University of Michigan Imposes Self Sanctions on Football Program.

The University of Michigan’s Football Program has admitted to Major NCAA violations for the first time in its 130 year existence. This in itself is a major story that taints U of M’s extraordinary history of compliance. Yes, I know there have been some extra-ordinary circumstances surrounding these events. The unusual reporting style of The Detroit Free Press comes to mind, and their Bill O’Rielly journalism on freshman athletes after last years spring game, and their obvious axe to grind with Rich Rodriquez. To name a few.

Fast forward to today. This is the opening statement sent to the NCAA yesterday.

“The University of Michigan (“the University”), which fielded its first football team in 1878, has won more football games than any institution, all without a major infractions case. After more than 130 years, the University’s football program is before the Committee on Infractions for the first time. The University admits the violations in fact occurred. The University is disappointed that its history of no major infractions cases in its football program has ended.”

Adam Rittenberg of The Big Ten Blog is absolutely right when he says.

“It can’t be easy for Michigan fans or anyone associated with the football program to read those words.”

The truth hurts no matter the circumstances, and a major milestone has fallen today. Like anyone who has fought with addiction, you must hit rock bottom first. I officially call this RR’s rock bottom, not that I’m blaming him for the entire situation, because I’m not, but he has been in charge of a University of Michigan football program that has seen to many firsts in the wrong direction, and as a coach he will holster some of that blame, and RR has faced the music like a man. As he has acknowledged in his statement to the NCAA.

“Every activity that resulted in a violation in this case was done openly, transparently and under the watch of not only Rodriguez, but also other Michigan coaches and administrators. Violations went undetected because several Michigan staff members, including Rodriguez, were not paying close enough attention. In short, there was a collective failure that resulted in the violations in this case. That is not to deflect blame away from Rodriguez, it is simply stating a fact and putting Rodriguez’s culpability in the proper context.”

We had a systemic failure of compliance at the University. This ultimately falls on the coach, and Athletic Department in my opinion. But lets call a spade a spade here. Every University that plays major college football could have been slapped with this infraction. Non-Mandatory (wink..wink) workouts are part of the culture. Hell I played Div III basketball, and I still have nightmares about running “the hill” every other damn night. So U of M thought stretching was an exercise that was not part of practice time. Wow! and that is a major violation? I know it is, because it went on for so long, but I’m sorry I don’t think the sky is falling.

Here are the self imposed sanctions, and quite honestly, admitting we have committed a major infraction is harder to swallow than what we will lose when the NCAA accepts the Universities sanctions.

Michigan reduced its quality staff by 40 percent – from five to three – and will prohibit it from attending practices, games or meetings for the rest of 2010. Despite a new NCAA rule that allows quality control staff to attend meetings, Michigan won’t allow this to happen until 2011.

The football program will forfeit 130 hours of practice time during the next two years. The university found that the football program exceeded limits on football activities by a total of 65 hours in 2008 and 2009, so it simply doubled the total for its self-imposed penalty.

Michigan will issue letters of reprimand to seven people it deems responsible for the violations: Mike Barwis, Scott Draper, Brad Labadie, Joe Parker, Rich Rodriguez, Judy Van Horn and Ann Vollano.

The university also acknowledges the dismissal of former graduate assistant Alex Herron, named in one of the NCAA’s allegations for “providing false and misleading information” to both NCAA and Michigan investigators. Herron was fired after Michigan received the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations in February.

By admitting to major violations, Michigan knows it will go on NCAA probation for two years, which doesn’t mean much unless more violations are committed.

I am confident the NCAA will take U of M’s response to their allegations seriously, and understand that the University does not take this sort of thing lightly, which must be true because it has been over 130 years since anything like this has happened. U of M hired Gene Marsh the former chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions to handle this response, and I’m sure he knows what the NCAA will and won’t accept.

I would also like to address the issue U of M declined as a violation in its response.

U-M disagrees with the NCAA enforcement staff that Rodriguez failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program.

If anyone needs a vote of confidence at this time it is Rich Rodriquez, and U of M’s response sent a message in my opinion, and that message is, We still believe!

Now if we could get the other half of the fan base to do the same, we might be in business.

Something tells me Denard Robinson will have something to do with that other half of the fan base jumping back on the band-wagon, although it will be RR making the calls.

Go Blue!