Trouble Brewing for Michigan?

The Detroit Free Press and ESPN have both published reports of alleged NCAA violations at rival Michigan. (Photo - Icon SMI)

Sundays in the off-season are generally pretty quiet in the college football blogosphere, but on the last Sunday before the season kicks off  it was buzzing thanks to a Detroit Free Press report of possible NCAA violations regarding excessive practice and preparation requirements by Michigan under second year head coach Rich Rodriguez.

The Free Press published a report on Sunday after speaking to several current and former players who told them that the new coaching regime in Michigan is requiring players to spend more time on football than the NCAA requirements allow for.

Multiple players told both the Free Press and (video below) that Sundays in the season require the players to spend up to 12 hours at the football facilities including an hour for lunch meaning that Michigan players would be spending up to 11 hours on Sundays.  The NCAA allows for 20 weekly hours with a maximum of four hours on an individual day.

Players also told both the Free Press and ESPN that off-season weight lifting requirements generally took about twice as long as the eight weekly hours the NCAA allows for.  While the training program and other off-season workouts are considered voluntary, players have told the Free Press that missing workouts resulted in punishments and extra work.

Toney Clemons, a former Michigan wide receiver who transferred to Colorado in March, told ESPN’s Joe Schad that the allegations in the report are indeed true.

“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.”

“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.”

In response to the report and the storm that is brewing in the media, Michigan athletic director Bill Martin announced later on Sunday that the university was launching an investigation to determine whether or not the allegations were true.  Rodriguez, meanwhile, issued a statement to the Detroit Free Press basically stating that he is aware of the NCAA guidelines and that they stay within them.

None of the allegations in these reports are surprising. This kind of stuff most likely happens all over the place and if anyone thinks that the players at the top programs only spend 20 hours a week on football, they are beyond naive. Off-season workouts and other football related activities are often labeled as “voluntary” at schools even if the players know that they are expected to be there.

What is surprising however is that both the Free Press and ESPN have both been able to find so many current players willing to talk to them on the subject even if it is anonymously.

Since Rodriguez has taken over at Michigan, the program has seen players transfer at a surprising rate – many of whom talked about diminishing family values in the program. Sunday’s report suggests that there is still plenty of dissent within the program – happy players generally don’t speak out about their coaches to the media.

Sunday’s report is also going to create dissent between the players themselves. The players on the team that are loyal to Rodriguez are not going to take kindly to some of their teammates leaking out information about potential NCAA violations to the press considering the potential ramifications for the program should the NCAA decide to investigate.

Those possible ramifications could include loss of scholarships and practice time or even probation. Michigan has never received major sanctions for the football program. What exactly the NCAA could do to Michigan if the allegations are proven to be true is anyone’s guess though. Considering the NCAA still has an open investigation of USC regarding Reggie Bush and his time their, how quickly they move on this subject is anyone’s guess as well.

There could be possible ramifications for Rich Rodriguez personally.  He went just 3-9 in his first season at Michigan and not a whole lot is expected from them in year two. The Michigan alum and admin likely won’t take well to back to back disappointing seasons and potential NCAA sanctions making the 2009 season all that much more important for him.

The timing of these reports could not have been any worse for Michigan. The Wolverines open their season this weekend and will host Notre Dame the following week. When the Irish travel to Ann Arbor for the September 12th showdown, their blitz happy defense will be facing a quarterback making his second career start.  Rodriguez and his players will now be bombarded with questions about these reports instead of questions about how they will be able to move the ball consistently with Rodriguez’s plan to use three quarterbacks early in the season or how the defense will hold up after replacing 6 starters.

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  1. wow… lots of writing here…. I’ll keep it brief. I just got my tickets for the michigan st game… i’m looking at them right know… ahhhhhhhhhhh. what a feeling.. look for the boys from nebraska while tailgaiting…. GO ND!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Irishspartan,
    Being part Spartan, I realize your perspective a little. The couch burning, the term “Sparty on” coined by WRIF in Detroit refering to the ghettoland behavior in East Lansing after wins and losses. MSU once took a football player kicked out of ND for cheating on an exam, and made him a starter. Questionable students coming from gangland areas of Flint are among the prime recruits to MSU. Oh, and let’s not forget the new term for shooting yourself in the foot, pulling a “Plaxico.” While ND can claim, Doctor Reggie Ho, VPs in Mark Green, Ned Bolcar, and the Honorable Alan Page of the Minnesota Surpreme Court, I haven’t seen similar contributors to society coming from MSU.
    My wife is a Spartan and gets mad when I point that out. But the fact is I can. Again, I believe that a league geared to those top athletes who still wish a real education would be successful. ND, Michigan, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Stanford, the Ivy League schools, Duke, maybe Penn State, and any others of similar philosophy could all get rabid fans to spend similar amounts of money at the gate. Rivalries would be fierce, but respectful. You could let your kid watch the games on TV, not fearful that the star on the team was going to be the next O.J. Simpson, Micheal Irvin, or T.O. As fans we’d have little fear of the stars getting shot in gang violence in the offseason, dealing coke, robbing a bank, or molesting someone’s sister. 99% of the time we could feel good rootign for these guys. That’s the kind of sport that fires me up inspires me. How about you?

    1. What you’re doing is generalizing…you’re basing your opinion on a “few bad apples” if they can be called such a thing. Michigan State is an incredible institution, and I’m happy to have received my B.S. and D.V.M. there. Certainly, the “ghettoland”, as you put it, antics on a small percentage of students several years ago does put a stain on the reputation, but once again, does not represent the whole. And by the way, “ghettoland” is a tad un-PC, so tone it down.

      And as far as my first post…if you had read it, you would note that I did not CONDONE this kind of dishonest behavior, but simply acknowledged that it occurs, and that since it DOES occur, than perhaps the policing and repercussions for that need to be re-evaluated.

