I have had the pleasure and good fortune of having played football for a very long time. Those long years of hard-won experience have given me the knowledge and the right to comment about football and its requirements at every level, from grade school to high school to college and all the way up to professional.

It must be understood that football is an extremely difficult game. While most readily observe the physical component of this difficulty, it is the mental toughness required by the sport that often goes overlooked. Many do not have the mental toughness, sincere commitment or love for the sport needed to excel at the highest level. Spending extra time outside of team-sanctioned routines is the responsibility of any player who wants to gain a spot on a team or win a position or championship. The player must make the conscious decision to put in the extra time, and it is this extreme dedication that separates the mediocre from the truly great.

No coach, teammate or parent can make that happen, but it is the responsibility of the University, the athletic department and the coaching staff to provide opportunities for personal improvement to every player. Michigan does this, as does every other well-organized program within college football. It is always offered but never required.

For anonymous former or current players to make allegations that a coaching staff would knowingly violate NCAA rules is ludicrous. If one looks at the situation from a contextual standpoint as opposed to simply reacting with emotional outrage, it’s obvious the scenario is nonsensical. What would be the incentive for the coaching staff when weighed against the inevitable consequences? Many have said that such an act would be committed in order to gain an edge over the competition, but the odds of any coaches consciously deciding to disobey such a powerful organization as the NCAA for such a slight edge is laughable. Instead, these claims expose a lack of character in the young men who made them and reveal their weakness — they do not understand the level of commitment needed to rise to the highest level of the game.

What we learn in football is how to overcome a team, a single opponent, and most importantly our own shortcomings. As players, we are given the tools to succeed, but only with our own initiative can we utilize them. Coaches cannot force players to fight for success, and these young men who have made unsupported accusations do not have the drive to search for success by themselves.

I did not want the uncommitted as teammates, and I do not want the uncommitted representing the Michigan football team. I want dedicated warriors who understand the demands, both physical and mental, of this most difficult game. I do not support the violation of NCAA regulations — I am insisting that there has been no such violation. This episode is simply the most pronounced example of a series of undercuts made against Rich Rodriguez. For a coach to gain success, he must have the support of his administration, the loyalty of his players, and the respect of his peers. I believe Rodriguez may have all but the first of this trifecta, but it is this important missing item that obstructs our program’s rise.

Rodriguez is attempting to advance Michigan football into the modern era — an era of football that is played with great team speed on both sides of the ball. I have met the man. I have met his coaches. They are committed. They have won and know what it takes to win. They are advancing the Michigan program and taking it to the level we have failed to reach in previous seasons.

Those who attempts to undercut Rodriguez and the Michigan football program with baseless accusations are self-serving. They are placing their own agenda above the good of the program, and that will doom a team to failure in every challenge. It’s time for the University and athletic administration to finally honor the slogan they came up with and go “all in for Michigan.” Until that occurs, we as a Michigan nation must come together and write letters and send emails to all who may have an effect, whether that be the press, President Mary Sue Coleman, Rodriguez or Bill Martin himself. Don’t let the jealous, self-serving few tarnish and erode the legacy and future of Michigan football.

Mike Kenn
The viewpoint writer is a University alum and former football player. He also played football for the Atlanta Falcons from 1978 to 1994.

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