Michigan head football coach Rich Rodriguez distanced himself yesterday from an assertion he has made in the past that this year’s team had the program’s “highest GPA ever recorded.”


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Rodriguez said in a statement posted yesterday on the Athletic Department’s website that he made the claim “several” times in the past. The most notable among them was during his Aug. 31 press conference in which he defended the program against a Detroit Free Press story that alleged the team violated NCAA rules regarding practice time and offseason workouts.

“They’re working hard in athletics, and they’re working hard in academics,” Rodriguez said at the press conference, discussing his players’ work ethic on and off the field. “And they’ve showed that in the balance, in that endeavor, in the way they’ve recorded the highest GPA ever recorded.”

He added: “And as a coach, I am very, very proud of them.”

After the press conference, The Michigan Daily requested, through the Freedom of Information Act, the cumulative grade point average for the men’s football team for every year since they won the NCAA National Championship in 1997. According to a report in the Free Press published online today, the Detroit paper made a similar request.

Both information requests were denied.

“No responsive records exist,” Patricia Sellinger, the University’s Freedom of Information Act coordinator, wrote in the response to the Daily.

In a recent interview, Kallie Michels, associate vice president for communications for the University, said that Rodriguez used the unconfirmed metric as a way to motivate the team.

“The goal was to motivate his team,” she said, adding that Rodriguez felt his players could accomplish their “personal best” if they were “motivated academically.”

Rodriguez had requested the data, but Michels said University officials “don’t calculate that kind of stuff.”

Instead, when Rodriguez requested the data, officials from the University’s Academic Success Program were polled to get an idea of what the cumulative grade point average for the football team would be, on average.

“He was given an estimate,” she said. She added that a number of players had lately achieved their “personal best” academically.

According to the Free Press report, Rodriguez also made a similar statement before a group of University alumni in Washington, D.C. in May.

“We have a couple, two or three of our student-athletes, who have not gotten their grades back. I think the professors maybe left early, but when we get those back, we think we’ll break the record — 25-year record — for overall football team GPA this semester,” Rodriguez is quoted as saying in the Free Press story.

In Rodriguez’s statement yesterday, he said the Academic Success Program officials “did not make it clear that the number was just an estimate and not an exact calculation.”

“We apologize if this has caused any confusion,” he added.

In the interview, Michels admitted that there never were and still aren’t any real numbers to support the claim.

“It was not based on any specific data,” she said.

At the time, Rodriguez “thought it was an actual number,” according to University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham.

Michels said that the cumulative GPA for the team is neither compiled for University purposes nor for NCAA eligibility purposes.

“Nobody uses that information,” she said.

Michels said, “there’s just no good academic reason” to compile the information.

She said that in the past University officials have compiled the team’s cumulative grade point average in rare instances.

In the fall of 2008, Rodriguez asked for a cumulative GPA for the team. That information was compiled, Michels said. But the information was later destroyed and not retained.

“The Academic Success Program doesn’t use that for anything,” Michels said.

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