Michigan football has had a bad run of things as of late. Ever since Appalachian State pulled off one of the biggest upsets of all time, the Wolverines have experienced a tough run. The sweater-vest in Columbus apparently has their playbooks, because they cannot hang with their rivals to the south. In fact, they haven’t been playing very good football at all and last season the once mighty Michigan went 3-9 including a loss to Toledo (and a 35 point loss to the Buckeyes).
Just when it appeared that things couldn’t get worse, Coach Rich Rodriguez’s football program is being investigated for regularly breaking the rules of the NCAA regarding the amount of time that players can spend on training and practice. Apparently Michigan players were putting in well over the NCAA maximum of 8 hours of mandatory workouts per week in the offseason, and 20 hours in season.
I think this is just bad timing for the Wolverines. They are looking to wipe out the memory of last season and start off 2009 on the right foot. Now they will have this problem to add to the already bad situation.
So how big of a deal is this? I think the allegations themselves are definitely a problem for the football program and the university. However, I don’t see this as that serious of an infraction. Adam and I wanted to take this opportunity to look at some other recent infractions and we began to wonder just how rampant this type of thing is in college football.
I can understand where Michigan is coming from. There is such pressure on athletic teams and programs to win and be productive monetarily for their respective universities. Teams have to cut corners (right John Calipari?) to try to make the team as productive, prepared, and talented as possible.
After switching to the Big Ten and mighty Michigan from West Virginia, Rich Rodriguez inherited a weak roster that was not equipped to run his spread style offense. Rodriguez made a poor decision (allegedly) in requiring more work than the NCAA allows, but Michigan cannot be the only school in the country doing this. I’d be willing to bet that at least 70% of the schools in the country at least bend the rules in implementing their off-season workouts and drills. Add that to all the different recruiting violations (USC with Reggie Bush, Calipari and Memphis, Bobby Bowden at Florida State, Kelvin Sampson wherever he goes) that plague NCAA athletics, and Michigan doesn’t look that bad (at least off the field and in practice).
To be honest, this type of violation is much tamer than cheating in the classrooms and improper payments to athletes. Extra practice is probably good for a lot of these kids. The main issue is that it takes away from the students studies’, which is, or at least should be, the reason they are attending college. Cheating in the classroom isn’t fair to anyone at the school, both the student-athletes and all of the other students that don’t get any extra benefit for being an athlete. Paying the athletes is simply training these impressionable young men that they can get freebies because they are special. For the massive amount of players that do not make it professionally, this can be disastrous (Maurice Clarett). By comparison, extra practices are teaching these athletes to work hard and take pride in their work. It really isn’t bad; it just may take away from the time the young men can devote their schoolwork. While distracting from the athletes schoolwork is not a good thing, it also does not have the ethical implications of cheating or improper payments.
For Rodriguez personally, I can sympathize with his decision. Michigan was coming off of a disappointing season that featured a loss to Appalachian State, the prospects for 2008 looked bleak, and Michigan had lost The Game to the powerful Buckeyes six of the last seven years. Sometimes people try to cut corners when they look for help (it failed for Rodriguez as the Wolverines won only 3 games and were destroyed by the Buckeyes 42-7). All I am saying is that we shouldn’t condemn the man or the program for a violation that most schools in the country are probably guilty of and is not nearly as detrimental to the student-athletes as other potential violations. While the Wolverines and Rodriguez probably broke the rules, the punishment should not be much more than a slap on the wrist.