Michigan officials to appear before NCAA

Michigan officials are headed to Seattle to play a little defense this weekend. Their primary goal: protect head football coach Rich Rodriguez from NCAA penalties.

When Rodriguez, athletic director Dave Brandon, university president Mary Sue Coleman and other Michigan officials appear before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on Saturday, they will try to show that Rodriguez did, in fact, promote an atmosphere of compliance, which the NCAA is refuting. The charge against the coach is the only NCAA allegation, out of five, that Michigan contested in its response to the NCAA in late May. If you missed them, check out the full responses by Michigan and by Rodriguez.

Two things to remember:

  • The likelihood of any major news coming from the Seattle hearings is slim to none, although media members will be on hand, just in case. As we found out with the USC case, the NCAA takes its sweet time issuing final rulings on these cases, so we likely won't know anything official until mid-to-late fall, at the earliest.

  • The Committee on Infractions is required to only consider the case being presented, so Rodriguez's pending situation at West Virginia officially will not be a factor. That said, you can bet the NCAA folks know what's going on at West Virginia, and it will be tough for them to completely forget about the situation.

Here's an extensive look on how the meetings might play out Saturday, with quotes from former Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan, who has sat in the same hot seat. For more, click here and here.

From The Detroit News:

Michigan appears well-positioned headed into the crucial hearings this weekend. From the moment allegations surfaced that the players practiced too much at the direction of football staff, the university appears to have done exactly what the NCAA says any of its member institutions should do.

From immediately launching its own investigation, to cooperating with the NCAA's separate investigation, to uncovering and evaluating a huge amount of evidence, to imposing stiff penalties on itself, Michigan may well have done everything necessary in the face of the first major violations leveled against its storied football program to escape even tougher treatment from the NCAA.

The only thing it could have done better, according to experts on NCAA investigations, is to have discovered the violations itself.

"U-M has accepted full responsibility and has put a plan in place to ensure future compliance, which will go a long way with the committee," said Rick Karcher, director of the Center for Law & Sports at the Florida Coastal School of Law.

However, a loose end, according to the experienced observers, is coach Rich Rodriguez.

Rodriguez obviously has to worry about a potential show cause penalty, which could restrict his recruiting and coaching activities.

My take: Rodriguez's ultimate fate still comes down to whether his team can defend better on the field, not in a hearing room. Although a potential pattern of non-compliance is cause for concern, these violations aren't in the same ballpark as academic fraud or what allegedly went down with agents at several ACC and SEC programs.

Still, this is a very important Saturday for Rodriguez. He'll have a few more of them once September rolls around.