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Posted on Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 3:17 p.m.

Questions just got a lot harder for Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan football program

By Michael Rothstein

And we thought Rich Rodriguez was tired of talking about quarterbacks.

The second-year Michigan football coach might still be annoyed at the constant conversation regarding who will start Saturday’s opener against Western Michigan, but here’s thinking he’ll give just about anything to have quarterbacks be the most controversial topic at his weekly Monday press conference.

Quarterbacks, clearly, will be a secondary topic.

Michigan and Rodriguez have bigger issues to deal with after the Detroit Free Press’ report released Saturday outlined how Rodriguez and his staff exceeded NCAA guidelines regarding practice time limits and how staff watched summer workouts.

Then there are the insanely long Sunday workouts, spoken about on the record in the Free Press package by former Michigan player Terrance Taylor, and the talk about how graduate assistants called players about missing “voluntary” workouts while they were in class.

These violations - potentially the first major violations in Michigan football history - change the tone of the Wolverines’ season.

No longer is this year merely about winning and losing for Rodriguez and Michigan.

It’s about survival.

It’s about trying to keep a team together -one that apparently has issues since at least one current player talked with the Free Press. While the voluntary-but-really-not summer workouts go on at pretty much every program around the country, players rarely talk about it. Let alone complain or take enough umbrage to chat with reporters. And it’s about character.

The final point has been a major issue at Michigan both before Rodriguez got there and after. Throughout the course of the program’s storied history, it has maintained the perception of a clean program, one that goes about its business with integrity.

Yet since Rodriguez was hired, there has been this:

  • A messy divorce from his contract with West Virginia that played out in very public fashion and resulted in an agreement where he’ll pay $1.5 million to his former employer and Michigan will pick up $2.5 million.
  • A 3-9 season - one of the worst in Michigan history.
  • Players, as they were leaving the program, questioning the “family values” of the coaching staff.
  • The failed cocaine deal that led to the dismissal of former wide receiver Justin Feagin, a Rodriguez recruit.
  • And now this, the potential of the first major NCAA violations for football in school history.

That’s just the big stuff. There have been some minor player arrests and the fiasco regarding giving away the vaunted No. 1 jersey that created furor soon after Rodriguez arrived.

Looking at those things singularly, none raises a red flag. But combine them, and in the less than two years Rodriguez has been here, it has been nothing short of negative upon negative upon negative.

It is worth wondering about. That list of negatives is going to be one of the big themes of this Michigan season. Who, really, is Rich Rodriguez and who are the people he has tethered himself to both at West Virginia and Michigan? If the NCAA decides to go after Michigan - and who knows what it’ll do considering the organization has been scattershot at best when it comes to enforcement and punishment - what will the school do? Will there be scapegoats under Rodriguez?

Could this undo the head coach himself?

Could they make an example of the Wolverines because unlike with former players, they could coerce current players to talk? That might not take all that much considering one former player, citing anonymity, told ESPN’s Joe Schad that he believes former players, if asked, would tell the Big Ten and NCAA what they had gone through under Rodriguez.

That’s a bad sign for Michigan, for a compliance department that said it didn’t see anything wrong, and more importantly, for Rodriguez.

He’ll get his chance to defend himself Monday. And by the end, he might beg to talk about quarterbacks. On Friday, the biggest questions surrounding Michigan were all about play on the field.

This season isn’t about just football anymore. Rodriguez’s alleged actions made sure of it.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2558.



Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 8:32 a.m.

Does exercise any journalistic control over this tabloid garbage? Rothstein tips his hand when he bullet points the supposed sins of Rich Rodreguiz and then alludes 'that's just the big stuff.' Well, actually that list of 'big stuff' doesn't amount to much. Was the 3-9 season a huge disappointment no doubt. But what was the bigger danger sign; going 3-9 in a clear the decks rebuilding year, or losing to Appalachian State the year before when UM was supposedly loaded? For my money it was the Appalachian State loss because it screamed out that the program was soft and in decline.


Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 6:35 a.m.

RRod should have gone to the SEC where cheating is a badge of honor as long as you go 10-2.


Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 2 a.m.

i hope richrod turns this program around and the idea that he's doing all these horrible things blows over just so you morons can think back on this and realize how foolish you really were and question how much sense you really have. wait and see.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 10:39 p.m.

