Michigan addresses NCAA allegations

Michigan officials today addressed the NCAA's report that details five allegations of violations against the football program between January 2008 and September 2009.

The NCAA sent the notice Monday morning, and Michigan now has 90 days to respond. Michigan then will appear before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions at a hearing in August.

You can read the NCAA's report here, as well as a letter sent to head football coach Rich Rodriguez, who appeared alongside incoming athletics director David Brandon and university president Mary Sue Coleman at today's news conference.

Here's a summary of the five allegations:

1. Five Michigan quality control staffers regularly engaged in both on-field and off-field coaching activities that are prohibited by NCAA rules. By engaging in these activities, Michigan exceeded the limit on number of coaches who can engage in these activities. Quality control personnel are alleged to have coached players two days a week in offseason workouts, warm-up activities during the season and film study, and they also attended meetings that involved coaching activities.

2. Michigan violated NCAA rules by having football staff members "monitor and conduct voluntary summer workouts, conduct impermissible activities outside the playing season, require football student-athletes to participate in summer conditioning activities for disciplinary purposes [missing class], and exceed time limits for countable athletically related activities during and outside the playing season." This seems to be the most serious charge and the one that sparked the Detroit Free Press report and the investigation. Here are some of the specifics:

  • In two separate offseason periods in both 2008 and 2009, football players were sometimes required to participate in up to 10 hours of athletic activities or weight training/conditioning, which exceeds the limit of eight hours.

  • During the 2008 season, players were sometimes required to participate for up to five hours a day in "countable athletically related activities," exceeding the maximum of four hours. The staff exceeded the 20-hour-a-week limit by 20 minutes during the week of Oct. 19, 2008.

  • During September 2009, football players were required to participate in four and a half hours of activities per day, exceeding the NCAA limit by 30 minutes. The report identifies four dates in question: Sept. 7, Sept. 14, Sept. 21, Sept. 28.

3. Graduate assistant Alex Herron is accused "providing false and misleading information" to both Michigan and the NCAA enforcement staff when asked about the allegations. He denied being present for 7-on-7 passing drills in the summers of 2008 and 2009 when he allegedly conducted the sessions.

4. Because of the first two allegations (detailed above), Rodriguez is alleged to have "failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program and failed to adequately monitor the duties and activities of the quality control staff members, a graduate assistant coach and a student assistant coach, and the time limits for athletically related activities."

5. Because of the first two allegations, Michigan's athletics department is alleged to have "failed to adequately monitor its football program to assure compliance." Compliance staff members became concerned about the duties of the quality control coaches in the winter of 2008 but didn't gather enough information to determine potential problems. The strength and conditioning staff didn't calculate time limits for offseason workouts or effectively communicate information to the compliance office. This resulted in the compliance office approving miscalculated activities and failing to follow its own policies for monitoring these activities. Athletics staff also failed to provide the forms showing countable activities to the compliance office.

So how serious are these allegations?

In the letter to Rodriguez, the NCAA writes that "all of the allegations charged in the notice of allegations are considered to be potential major violations of NCAA legislation, unless designated as secondary violations." In its response to the NCAA, Michigan has the right to point out why alleged violations should be considered secondary. You can bet Michigan will do so.

Brandon told reporters today that while Michigan takes any allegations seriously, "there was no charge of loss of institutional control, none whatsoever." We don't know yet whether these violations will be labeled as major, which has historical significance because Michigan has never been hit with major violations before. But "major violations" can sound worse than they actually are, and these allegations certainly don't fit into the same category of recruiting improprieties, paying players, etc.

Brandon reiterated that Rodriguez will be Michigan's head coach in 2010 and that he has seen nothing to indicate a change at the top is necessary.

Michigan could be termed a repeat violator of NCAA rules because these allegations occur within the five years since the school was sanctioned for much more serious violations involving its men's basketball program. It's unlikely Michigan gets nailed for this, but it's within the realm of possibility.

A few takeaways from the news conference:

  • Brandon and Rodriguez repeatedly stated they take the allegations seriously, which was the right move. But when the seriousness of the allegations keeps getting questioned, it probably means the repercussions won't be too bad for Michigan.

  • The investigations were all sparked by allegations from current and former players that Michigan had grossly exceeded NCAA time limits for practices, offseason workouts and other team activities. Going 20 minutes beyond the weekly limit or 30 minutes beyond the daily limit is hardly extreme. It happens everywhere. If anything, the NCAA report helps Rodriguez and Michigan on this issue.

  • Michigan's decision to put its CARA forms online -- logs sent from teams to the compliance office to monitor countable activities -- is much needed. Brandon acknowledged Michigan wasn't being diligent enough with these forms in the past.

  • Brandon declined to discuss personnel decisions, so it will be interesting to see if any heads roll. It's noteworthy that Adam Braithwaite, a quality control assistant named in the NCAA's report, recently was elevated to a full-time assistant coach position. The allegations against Herron certainly suggest some disciplinary action will be taken.

  • The size of coaching "staffs" is getting out of hand. Michigan's case should alert others to the potential problems of having so many quality control staffers.

Prediction: Michigan will be hit with some penalties, and "major violations" are possible. But these allegations don't seem to be overly extreme, despite some harsh language in the report. Michigan could be hit with probation or scholarship losses, and it will need to be more careful on these issues going forward. I'll repeat what I've said all along: Rich Rodriguez's fate ultimately comes down to whether or not he wins games, not what the NCAA decides in August.