century of reading the local papers, so it should not be unexpected that Michigan fans are suspicious of his writings.

Yes, the messenger shouldn't be automatically targeted, but there is so much shoddy journalism practiced in this country on a daily basis in all areas that I long ago gave up my former automatic trust in what "professional" journalists write.

It was largely anonymous sources, unnamed intelligence officials, and people with huge axes to grind or financial interests at stake that were used by professional journalists at the NY Times and Washington Post to help support and peddle the Bush administration notion that Saddam had a robust WMD program that would soon enable him to launch in 45 minutes, so I trust anonymous sources about as far as I trust Denny McClain with my pension fund.