      I agree that academics have certainly taken a backseat to excellence on the field at some schools. However, a degree is a degree, and your bashing of Michigan State is completely unfounded.

      1. I don’t bash MSU for the general student. Certainly like most State schools, the access to specific degrees and facilities is better than many except the richest private Universities.
        But I do business overseas. I can relate the America obsession with sports to society as a whole. I can also relate that this country can espouse the values that will keep us up with countries like Japan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, most Western European nations. Or we can be PC as you say and tolerate the below average behavior and output that will have this country tending toward the third world. I have friends from Africa and India and they point out that much of Detroit is like Calcutta, or Soweto. Icons like our very own President, Bill Cosby, and Julius Erving have called us all to a higher standard, rather than pander to the lowest common denominator. You also talk of a few bad apples. Well when as few as 1% to 5% of a group are bad apples, it’s enough to bring down a whole neighborhood, region or country. Again, I can point to Detroit. Do you think the difference between the nicer suburb of Birmingham and areas just north of the CASS corridor is the general resident? No way, it’s the difference between .01% being trouble and maybe 2% to 5% being trouble. That means a “ghetto” has 95% of the good citizenry hostage to 5% or less of an undesirable element.

        Again, let’s be clear as to the point regarding the Michigan issue, though.
        As our economy may be on the brink of an even deeper disaster, we need to look at how our values or lack thereof have led to these disasters. I say the corruption of fair play in college sports , and the acceptance of that corruption has gone on too long and something revolutionary needs to be done about it.

  3. Charlie gets it. So did Willingham, Davie, and on down the line. Here at ND we still regurd our players as “Student-Athletes”. They take the clases, go to the classes, and pass the classes. A degree from ND is more important to these Student-Athletes than a few extra hours of football practice.(And it should be)
    So when a Notre Dame team comes along that plays (and practices) by the rules and can still compete and win, it’s something special (and rare) in todays College football world. Michigan has always been a fine football tradition.
    But I have heard on more than one occasion that some of that success may have come at a cost to some of theirs player’s academic well being. (See Jim Harbaugh) Winning on the football field is very important to Notre Dame. Winning in the classroom and in life is more important.

  4. A new LEAGUE??? I think you’re taking this a little far, C-dog. The presence of this kind of “corruption”, to me, signifies that maybe the NCAA should keep a closer eye on the programs to abide by the rules. Like Frank said, the majority of programs (particularly the contenders) have their students put in extra hours. Is it right? No, probably not. But the pressure is there to do so. It’s in situations like at Michigan that the players get resentful and start talking that you hear about it. Not to mention, Rodriguez is well known for his conditioning and aggressive training regimine, so maybe he REALLY went too far with these kids.

    I can guarantee that Notre Dame, God bless them, is not perfect in following NCAA rules. There are little mistakes, or intential bending of the rules in any program, so be careful how you point the finger in this case. At the same time, Notre Dame prides itself on the high standards they hold their program to, another reason I’m proud to be a fan.

    However, don’t be so naive to think that winning isn’t the bottom line for any of these contender schools, and sometimes that comes with a high price.

    1. irishspartan,
      Naive, no, pointing the finger, no! You need to really read what I am suggesting. You’ve actually enlightened us yourself with your comment about everyone doing something. That’s not right. Just plain not right. All this justification comes from a bad ethic. It’s that ethic that allows you and I to get cheated by the Enron’s and AIG’s of the world. Given President Clinton;s statement about the definition of “is”, now we can lie without lying. Weel guess what folks, if it’s all OK, then why give a crap about any school, even Notre Dame. Why give a crap about the country. Because what you are saying is the only thing that makes me, you, us better than anyone else is that we’re us. Sorry, I’ll stop caring then. Pro Football is for people who only believe in a team because their job’s suck so bad they need a diversion, like a fantasy novel or movie. College footbal has always been about a higher ideal. Part of believing in something that can carry all of us to a better place, an improved society. The connection to the ideals of ancient Greece comes to mind.
      But if you drop the bar to the level of hoods, convicts, and the attitude of, “OH well”, everony cheats at sports and watching a winning team is all that’s important, well root for the Cocaines of Miami, the Women Harassers of USC or Nebraska, or the 3rd Wrold educators of the SEC. ND should be part of something better.
      I’m not pointing a finger at Michigan. I’m saying this incident from a school that has traditionally been one of the cleaner programs reflects how much we’ve abandoned what right in sports and in our society.
      Let’s divide the sports world between those who want the collegiate version of the Bloods and the Cribs, and whatever ghetto, Ho-daddy ethic you think is cool, from those of us who want sports to be about achievement and inspiring a higher good in society.

  5. I hate to see this for Michigan. Their prgram should be like Notre Dame’s. It’s time to gather schools that wish to run honorable programs together and turn our back on the NCAA. We can afford to lose them much more than they can afford to lose us.
    When the goeverning body is greedy and corrupt, you’ll see more and more of this. We shouldn’t be smug that it is touching Michigan, we should be astounded and fearful. When Miami cheated no one batted an eyelash. But this is like when the President says he didn’t do something and then says, “It all depends on what your definition of is is.” That inspires the bahavior that causes Enron, MCI/Worldcom, and AIG.
    Words are easy. Actions aren’t. Especially those that demand courage. Michigan needs to do what is nessacary in the short term. But long term, Notre Dame should reach out and gather the honorable schools together and start something new. A D-1 league that keeps the “student” in student-athlete. I’ll rabidly root for Notre Dame because it is Notre Dame. But only if it can be like the Notre Dame of old. That may require leaving NCAA D-1 football. But if other schools come too, then a high flying top notch league can be formed.

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