Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Something About the Michigan Sanctions

Last year, two Detroit Free Press columnists produced a shoddily-written piece of "journalism" accusing the Michigan football team of OMG THINK OF THE CHILDREN~! - level amounts of practice time, far exceeding the NCAA limits.

This exercise in vindictiveness and lies forced both the NCAA and the University of Michigan to investigate the program.

Yesterday, some self-imposed sanctions were announced:
  • Michigan has reduced the number of QC staffers by 40 percent (ie, by two) and prohibited them from attending practices, games, and coaches meetings for 2010.
  • A new bylaw specifically allows QC staffers at coaches meeting, but Michigan won't take advantage of this until 2011. Michigan will not add more QC staffers until the 2011 season ends.
  • Michigan will give back 130 hours of practice time over the next two years.
  • Michigan has taken "corrective action" to prevent a repeat.
  • Two years of probation.
The whole document is here, if you're really interested.

The NCAA will announce in August whether they accept the self-imposed stuff, and/or whether they'll add anything of their own.

My favorite column written in response is from Jonathan Chait:
The football program turned out to have exceeded practice and training limits by a minuscule amount. The vast majority of the violations during the off-season turned out to center around the strength and conditioning staff's failure to understand that stretching counted as time spent under staff supervision. This bore no relationship to the Free Press's allegations. As for the draconian practice regimen during the season, violations were more minimal still. In 2008, Michigan failed to account weightlifting on Sundays as countable hours, causing "the total CARA time on Sundays to exceed the daily maximum by as much as one hour." As for the weekly maximum, it was violated on one occasion, for a total of 20 minutes.

Nothing remotely resembling the Free Press's Dickensian portrait of players working two or three times the prescribed time appears in the report. This is the equivalent of being accused of massive tax fraud, bringing in the IRS for a thorough audit, and then admitting you mistakenly expensed a cup of coffee at Starbucks. The university confessed to a "major violation" because the NCAA's definition of major is different than the normal English use of the word. "Secondary" violations are so picayune and routine that programs commit them annually by the score, even the hundreds. A major violation is anything higher than that.

Contrary to the Free Press's insinuation, the university persuasively showed that the small excesses in practice time stemmed not from Rodriguez or Barwis but miscommunication by the Athletic Department staff.
So there you have it. I look forward to endless spewage all summer long about whether RichRod will be fired after this season, whether the team can overcome this investigation, blah blah blah. But the bottom line is that the program barely did anything to warrant this and the Free Press is full of crap.