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Cheating at Michigan?

Apparently there are some improprieties in Ann Arbour where the University of Michigan has run one of the cleanest programs in NCAA history.

More than a dozen players and parents alike, insisting on anonymity, described the workouts as "ridiculous" and far in excess of the NCAA’s hourly limits, especially on Sundays following games ("Sundays were miserable") and throughout the offseason. One player, incoming freshman Je’Ron Stokes — not requesting anonymity, the Free Press said, because he wasn’t complaining and apparently wasn’t aware of the rules — said "a typical week is working from 8 a.m. in the morning to 6 or 7 at night, Monday through Saturday," which if true would be break the weekly eight-hour limit in the offseason seven or eight times over. In addition to that, perceived slackers and other wayward players were singled out for pre-dawn work on "Torture Tuesdays." Coaches were also accused of observing seven-on-seven scrimmages and taking attendance, both strictly verboten for what are supposed to be "voluntary" activities.

Of course this isn’t just about Michigan, this is about the fact that NCAA Division I football is big business and a full time job to players.

But the broader implication isn’t about the changing culture at Michigan as much as it is the longstanding culture at all big football schools, where the notion of "voluntary" workouts and hourly limits have been met with winks for years. A survey of Division I athletes last year revealed the reality: Time limits or not, big-time football everywhere is a full-time job that consumes vastly more hours than the NCAA officially sanctions — and has to be, if the competition is putting in the same work. That players will "voluntarily" go above and beyond the proscribed limits is taken for granted. (It hardly seems like a coincidence that at least 20 college players have collapsed and died following offseason workouts in the last decade, which was practically unheard of even under old school sadists like Bear Bryant.) Coaches follow the letter of the law at the peril of their records and their jobs.

Which of course begs the question why are sending these players to school in the first place, to be atheletes or students.  On my say that the Canadian Major Junior Hockey model is a lot more honest, you play your hockey first and if you don’t go to the pros (and even if you do), you get a year of university (or trade school) paid for when you are done.  Don’t even hide the fact that this is not a full time gig and drop the student from student athlete.  It evens the playing field for schools like Notre Dame which do enforce the rules which the Michigans who do not.

2 Comments

  1. caedmon says:

    It’s not just the big schools and it’s not just football.

    I was a basketball manager for a smaller I-A school in the mid-90′s. We made the NCAA one year by virtue of winning our conference – one that’s rarely mentioned on ESPN – not because we were a top-quality team. And yet, we still pushed every rule.

    We, too, had “voluntary” practices and weight-training in the off season. The coaches weren’t allowed to be there. So, I would meet with the coaches during lunch, then run a practice session in the afternoon that was allegedly open to anyone who showed up. Truth was, if you weren’t on the team (or a serious possibility), you knew better than to drop in and coaches got reports on who was showing up and taking it seriously. This is only one example of ways we stuck to the letter of the rule while completely ignoring the intent.

    It wasn’t even about the money or business at our school. It was simply the “need” to think of ourselves as competitive. Winning is everything and integrity is expendable in the process. It’s a direct result of fallen humanity – we have a need to prove ourselves better than someone else and will do whatever it takes to procure security through affirmation.

  2. Phil Hull says:

    I feel I must defend my beloved Wolverines against the blatant hatchet job by Michael Rosenberg and the Detroit Free Press. The article that alleged all of these supposed violations was written by a columnist with a history of bias against Rich Rodriguez. He has been vocal from before Rodriguez was hired that he did not want him to be the coach and has been on a mission to get Rodriguez fired ever since.
    The article was based on public quotes blatantly taken out of context and several anonymous quotes that have been directly refuted by current players and the University of Michigan athletic compliance office. Rosenberg also displays a shocking lack of understanding when it comes to the word voluntary.
    While I don’t doubt that there are questionable practices by the Wolverines, but I doubt they are anywhere near the level that has been alleged. There has been some great coverage on the allegations, I’m including links.

    http://michigan.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=982287
    http://www.maizenbrew.com/2009/8/31/1008867/practicegate-allegations-agendas