Monday, August 31, 2009

Where There's Smoke

An interesting question for Detroit Free Press columnists Michael Rosenberg and Mark Snyder would be whether they bothered to research a little deeper into Rich Rodriguez's past seven years as head coach at West Virginia (2001-2007) to discover whether there had existed a similar pattern of such wanton NCAA rule breakage in Morgantown.

This is a reasonable question to consider since Rodriguez brought virtually his entire coaching staff from WVU with him to Ann Arbor (sans defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and special teams coach Bill Stewart). Furthermore, Rodriguez has been cited multiple times for referring to his "system", his "way of doing things", his "strength and conditioning staff" and what they have typically experienced in transition years.

Yet for some reason, we are led to believe that the investigative leads of wrong doing for Rosenberg and Snyder stopped at the city limits of Ann Arbor and/or rested solely with current and former Michigan players alone.

Why not make a few extra phone calls to former West Virginia players? Some of them may have had an "axe to grind" with Rodriguez too. Some may have absolutely loved the man. But who knows what juicy, malicious, NCAA rule-shattering took place down in Morgantown during Rodriguez first stint at a head coaching position? Afterall, he was taking over for a legend their too in former Michigan assistant and WVU head coach Don Nehlen.

Why stop at the Lloyd Carr transition alone?

Why not try some deductive reasoning on for size?

1. Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez blatantly violates NCAA practice rules.

2. Rich Rodriguez was a head coach at West Virginia for 7 years (2001-2007).

3. West Virginia blatantly violated NCAA practice rules.

Oh man! Is it really that easy?

If there's more smelly tidbits to be discovered here, Rosenberg and Snyder decide to leave such rocks in West Virginia completely unturned.

Here's what Bob Hertzel of the Times West Virginian had to say about the Freep article:

During his seven years at West Virginia, no such charges were publically leveled at Rodriguez or his strength staff, although few doubted that Rodriguez’s burning desire to succeed could open some doors that would be best left closed.

Then Hertzel mentions this from an unnamed former West Virginia football player under Rodriguez back in the early days (2001-2002?):

The WVU player, contacted Sunday, wrote in a message sent via Facebook:

“I can honestly tell you — it was ONLY in Coach Rod's first fall as WVU's head coach (Sept '01 - Nov '01) that I felt we were at the stadium far more than the NCAA allowed. Coach Rod made the team report to the football office on Sundays during the season only and attendance was checked.

“We had to change into our workout gear, stretch/warm-up, and the strength staff would conduct light lifting sessions and put the team through moderate conditioning on the football field. This, of course, was after 1-2 hours of treatment for injured players (if needed). When you add all of the hours, it made for a less than desirable Sunday. I can remember missing all of 1:00 NFL games which didn't end until 3:30-3:45.”

The player said other than that first year, there were no violations in this area.

“The rest of my days at WVU were business as usual — and acceptable to all of the players. Of course, Sunday sessions at the football office were no longer implemented, in part, because of the obvious displeasure among players the year before and we were winning on Saturdays.”

It seems to me that many current and former college football players simply do not understand the rules themselves. The former West Virginia player in this facebook entry is unfortunately making zero distinction between what is voluntary and involuntary in terms of his time practicing and working out for football. Also, player taping (ankles, feet, legs, etc.) and medical treatments are not countable periods of time that would lead to an NCAA infraction. Actually, the football coaches like Rodriguez and his entire football staff are supposed to be first line of defense in the enforcement of practice rules. Compared to Lloyd Carr and Don Nehlen, Rodriguez had an absolutely massive staff of personnel. He was not for want of resources. Secondarily, universities like WVU and UM also have their own independent compliance departments and officers who run periodic checks on football practices and workout sessions and review documentation of player participation, etc. to ensure full NCAA rule compliance and cite any inconsistencies for self-reporting of violations.

One thing is clear. Rosenberg and Snyder decided to omit WVU from consideration in their allegations against Rich Rodriguez and staff.

Where's The Fire?
I live in Southern California. Sure, when you see flames and smoke on the hillsides 15 miles away, you're a little scared. You're not scared so much about those same flames 15 miles away hurting you. So WHAT are you worried about? I'll tell you. You're worried about the hot embers traveling via the renowned Santa Ana winds several miles in the dry air and possibly landing on your home roof or on some dry thicket near your house and starting a brand new uncontrollable fire.

If there's smoke in Ann Arbor, the Laurel mountains around Morgantown should be burnt to a crisp by now. Former Mountaineer players and staf under Rich Rodriguez should be foaming at the mouth to substantiate or refute both Rosenberg and Snyder.
Then again, maybe not.

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