As a coach myself, I read articles like Rosenberg's (and sadly, even Mr. Rothstein's) and wonder if these men ever played a single season of varsity athletics. Does Rosenberg understand that he has jeopardized a season for 125 young men who bleed football? The article, to me, is very transparent. Rosenberg has had it in for Coach Rodriguez since he was hired (for what reason, I do not know). And the bulk of this article obviously came from guys who left. These guys couldn't cut it and were slipping on the depth chart--period. From a coaches perspective--its always about playing time--and it is here as well. I am confident from friends who have spent a lot of time around the program that the coaches and players are united. Now, everyone is going to be looking around for the one bad apple who spilled to the press--not good and it is all because Rosenberg smelled blood with the disgruntled guys. He should research how many were disgruntled with Bo when he got here. If anyone has questions as to whether the article was written with an agenda--look no further than the academic issue. He quotes a parent worrying about the time spent away from the books yet never does Rosenberg mention that Michigan's football team set their all time GPA record last year--even though he knows darn well that they did. If this was truly a balanced news article, then he would have included last year's team GPA number. But this is not news--it belongs in the editorial section. Sadly, this bozo could have an affect on the outcome of Michigan's season. Of course, maybe that's what he has been searching for his whole life.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 9:55 p.m.

Enough DRAMA already....kick the blasted ball and let's get this party started!


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 9:28 p.m.

mgoblue2012 said, "The problem is not that the coaches broke or bent the rules, because you are ignorant to not think all the best programs do this." That actually is a huge issue for some of us. I could care less if other programs are breaking rules, but I want my team to be the Victors by playing fair. It'd be nice, too, if the NCAA would actually crack down on violations and dish out some equitable consequences. Plus, none of us actually know if the rules really have been broken. There's no sense in speculating/stirring the pot, so we should all just hope for the best and see how it plays out. IF the rules turn out to have been violated, then there needs to be some serious fixing to do, because that's just unacceptable. GO BLUE!

The Grinch

Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 9:10 p.m.

Lou--the names are at the bottom of the posts--your complaint is with some OSU nimrod, not me. Though, I must say, if you read my post, you are exactly what I was talking about. You make my point for me! Thanks!


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 9:09 p.m.


Jon Saalberg

Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 8:56 p.m.

I agree with the doubters here - I believe the writers of these stories despise Rodriguez, and have been writing nasty stories about him for years, and their past articles back up this assertion.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 7:18 p.m.

And the hits keep on comin'! I'm with Tater. This all a bunch of nothing to give us trolls a "field day." The real fun is when RichRod's product "takes the field"...and he (and Tater) won't have anywhere to hide.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 6:23 p.m.

This story is trash. The same stuff happened when Bo took over, but the media didn't kiss the tushes of the disgruntled quitters because they weren't that desperate for a story. All this does is give the trolls another field day over nothing.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 6:05 p.m.

U of M sure seems to have had to pay alot of money for alot of trouble. Could it be time to cut their losses? (no pun intended...well, sort of) My enthusiasm for the football team has dwindled with every negative story starting with the "secret meeting" in Toledo. Ron English should have taken over the team when Carr retired even if it was just temporary. GO EMU

Steve Feinman

Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 5:55 p.m.

The breaces of rules doesn't surpirse me nor should it surprise anyone interested in money making athletic programs at major universities. Rodriguez may find is "my way or highway approach" may not sit well in a free thinking environment.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 5:49 p.m.

OSUbeBetter... All you are doing is parroting unsubstantiated reports... and in doing so you become no better than the people you are criticizing.

Ann Arbor Resident

Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 5:42 p.m.

Dr. Bill Says "I am concerned about the "winning is everything" mentality that seems prevalent in UM football. This should not be what a great university is." You are absolutely correct. However, I also believe that being a Great University has nothing to do with having a Great Football (or Basketball, etc) Team. If so, then Harvard, Princeton, CalTech and University of Chicago would not be Elite Universities. Schools such at Ohio State, UM, MSU, Duke, So Cal, etc. and their conferences have decided to get on the sports powerhouse bandwagon. I see this as mission very different from their teaching and intellectual pursuits.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 5:38 p.m.

The problem is not that the coaches broke or bent the rules, because you are ignorant to not think all the best programs do this. The problem is that the players, even a current starter, had the balls to report it. That shows me that there is still tension in the program and this scares me to death. I thought all the bad eggs were gone but I guess there is still conflicts which could really really hurt us this year.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 5:36 p.m.

