Sunday, August 30, 2009
Detroit Free Press columnists Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder have today accused Michigan head football coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff of violating NCAA rules by:
a.) monitoring player attendance to voluntary workouts,
b.) purportedly "requiring" Michigan football players to participate in 100% voluntary activities (workouts, practices, exercises, and preparation drills)
c.) issuing punishment to Michigan football players for not participating in voluntary activities (workouts, practices, exercises, and preparation drills).
I'm not sure I agree with their police work here. Gannett's stock basically tanked right about the time of the Michigan spring game. You remember, when there was a lot of good news coming everyone's way about the early enrollees, offseason conditioning, etc. Well, the Gannett stock is finally making somewhat of a comeback in late August. Leaning on trusty, sensationalist stories by Rosenberg and Snyder can only help the Freep and its ownership in the backdrop of declining sales and subscription renewals.
Look if there's something wrong in Schembechler Hall, then the NCAA search dogs will be sure to find it eventually. And if they do uncover that Rodriguez and staff have been breaking the rules at Michigan, I will be very surprised. Here's why:
No Big Ten football coach that I know of has so frequently and so publicly cited NCAA rules regarding football player recruiting, guidelines for involuntary offseason workouts of football players, and NCAA guidelines regarding early enrollees, and all of the UM athletic department's frequent compliance monitoring processes, as Rich Rodriguez. Bo Schembechler rarely if ever talked about such things. Neither did Moeller. Lloyd Carr personally installed a "Cone of Silence" around the football program back in 1995. Rodriguez changed all of that and opened the Michigan football kimono so much, it's been lying on the floor collecting dust for over 18 months.
What Rosenberg and Snyder fail to address is how Rodriguez has been pretty forthright about the whole "you gotta love football" agreement with his players, and that Rodriguez has repeatedly stated that playing time too is voluntary. After reading their accusatory release, I was asking myself whether it is possible for Rosenberg and Snyder to be a little more vague about who the "quality control staff" of Rodriguez actually are or were? And what kinds of questions were actually posed of the freshman players to elicit the responses they printed?
I would be very surprised if a coach like this one who has been coaching NCAA Division 1 football since 1999 and who is so overly open, and who talks to the press about virtually everything and anything under the freaking sun, is eventually found guilty by the NCAA of something so well understood by the coaches and his staff, and so well-monitored and documented by the university athletic department staff.
As for the timing of Mr. Rosenberg's and Mr. Snyder's column, it couldn't have been better planned. Both writers are doing a fantastic job of attempting to undermine Rodriguez at every opportunity. They will continue to drive wedges of doubt into the hearts of Michigan football fans going forward, regardless of how the season plays out. It will be very interesting to see how the Michigan coaches and players respond to these accusations in the upcoming week of practice and in the opening game versus Western Michigan next Saturday.
As for Rodriguez himself, I'm hoping that he will respond appropriately to these accusations. By this I mean he should respond with both clarity and brevity. Whether or not Rosenberg and Snyder are on target or have completely missed the mark with their story, I'm confident the truth will come out. If true, there will be and should be consequences for Michigan.
The much bigger issues at hand in my view, aside from the allegations themselves, is that kickoff lies but 6 days way, and Rich Rodriguez simply cannot seem to put the turbulent past behind him. Michigan football fans are not used to the river of negativity about the coach and the program
Also, it's abundantly clear that no matter how hard certain coaches and players try to cover it up, not all of the 2009 Wolverine football players are "All in for this Michigan".
The best thing and the only thing the Michigan coaches and team can do right now is focus on game preparation. Winning football games will silence most of the hell-bent critics eventually.