Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Record Update First

Rodriguez: Football program complied with rules

In an emotional press conference Monday, head football coach Rich Rodriguez defended the U-M football program against allegations from unnamed news sources about team practice and training schedules.

At his weekly press conference Monday, U-M head football coach Rich Rodriguez said the program has followed NCAA rules. (Photo by Scott Soderberg, Photo Services)

An Aug. 30 Detroit Free Press article quoting several anonymous sources alleged Rodriguez and his staff violated NCAA rules regarding the amount of time players were required to spend in workouts.

Rodriguez called the article “misleading.”

“I’m proud of the way our programs are run,” he said. “What bothered me most was the perception that we did not care as much for our players’ welfare. That is disheartening. (It) is misleading, inaccurate and goes against everything we believe in coaching.”

“The truth of the matter is that this coaching staff cares very deeply about our players … and this institution,” he said. “'We know the rules, we go by the rules.”

Rodriguez praised strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis saying, “Nobody has a greater passion for football than he does.”

“(Barwis) has always complied with the rules. … We have a transparent program.”

During the press conference that had been scheduled to discuss Saturday’s season opener against Western Michigan University, Rodriguez paused several times to compose himself as he talked about his commitment to his work and his team.

"I love working with our players and I love working with our staff, like I love my family,” he said.

Football player Mark Ortmann, an outside linebacker, defended the program saying, “I know what we do is honest and we all work hard. We follow the rules. We all put our time in.”

Linebacker Obi Ezeh spoke of team unity saying, “In order to defeat that stuff you got to stick together.”

“We’re a whole bunch of brothers,” he said. “With the season we had last year everybody on the team has the mindset that we want to go above and beyond.”

Shortly after the news story broke, Athletic Director Bill Martin issued a statement saying the university would immediately investigate the allegations. Martin also said the department already had been in touch with the Big Ten and NCAA to make sure officials at both organizations knew about the situation. He encouraged all players and staff members to be forthright in answering any questions from those who are conducting the investigation.