Now don't you People feel bad for making fun of Poor Justin Boren? He was the victim of a malicious coaching staff and witness to an erosion of value. But when he left this horrible situation all you could say was that he was soft and a quitter, you called him names like the human twinky and worse. you made him feel like he was the one doing bad things. I think you all owe Justin an apology and a certain debt of gratitude, for it was he who tried to expose Barwis and RR for who they really are, too bad it was all swept under the rug and he was victimized all over again by the fans who used to cheer for him. Thank god for the kind hearted souls at The Ohio state university. I'm sure Justin will be alright now, he has left those horrible people behind and will be able to move on with his life in relative peace and harmony. ".....Its one of those things where you cant say something, one current Wolverine said. If you say something, theyre going to say youre a lazy person and dont want to work hard......" ".....On top of the regular workout schedule, every Tuesday during winter term, a few players on the team are required to spend additional hours at Schembechler Hall for what they call Torture Tuesdays. Players say Rodriguez created Torture Tuesdays to maintain school discipline and class attendance. Those players must show up before dawn on Tuesday for a series of rigorous physical tasks: Army crawls, barrel rolls, long piggyback rides, wheelbarrow races back and forth across the field. Sometimes the players have to move every dumbbell in the weight room to the other side in a few minutes. Players have been known to get physically ill on Torture Tuesdays because of the workouts. But they are still expected to complete their two to three hours of speed and agility work later that day...."

The Grinch

Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 5:31 p.m.

It sure is good to know that the U of M has fans who are just as rabid and unthinking as those in the SEC, Big 12, at Florida State, and at Miami. Shoot the messenger. Rip the players. Say that everyone does it. Blame NCAA Rules. Blame the Free Press. Don't even consider the possibility that the UM has a coach who is a young Bobby Bowden. But, then, maybe that's the point? You'd rather have the wins than have a football program that works within the rules? Like I said, nice to see that fans like those at FL State, Miami, Texas A&M, Alabama, and Auburn. And it looks like we have a coach who will fit in well with that style of fan.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 5:26 p.m.

everybody is trying to get in their last shots against MICHIGAN because they know once the season starts it will be too late to hate. freep just woke up a sleeping giant!


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 5:19 p.m.

Once again, the Freep gives a great demonstration on why they will soon will no longer be in the newspaper business. Many of their writers, none more so than Rosie, have a hard time distinguishing between reporting the news and making the news. His credibility has been so tarnished that if they - the paper - really wanted this to be taken seriously, they would have assigned another writer to reporting it, although there's really nothing here to report. Even your list is representative of the paper's agenda. Rich has done nothing but work hard and within the rules, to put UM football back on the national map. I think many long time followers have a difficult time with the transition because 1)Even though he was forced to work with what amounted to a j.v. offense last year, he was still expected to keep the bowl streak intact along with the following. The entitlement program that was existent in the past is no longer available here. Players must earn their positions and this applies to every practice throughout the year. This paper has no problem writing about a couple disgruntled transfers, one who backed Rich Rod for weeks until he realized the same rules applied to him also. The other, and this is quite hilarious, transferred, then made his report about eroding "family values" after he had been declared academically ineligible. Rich has done a tremendous job in building a family atmosphere with his bbq at the Big House, inviting back former players to participate in a game of flag football prior to the Spring Game which he is turning into an event, one which drew over 50,000 this year and one where he plans on having over 100,000 fans in attendance in the future. All they've done is build goodwill with players and families around the nation. His programs, unlike Tressel's, have never been punished for NCAA violations, and he has accomplished tremendous records with players gurus and other self-proclaimed experts wrote off as not having the ability to play at D1 level. The Detroit paper's agenda is clear; that is to forward and endorse anything associated with the MSU program, up to and including their signing of "all the Michigan kids" even though the numbers are really about the same as always, and the fact they could sign a lot more if that were, indeed, a goal of theirs'. Let's be honest it's not. The papers would much rather run with half truths and rumors. For example, there was not one quote from a parent of any of the current players on the roster. However, there have been both parents and reporters coming to the defense of Rich and stating just how unprofessional and transparent this reporting is. One of the parents is on record as saying he is so happy his son chose Michigan because of the emphasis they put on academics, ensuring the kids study before they're allowed to play. Where are the local newspapers when it comes to reporting about UM's highest gpa in over twenty years for the football team. That in itself would prove very difficult to accomplish if they weren't allowed the necessary number of hours to study. This is an accomplishment that Rich and his staff are rightfully proud of, but the Freep is too busy promoting its own cause. There is nothing they can do about where Rich and Co. hail from, and along with some Michigan boosters, this seems to be the only thing one can really think of for all the rancor associated with this transition. The fact they opted for a proven coach considered one of the top five active coaches by his peers does not trump the fact that he was not previously associated with Michigan. When this paper is dead and gone, Michigan football will still be thriving, and atop the conference. MSU football will still be going strong and setting somewhere in the middle, as is the norm. The big losers here will be the writers who write with such transparent dislike they go so far as to jeopardize their own credibility even further, thinking it may forward their very questionable agenda, along with the papers that allow these malevolent, juvenile attacks the forum for presentation. Personally, I find them an insult to the integrity of professional journalism and a very clear indicator of why these papers have all but closed the doors of a once thriving business. I abhor the way this great coach and good family man has been treated since his arrival here. He has proven he cares greatly about the players he recruits here and has absorbed the Michigan traditions quickly and actually is trying to build on them. His treatment of players is a taste of what they'll face when they leave Michigan and football; being rewarded for their excellence, not their contacts. It's apparent to me, The Free Press bet on the wrong horse. Why they continue to back it is something we'll never really know the truth to though.

