Noting that “we already are addressing concerns, quickly and head on,” President Mary Sue Coleman on Tuesday publicly discussed the Notice of Allegations the university received from the NCAA this week regarding its investigation of U-M’s football program.
“We will make all necessary changes. What we will not do is make excuses,” said Coleman. “All of us — Coach Rodriguez, David Brandon and I — are deeply committed to compliance with NCAA rules, and the future of our football program.”
Incoming athletic director Brandon outlined the five allegations, which focus primarily on two areas: countable coaching limits and playing and practice season rules. There is no charge of loss of institutional control.
|Incoming Athletic Director David Brandon outlines the five allegations that the NCAA issued regarding the U-M football program. (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)|
Regarding coaching limits, non-coaching support staff members have a narrowly defined role. As such, they may not engage in skill development or give advice during stretching and flex activities or while watching film with players. They also were not allowed to sit in on coaches meetings, although the NCAA has since changed that rule. The allegation is that U-M non-coaching staff engaged in such prohibited behaviors.
“We clearly made mistakes in these areas and we have already taken action to prevent any of those mistakes from being repeated,” said Brandon.
Under the playing and practice season rule, there is an allegation that U-M exceeded the permissible practice hours during some weeks at various points in the year. In some out-of-season practices where there are alleged overages, the overage is about two hours in a week. During the season on some Sundays, the allegation is that U-M exceeded the permissible practice time by less than an hour. In a single instance, the allegation is that the overage caused the team to exceed its 20-hour weekly permissible limit by 20 minutes.
One other allegation relates to discipline during the summer. The coaching staff was found to be disciplining some students who had unexcused absences from class by requiring special conditioning drills. Reprimanding students in this manner for failure to attend class is not allowed during the summer — only during the football season.
“I have looked into these permissible practice hours issues and I want to emphasize there were no situations where any student-athlete’s welfare was put at risk,” noted Brandon. Based on his understanding of the situation, Brandon said, he believes a critical reason for the alleged overages is because of “internal confusion” over which activities can be counted and which cannot be counted.
“We had a lack of clarity around whether time spent in stretching and warm-up activities were ‘countable minutes,’ and this represents a portion of the discrepancies between the NCAA’s findings and our practice routines,” said Brandon.
Two other NCAA allegations relate to how the institution and the coach monitored the two areas of concern.
A final allegation relates to an individual graduate student assistant’s conduct during the investigation process.
Brandon declined to discuss specific personnel matters related to the investigation, but declared support for football coach Rich Rodriguez. “Rich Rodriguez is our football coach and he’ll be our football coach next year. There’s nothing that I see in what has come out in the Notice of Allegations or our internal investigation that leads me to believe we should be changing the status of our football coach.”
|Football coach Rich Rodriguez stressed the football program is his responsibility and that “I’ll do all I can to carefully monitor all the program’s activities." (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)|
Rodriguez said the football program is “my responsibility.
“I’ll do all I can to carefully monitor all the program’s activities. I look forward to working with Dave and the compliance office to ensure there is no question of Michigan football’s compliance with NCAA rules. Our philosophy has always been to be very transparent with our programs and to have an open relationship with our compliance office. I need to monitor more closely in the two areas of concern — and I will. Also, I want to say how proud I am of our team. They are excited about the program and what we believe we can achieve.”
Board of Regents Chair Andrew Richner said the board “receives the NCAA Notice of Allegations with disappointment.
“The University of Michigan is an institution that believes in maintaining the highest standards of integrity and sportsmanship within its athletic programs. We will undertake a considered and thorough review of the allegations with the president and incoming athletic director. We will expect them to take all necessary steps to ensure full compliance with both the letter and spirit of all NCAA rules.”
Brandon said he is aware the program may be subject to the repeat-violator rule because of the 1996 basketball case, which was a very different situation.
“While penalties are up to the NCAA to decide, we understand the rules do allow for discretion. In the basketball case, the U-M completed its investigation of the program and self-imposed penalties in November of 2002. The NCAA did not impose sanctions in that investigation until May 2003, so the probationary period assessed by the NCAA continued through May 2008, which overlaps with the currently alleged violations by five months,” Brandon said.
Brandon noted that neither the university nor Rodriguez had been involved in a situation of this nature in the past.
“I have been connected to the University of Michigan football program as a player, a fan, a donor, and a Regent of the University for the past 40 years. During those many years, football has never been involved in any situation where we have been the subject of investigations and/or rule violations of this nature. Nor has our head coach Rich Rodriguez in his 25-plus years of coaching,” said Brandon.
“This is a tough day … and we must first and foremost take full responsibility for those events that brought us to this point — and we do. We will dedicate ourselves to learning from this and doing everything we can to prevent it from happening again in the future.”
Brandon said that some changes already have occurred. For instance, the university has established a new “fail-safe” procedure to help ensure internal tracking in a timely, effective way. Now, if the CARA forms are late by two weeks a notice goes to the head coach and athletic director. If the forms are still late one week later, it goes to the president.
In another example, quality control staff members no longer are present in any activity that could be construed as a coaching situation. And, the university is updating and redoubling efforts on staff education in all areas.
University leaders will now spend time carefully reviewing all of the allegations and determining how they match with the institution’s own internal investigation that was conducted in tandem with the NCAA. If there are any instances where details of some allegations do not match, the university will provide that information as part of its responsive materials to the NCAA.
In addition, the NCAA has requested some additional information. Brandon said those requests are standard and the university will prepare responses.
During this review period, he said, the university also will consider, and implement, any sanctions it chooses to self-impose.
“We will begin now to prepare a response to the NCAA, and we anticipate a hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions this coming August,” he said. “Until we file our response, we will not be discussing the investigation or providing any additional information.”