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2010-02-24

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Michigan football program violated rules, NCAA investigation finds

Jake Fromm/Daily
University President Mary Sue Coleman, Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez and incoming Athletic Director David Brandon announce that the University has received a notice of allegations from the NCAA. Buy this photo

By Kyle Swanson, Daily News Editor
Published February 23, 2010

The Michigan football program has committed five violations of NCAA rules and regulations, according to a notice of allegations the University received from the NCAA yesterday. The findings are the outcome of a four-month investigation by the NCAA into the University’s Athletic Department.

The University will formally respond to the allegations, which were announced by school officials at a news conference yesterday afternoon, in the next 90 days. The University will also appear before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions in August.

The notice of allegations asserts that the University violated NCAA regulations in five main areas. First, the notice says that the University’s football program broke NCAA rules that limit the number of coaches that may work with student-athletes. The notice states that five quality control officers — staff members who are not technically coaches, but work with the football team — illegally engaged in coaching activities.

The NCAA also alleges that the University violated regulations that prohibit staff members from monitoring football players in voluntary, off-season workouts and conditioning — two activities that the athletic department is also accused of having exceeded time restrictions on.

Both of those potential violations first surfaced in a Detroit Free Press article that was published in late August. In the wake of that report, the NCAA and the University both launched independent investigations into the matter.

The notice of allegations — the culmination of the NCAA’s investigation — also specifically called out Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez for acting in a manner that “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program” and for failing to sufficiently monitor the activities of his program with regard to the other allegations.

The athletic department is similarly charged with not properly overseeing the activities of the football program with regard to the allegations.

Alex Herron, a graduate assistant football coach, is accused of providing NCAA investigators with misleading, and at times, false information about his role in the situation.

University President Mary Sue Coleman, Rodriguez and incoming Athletic Director David Brandon announced the notice of allegations at the press conference yesterday afternoon.

Coleman began the briefing by saying that the University "has been cooperating with the NCAA in its investigation of our football program."

"Intercollegiate athletics is a fundamental feature of the University of Michigan, and we take pride in the integrity of our athletics program," Coleman said. "We also take full responsibility for knowing and following NCAA rules and thus view the allegations seriously."

Coleman added that she and other University officials are "addressing concerns, quickly and head on."

"All of us — Coach Rodriguez, David Brandon and I — are deeply committed to compliance with NCAA rules and the future of our football program," she said.

Brandon announced the notice of allegations from the NCAA during the press conference. Brandon said the NCAA brought allegations of wrongdoing in the number of hours student-athletes spent practicing and violated rules governing what activities could be attended by quality control staff.

"We clearly made mistakes in those areas, and we have already taken action to prevent any of those mistakes from being repeated," Brandon said.

Brandon then went on to provide what he described as a "top-level perspective" of the allegations.

"In some out-of-season practices where there are alleged overages, the overage is approximately two hours in a week," Brandon said. "During the season on some Sundays, the allegation is that the University of Michigan exceeded the daily permissible practice time by less than an hour. In a single instance, the allegation is that an overage caused the team to exceed its 20-hour weekly permissible limit by 20 minutes."

He continued: "I have looked into these permissible practice hours issues, and I want to emphasize there were no situations where any student-athlete's welfare was put at risk."

However, Brandon reaffirmed that he would stand behind Rodriguez and that he would return next year as the team's head coach.

"Rich Rodriguez is our football coach," Brandon said during the press conference.

Brandon added that he believes the reason behind some of the allegations is the result of "internal confusion."

"We had a lack of clarity around whether time spent in stretching and warm-up activities were 'countable minutes,' and this represents a portion of the discrepancies between the NCAA's findings and our practice routines," he said. "Two of the NCAA allegations relate to how the institution and the coach monitored those two areas of concern."

Brandon stressed that the NCAA’s notice of allegations found no loss of institutional control.

“This is very important, there was no charge of loss of institutional control — none whatsoever," Brandon said.

However, Brandon did raise some concerns over a reference made within the NCAA’s letter to Coleman that points to NCAA bylaw 19.5.2.1, which describes the so-called repeat violator rule.