Virgil the Chicken

Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 4:48 p.m.

Clearly there is a huge gray area concerning voluntary conditioning as well as a minor gray area concerning who can view practices. I assume Rodriguez, who has been a head coach on the FBS level going on a decade, is well aware of these gray areas and how to use them to not technically violate the NCAA requirements. He would almost have to if these practices are going on in most programs across the country as has been widely reported. I also assume that the athletic department, which is one of the largest and best funded of such departments in the country, is also aware of these gray areas. With such experience and knowledge on the part of both the football staff as well as the athletic department as a whole, do you really think that they will be unable to utilize the aforementioned gray areas to get off scott free? Do you really think a handful of students and parents, some of whom may have conflicting motives, will be able to overcome the army of bureaucrats with documented evidence (signed practice statements by the players at Michigan as well as numerous spot checks conducted) the Athletic Department can bring to bear? I do not think so. I think this will be another annoying distraction in the series of annoying distractions listed by Mr. Rothstein above. Full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 4:16 p.m.

This completely sucks. It's one gut shot after another for this program since Carr retired. First the whole Les Miles debacle, then the WVU/RR thing, then 3-9, and now this. I really, really thought things were beginning to look up. We had the QB's we needed, a year of experience in the system, a great recruiting class, a new D coordinator...I couldn't wait for the season to start to wash away the bad taste of last season. And now this, potentially the worst of all the gut shots. Unbelievable.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 4:13 p.m.

I am going to wait and see how this plays out. There are two sides to every story and I am interested to see what the Michigan coaching staff and administration will say next. This could be the beginning of the end of the RichRod experiment or it could be an overblown Free Press article by people with an axe to grind. Regardless of what happens, I don't see much good publicity coming out of it for U-M or U-M football fans.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 4:13 p.m.

Michigan's independently operated compliance department will destroy these false accusations with documented proof. Once again "Journalists" rush to judgment in hopes of getting their name in lights. And in the end take no personal responsibility for their actions. They simply reshuffle the deck and move forward.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 4:10 p.m.

Everyone is trying to tear down the wolverines because thet are afraid that they are going to make a come back and be better than before, then they will all have to admit that they were wrong by trying to build up the buckeyes as the #1 team in the nation. The suckeyes already proved they can't win the big game anymore so they have to try and stop Michigan from returning to the top where they belong. All in for Michigan. GO BLUE FOREVER!!!!

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 3:59 p.m.

"The NCAA will laugh at these rudimentary stories." I hope your right Kubrick. I'm not ready to assume the Free Press has a vendetta. And they are the paper that brought Kwami down.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 3:49 p.m.

I am concerned about the "winning is everything" mentality that seems prevalent in UM football. This should not be what a great university is about. I am even more concerned by the comment, "it is just time for the schools and NCAA to recognize this and adjust the rules to accomodate this reality." This is especially not what a great university is about.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 3:45 p.m.

