In the wake of a Detroit Free Press article alleging the football staff violated NCAA rules regarding offseason workouts and in-season time spent on football, Michigan is doing exactly what it should be doing at this point in time.
It’s attempting to get out in front of the situation.
According to multiple media outlets, Michigan has announced it’s launching its own investigation into the allegations.
“We are committed to following both the letter and the intent of the NCAA rules and we take any allegations of violations seriously,” Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said in a statement. “We believe we have been compliant with NCAA rules, but, nonetheless, we have launched a full investigation of the allegations.
“We have already reached out to both the Big Ten and the NCAA and we will have more to say on this as soon as we have completed our assessment.”
Quoting unnamed former and current players, parents, and using quotes from named freshman earlier this year, the Free Press alleges Michigan went well above the 20-hour weekly limit on football activities mandated by the NCAA. Additionally, it’s alleged that low-level members of the coaching staff were in attendance at workouts, another NCAA no-no.
The school has denied any abuses of the rules.
At least one former player under Rodriguez, however, went on the record with the Detroit News and seemingly confirmed the allegations,
“Yes, we were there all day, it seemed sometimes,” former Michigan and current Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Morgan Trent said. “But if you expect to win, that’s the sacrifice you make. I was a senior (last season under Rodriguez)
“I just wanted to win.”
Unlike in their original story, the Free Press actually got a former player — a transfer to boot — to go on the record last night.
Wide receiver Toney Clemons transferred from Michigan to Colorado earlier this year. While for some reason he’s not quoted in the article, the Free Press reports that he did confirm the allegations.
…U-M coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff required players to put in workout and practice hours that surpassed what the NCAA allows. Clemons, who transferred to the University of Colorado, said the Colorado coaches follow the rules, as did former Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr.
The father of a current player, however, says there is no truth to the allegations.
“Michael was home in summer, and he talked a lot about where they were going out to eat (in Ann Arbor), and I said, ‘Don’t you practice?’ ” Mike Schofield, son of freshman offensive lineman Michael Schofield, said, laughing. “He never has complained about the workouts and the practices.
“He came home, and there was no Barwis police chasing my son around, and at the (offseason) workouts, there were no coaches in disguises and no secret passages. … This is just the perspective from a parent — we had a great experience with coach Rod and his staff during recruiting. When the accusations came out, my first feeling was, ‘I don’t believe them.'”
The allegations against Michigan are the most significant in the history of the storied football program. The football program has never been the subject of a major NCAA probe, but could very well be pending its own findings.
The NCAA, at this point in time, refuses to comment on the situation.
“We don’t comment on any current, pending or potential investigations,” NCAA spokesman Chuck Wynne said. “The reason we have these restrictions on hours is because it’s a student well-being issue. They need to have time to go to class, to practice and time to be students.”
Again, it would be very easy to pile on Michigan right now. But to think this situation is unique to the Wolverines is to walk around with your head buried in a place that, on the surface, wouldn’t seem physically possible.
The “voluntary” workout is the Great White Lie of big-time college football, and its presence on campuses all across the country on a year-round basis is yet another reason that college president’s dismissal of a playoff system based on taking a student-athlete’s time away from the classroom is a complete and utter sham.
Everyone knows it — goes about their business with a wink and a nod — including the players who are a part of the “voluntary” work.
“Every team does that, more or less,” a former Michigan player said to the News. “Everyone knows voluntary workouts you don’t have to be there, but you have to be there. A lot of guys don’t even know about the rule, but everybody signed the sheets (indicating you kept to the 20-hour rule). It was never a big deal. Those sheets were signed, and that’s the only paper trail there is.”
While a rule’s a rule, it’s the height of hypocrisy to single out one institution, especially one with the past integrity Michigan has displayed.
Based on the allegations, they need to be investigated. But they’re not the only one.
Far from it, actually. And that is the story.