“We are aware that we may be subject to this rule because of the 1996 basketball case, which as we all know was a very different situation,” Brandon said. “While penalties are up to the NCAA to decide, we understand the rules do allow for discretion.”

“In the basketball case, the University of Michigan completed its investigation of the program and self-imposed penalties in November of 2002,” Brandon continued. “The NCAA did not impose sanctions in that investigation until May 2003, so the probationary period assessed by the NCAA continued through May 2008, which overlaps with the currently alleged violations by five months.”

Brandon also emphasized that corrective measures were already underway, but that more would come in the near future.

“We have established a new ‘fail-safe’ procedure to help us do our internal tracking in a timely, effective way,” Brandon said. “Now if the CARA forms are late by two weeks a notice goes to the head coach and AD. If the forms are still late one week later, it goes to the president.

“Another example: Our quality control staff is no longer present in any activity that could be construed as a coaching situation,” Brandon continued. “And, we are updating and redoubling our efforts on staff education in all areas.”

However, Brandon admitted there was still more work that needed to be done.

“We will spend time carefully reviewing all of the allegations and determining how they match with our own internal investigation that was conducted in tandem with the NCAA,” Brandon said. “If there are any instances where details of some allegations do not match, we will provide that information as part of our responsive materials to the NCAA.”

Brandon said University officials may also choose to self-impose sanctions as they continue to review the allegations and prepare their response to the NCAA.

“During this review period, we also will consider, and implement, any sanctions we choose to self-impose,” Brandon said.

Despite today’s announcements, Brandon said he looks forward to working with others in the athletic department to address the allegations raised by the NCAA.

“As the incoming athletic director, I want to make clear that no accusation against our program is trivial. We take this report very seriously, and we will learn from it and get better,” Brandon said. “I look forward to working with Coach Rodriguez and his staff to address these concerns and continue the forward momentum of our football program.”

Current Athletic Director Bill Martin was not present at the press briefing, but expressed his support for Brandon’s leadership in a statement released after the press conference had ended.

“We have cooperated fully with the NCAA, and we have been rigorous in our investigation of these matters as well,” Martin wrote. “Now it is important that we carefully review the allegations, and move appropriately through the remainder of the process, to determine findings and ensure full compliance going forward.”

Martin continued: “I know Dave Brandon will guide the athletic department through the remainder of this process with excellent judgment, and I have every confidence that Coach Rodriguez, the entire football program and the compliance office can work together to make any necessary improvements.”

In a statement released on behalf of the University’s Board of Regents, Regent Andrew Richner (R–Grosse Pointe Park), who serves as chairman of the board, wrote that steps would be taken to ensure the program’s compliance in the future.

“The Board of Regents receives the NCAA notice of allegations with disappointment,” Richner wrote. “The University of Michigan is an institution that believes in maintaining the highest standards of integrity and sportsmanship within its athletic program.”

“We will undertake a considered and thorough review of the allegations with the president and incoming athletic director,” Richner continued. “We will expect them to take all necessary steps to ensure full compliance with both the letter and spirit of all NCAA rules.”

Lloyd Carr, associate athletic director and former Michigan football coach, also released a statement following yesterday's press conference. In it, Carr said he was convinced the program would be able to overcome the challenges it currently faces.

“I am confident we will resolve the issues that confront us in this NCAA report. From what I understand, there isn’t anything we can’t improve quickly and easily,” Carr wrote. “I think we’ll be able to correct any concerns, put this behind us and move the program forward.”

The NCAA launched its probe into the allegations in October when NCAA Vice President of Enforcement David Price sent a letter of inquiry to Coleman. At the time, Price said he anticipated the investigation would be completed by the end of last year — though he said the date was a goal and not a deadline.

The investigation was focused on allegations that Michigan’s football team had violated NCAA restrictions on the number of hours student-athletes are allowed to spend in practice and off-season workouts. However, from the beginning, NCAA officials said they would look into any “new information” that may surface during the investigation.