The Detroit Free Press is dead. The Ann Arbor News is dead. ESPN? That's the last place to turn for integrity. The Michigan/RR witch hunt continues! Anything to resuscitate a dying industry... So everyone pile on, that includes you, Mr. Rothstein - there's still plenty of room. Get in your shots while you can because... The NCAA will laugh at these rudimentary stories. Go Blue!

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 3:43 p.m.

If these allegations hold true the buck needs to stop at Bill Martins door. He's a bean counter who's expertise is banking and real estate. He measures success by turning a profit, period. IMO

Ann Arbor Resident

Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 3:26 p.m.

This type of stuff will all go away once the NCAA acknowledges that big time sports are 1) a major revenue generator for the universities, bowl games, apparel manufacturers, 3) a source of entertainment for alumni, students and the community/state in which the school resides (though a lot of the players come from out of state) and 3) the minor league/training league for the NFL. Very few of these kids are here for a rigorous education (as the Ann Arbor News investigation clearly showed us) but are hoping for the type of success that will result in a high NFL draft pick and large NFL contract. There is nothing with any of the above, it is just time for the schools and NCAA to recognize this and adjust the rules to accomodate this reality.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 3:21 p.m.

It comes as no surprise the Free Press would carry out some investigation, given the fact they almost literally twist every article as negatively as possible against UM. Even the recent old-news article that confirmed UM's opener with UConn in 2010 was entitled something like, "UM Will Pay $2mm If It Backs Out On UConn." That was the nugget they hoped to emphasize, making it appear UM was already considering such a choice. Amazing journalism. I'm not sure what role Drew Sharp plays with the Freep, but he has basically admitted in ink that he now has a personal vendetta with UM's program. Carry that across what seems to be every Freep writer who covers UM, and this was bound to play out somehow. Their timing is also beautiful, given one week from kickoff. Obviously, UM is accountable for playing within all rules. If Rodriguez and/or his staff are guilty of infractions, he has only himself to blame and penalties must be paid. However, if this plays out as only a special effort by the Free Press to kill UM and Rodriguez, their organization must also be held accountable. For anybody who even infrequently deals with the media, it's obvious a story can go in whichever direction a writer/editor decides. Add in the multiplier of teenage kids and it's scary where things can quickly go. As a big fan of UM since the mid-70's, I have enjoyed the same successes as any other fan. And having attended 70+ games in AA through the years, I'm miles from being an expert but perhaps more informed than a majority of UM fans. And with that in mind, I continue to struggle with the tremendous hurdle that so many so-called fans now have with Rodriguez. Many seem hell-bent on his failure and demise, which is a riddle to me, and the Freep plays to that chord almost every day. I wish the very best for Coach Rodriguez, his staff and players, and for the entire program. I will be in prayer that all this will pass quickly, and that the coach will soon be embraced. Go Blue!!!

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 2:46 p.m.

I know this will seem like an overreaction, but I feel like a major part of my life ended when Rodriguez took over. I've been a huge Michigan football fan since I was a little kid, which was during the great Bo/Woody wars of the early '70s. It's not about survival. It's about a great program, perhaps the greatest football program of any kind anywhere, becoming ordinary. Gimmicky offenses that don't work most of the time. No attention given to defense. One of those fake wrestling nuts running the strength program. Losing to Toledo. Losing by 35 to Ohio State. Losing and more losing. Worrying about Western Michigan. Cocaine deals. Cheating. Kinda makes the Appalachian State thing look like a blip, doesn't it? Time to clean house, starting with Bill Martin.


Sun, Aug 30, 2009 : 2:43 p.m.

Well, you nailed it on the head with this editorial. Just wait till tater and other apologists have their way with you!! I honestly believe these things must occur at all competitive div I schools, but at Michigan, it has always been about the perception of doing things the right way. That is the legacy that Bo left--not the coaches, the players, the wins alone. In his book with Bacon, that is a common theme throughout--do it the right way. I don't know how the facts will play themselves out. I am certain that most players at most schools work out way more than 20 hrs /week as they prep for the season and a pro career--similar to the way pre-meds may do research, etc. But Rod seems to have no regard for the institution--so far, as detailed above--he does not seem to care how his actions reflect poorly on the institution (and secondarily, on me and my fellow alumni). I have been publicly critical about Rodriguez since he got there, because he has no background in the Big Ten or in Michigan--this is a perfect example. I guess we all now will wait and see how it goes.