Michigan Releases Self-Imposed Sanctions

The University of Michigan admitted Tuesday to a series of violations in its storied football program and insisted the problems related to practice time and the activities of graduate assistants were not enough to warrant major punishment from the NCAA.  Michigan released more than 150 pages detailing its investigation and self-imposed sanctions it hopes will satisfy the NCAA, whose staff will hold a hearing on the case in August.  The sanctions included a recommendation for two years of probation for the NCAA's winningest football program, which is 8-16 in two seasons under Rodriguez. The school also said seven people, including the coach, had been reprimanded and another was fired. 

Michigan said it will cut back practice and training time by 130 hours over the next two years, starting this summer. It also trimmed the number of assistants from five to three and banned them from practices, games or coaching meetings for the rest of 2010. The violations came to light last fall during a second straight losing season for Rodriguez, who will return for his third season at Michigan this fall. Anonymous players told the Detroit Free Press that they were exceeding NCAA limits on practice and training time, prompting school and NCAA investigations. 

Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon responded to the sanctions in an interview with the AP and was quoted as saying ""I would characterize today as a day of relief, we have been found to violate certain with the NCAA and we're standing up and we're taking responsibility for it." "We believe that probation is typically one of the outcomes of major violations," Brandon said. "Probation puts your program under a microscope."  "We're imposing on ourselves what we believe is corrective actions."  Ultimately, the NCAA will decide what the appropriate sanctions and penalties are."  Brandon said the school decided not to take away scholarships or eliminate coaching positions.  "That's usually a result of something deemed to be an offense that created a competitive advantage," Brandon said. "Those kind of sanctions are also typically related to academic fraud, gambling, recruiting violations and extra benefits." 

The school conceded that some of the violations "are major when considered as a whole" and are "major in part because they occurred for well over a year and, thus, were not isolated. The University has self-imposed significant penalties that correspond with the violation."  Besides the letters of reprimand, one staffer who worked under Rodriguez at West Virginia before joining him at Michigan, Alex Herron, was fired after his claim of not being present during some activities was discredited by players.  The school said two main problems -- too many people acting as coaches and too many hours being put into football by the players occurred in part because of "inattention by the football staff."

"The university agrees that it failed as a whole to adequately monitor its football program to assure compliance regarding the limitations upon the number, duties and activities of countable football coaches and the time limits" for practice," it said.  "The university also agrees that Rodriguez failed to satisfy the monitoring responsibilities required of head coaches."  After his hire from West Virginia, Rodriguez filled all five quality control positions in the program who are essentially assistants to assistants and were paid $17 per hour to "run errands for the coaches, check on student-athlete class attendance and academic issues, and chart plays."  The school said the staff "crossed the line in specific situations and engaged in 'coaching activities"' as defined by the NCAA.

The school said it had discovered the paperwork problem and was working on it when the story broke. The bigger issue was the lack of communication. The school said the football program didn't provide requested information to the compliance office, which failed to alert Rodriguez -- who "should have paid closer attention to his subordinates." Rodriguez regretted that he didn't adequately monitor certain aspects of his program, but added in his response that following NCAA bylaws was not a "one-man job."

"We're not happy to be in this process, but we're handling it in a professional and transparent manner before we move on," Brandon said. "The NCAA will hear our case in August, then will deliberate as long as is needed -- and that could be weeks -- before making a decision that we can agree with or choose to appeal."

Michigan stated it should not be tagged as a repeat offender despite a 2003 scandal in the basketball program.  This is a key argument, since the designation would almost certainly mean harsher penalties from the NCAA.  The NCAA will meet in August to discuss these violations and it could take months for a resolution. 

Keep checking back with MSZ for more info on the NCAA sanctions to come for the Michigan Football Program.


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