No update or comment on the internal investigation has been given since it was launched.

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Timeline of Events (as specified in a handout released to media outlets at the press conference)

May 2009
During a routine audit, U-M auditors identified a concern regarding an internal process for tracking athletic activities logged by the U-M football team. The compliance office did not receive the football team’s Countable Athletically Related Activities forms for the 2008-2009 school year. The CARA form is an internal mechanism developed by the University to help track the total time players spend in required practice and is standard across all U-M sports.

July 2009
When detail on a concern identified in an audit needs to be provided to a department, a memorandum is sent so the issue can be addressed. In this instance, the audit and a memo went to the athletic department on July 24, 2009.

The forms are no turned in to the Athletics Compliance Services Office on a timely basis, which will help assure the team stays within the daily and weekly workout limits.

August 2009
President Mary Sue Coleman announces internal investigation of football program, in cooperation with NCAA

October 2009
The executive director of University Audits presents the July 24. 2009 audit findings to the U-M Board of Regents’ Finance, Audit and Investment Committee – the first scheduled meeting with University Audits after the completion of the report.

U-M receives Notice of Inquiry from the NCAA on Oct. 26.

November 2009
In keeping with protocol, the audit report is then submitted to the full board and made public the following month – in this case, November.

February 2010
U-M receives Notice of Allegations from NCAA Feb. 22. U-M begins to prepare response to Notice of Allegations.

August 2010
Hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions.

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Five allegations brought against the University of Michigan by the NCAA (as set forth in the NCAA's Notice of Allegations)

Allegation 1
“It is alleged that from January 2008 through September 2009, the institution’s football program exceeded the permissible limit on the number of coaches by five when quality control staff members (noncoaching sport-specific staff members who were not counted as countable coaches) engaged in on- and off-field coaching activities. The quality control staff members included Adam Braithwaite (March 2008 to the present), Dan Hott (January 2008 to the present), Josh Ison (February 2009 to present), Bob McClain (January 2008 to February 2009), Eric Smith (January 2008 to present) and Bryan Wright (June 2008 to the present).”

Allegation 2
“It is alleged that from January 2008 through at least September 2009, the institution’s football program violated NCAA legislation governing playing and practice season when it permitted football staff members to monitor and conduct voluntary summer workouts, conducted impermissible activities outside the playing season, required football student-athletes to participate in summer conditioning activities for disciplinary purposes, and exceeded time limits for countable athletically related activities during and outside of the playing season.”

Allegation 3
“It is alleged that Alex Herron, graduate assistant football coach, failed to deport himself in accordance with the generally recognized high standards of honesty and sportsmanship normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics for providing false and misleading information to the institution and enforcement staff when questioned about his involvement in and knowledge of possible NCAA violations outlines in Allegation No. 2-a. Specifically, Herron denied during his September 28, 2009, interview with the enforcement staff and institution that he was present for or involved in skill development of seven-on-seven passing activities that occurred over the summers of 2008 and 2009. Subsequently, during his December 15, 2009, interview, Herron conceded that he was present only briefly at the beginning of such skill-development activities but did not participate in those activities in any manner when, in fact, Herron monitored and conducted the 2008 and 2009 summer skill-development activities. Further, Herron continued to deny his presence at or involvement in seven-on-seven passing activities, when, in fact, he was sometimes present for and involved in such activities.”

Allegation 4
“It is alleged that from January 2008 through at least September 2009, the scope and nature of the violations detailed in Allegation Nos. 1 and 2 demonstrate that Rich Rodriguez, head football coach, failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program and failed to adequately monitor the duties and activities of the quality control staff members, a graduate assistant coach and a student assistant coach, and the time limits for athletically related activities.”

Allegation 5
“It is alleged that from January 2008 through at least September 2009, the scope and nature of the violations detailed in Allegation Nos. 1 and 2 demonstrate that the athletics department failed to adequately monitor its football program to assure compliance regarding the limitations on the number, duties and activities of countable football coaches, and time limits for countable athletically related activities.”