Michigan compliance staff frequently pushed football program - but not Rich Rodriguez - for practice-hours forms
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
(Editor's note: This story has been revised to correct the date that AnnArbor.com gave the university a deposit for information requested under the state Freedom of Information Act, and to correct a description of what the law requires of the university.)
When Michigan football players didn’t turn in forms about what cars they drove and who owned them in 2008, administrators from the university’s compliance office let head coach Rich Rodriguez know.
That wasn’t the case when football administrators didn’t turn in required forms tracking the number of hours the team practiced.
Instead, compliance office administrators spent more than a year-and-a-half cajoling football administrators to turn in the Countable Athletically Related Activities forms, but never copied Rodriguez on the e-mails.
With the university and Rodriguez headed to Seattle for meetings Friday and Saturday to defend themselves against allegations they broke five NCAA major rules, there are still no answers about exactly why the compliance office never told Rodriguez about the missing forms.
Many of those answers might never be known. None of the key players is talking about the breakdown.
All Rodriguez will say is that he didn't know about the missing forms until a university audit noted the problem in a July 2009 report sent to university President Mary Sue Coleman and the Board of Regents. Those forms for the winter and fall of 2008 didn’t get turned in until the end of August 2009. The forms for winter 2009 showed up in mid-July 2009. The forms for fall of 2009 were turned in roughly on time.
Documents released by the university - both in its public response to the NCAA and to a Freedom of Information Act request for additional documents filed by AnnArbor.com - appear to back Rodriguez’ claims that he didn’t know of the practice time violations and the missing CARA forms, while raising questions surrounding the university’s role in monitoring what was going on in the football program.
Not turning in the CARA forms isn’t an NCAA violation. However, the university uses the university-created forms to track how much its athletes practice, something the NCAA monitors. In its initial response to the NCAA, the university said it had placed discipline letters in seven employees’ personnel files. AnnArbor.com filed a FOIA request for personnel files of those involved on June 21 and paid a deposit for those files on July 19. Those records have not been produced by the university. Patricia Sellinger, the university's FOIA coordinator, told AnnArbor.com in an e-mail early last week that she did not have an estimate on when those files will be available. State law requires the university to respond to a request within 15 business days of receiving the request, either granting the request, denying it or asking for a deposit before proceeding on the request. The compliance office - routine calls On Jan. 11, 2008, less than a month after he took full control of the Michigan football team, Rodriguez and members of the university’s compliance office sat down for their initial meeting. The meeting covered more than 20 topics ranging from the role of outside boosters in the program to a review of the 2002 basketball infractions, according to an agenda of the meeting. Also on the agenda was a conversation about the monthly submission of CARA logs. At the meeting, the compliance office pointed out the university had an “unequivocal commitment to rules compliance.” That meeting was hardly the last time the compliance office and Rodriguez would get together or communicate. On Feb. 19, 2008, the compliance office met again with Rodriguez. On the agenda line for CARA forms is a statement that said “NCAA survey on football s-a timepractice a major issue at NCAA Convention. Also, late forms and possible blank forms signed by players.” The compliance office worked proactively and reactively with the football program, documents obtained by a FOIA request show. Staff members monthly sent out interpretations of new NCAA rules, often crossing out the ones that didn’t apply to the football department on the copies given to Rodriguez and his staff. Compliance staffers also held meetings with the football staff, both coaches and administrative staff. The need to fill out CARA logs was on the agendas for those meetings, even when the football staff wasn’t filling them out. Documents don't record what was said in those meetings about the CARA logs. The compliance office also annually sent out a memo to all Michigan head coaches about the CARA forms. “These forms are to be completed on a weekly basis during your playing and practice season. Turn them in to the CSO (compliance office) at the end of each month.” A form is attached to the memo. Set up in a weekly schedule format, it has places for times to be written in for each day and how much time was spent on practice, skill instruction, meetings, weight training/conditioning, film/video review and competition. There’s a space for the signature for the head coach and the compliance office. “The CSO educated the football staff, including the coaching staff and the quality control staff, on virtually every issue now before this committee,” the university wrote in its response to the NCAA’s Infractions Committee. The compliance office and communication with Rodriguez On Aug. 22, 2008, Vollano, an assistant athletic director in the compliance office, e-mailed Brad Labadie, then the director of football operations, asking for the auto registration forms several players hadn't filled out. Copied on the e-mail was Scott Draper, the assistant athletic director for football, and Jennifer Maszatics, Rodriguez’s executive assistant. Four days later, Vollano sent another e-mail, asking for the missing auto forms. Maszatics was copied on the e-mail. In copying Maszatics, Vollano was making sure Rodriguez knew about it. “Rodriguez did not have an institutional e-mail address, with all of his e-mails going to his administrative assistant, who provided them to him,” U-M wrote in its response to the NCAA. The compliance office knew that. In e-mails obtained by AnnArbor.com through a FOIA request, not only did the compliance office regularly copy Maszatics on various compliance issues, they also occasionally e-mailed her directly, asking to make sure Rodriguez knew about things. For example, Judith Van Horn, an associate athletic director in the compliance office, wrote to Maszatics on Feb. 18, 2010. “Jennifer: please print and provide to Rich. Thanks! He has been expecting this guidance from the NCAA. Thank You! Judy” A couple of lines later, Van Horn directly addressed Rodriguez. “Rich: Below is the NCAA guidance we have been waiting for. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or if any additional information is needed.” During this time, Rodriguez was included on several issues the compliance office was working with the football team on, including missing job descriptions for football coaches. On Sept. 3, 2008, Vollano e-mailed Draper about the missing forms. “Scott: Just a reminder that this form was due August 22nd. I have attached another form in case you need it. Please note that we need job descriptions for the non-coaching staff members ” Maszatics was copied on the e-mail. The only compliance issue where it appears the compliance department didn’t copy Rodriguez through Maszatics was the missing CARA forms. A FOIA request by AnnArbor.com for “any and all e-mails, memos or other correspondence between any member of the university’s compliance office and Rich Rodriguez regarding any issues of compliance from January 2008 to the present date” by AnnArbor.com turned up dozens of e-mails and memos, but none addressing CARA forms until a Jan. 20, 2010 e-mail, well after the summer 2009 issuance of a report by university auditors noting the missing CARA forms. However, university records show that during that time period more than 25 e-mails were sent from Vollano and Van Horn to Labadie and Draper regarding the missing forms. Included are some in which Vollano tells Labadie university auditors are on their way to look at the program. “I just wanted to let you know that the auditors are here doing CARA. They have an empty folder for football. Any chance you can bring them over? They will be here until 11:00 a.m. Let me know what you think. Thanks for your help,” Vollano e-mailed at 9:24 a.m. May 7, 2009. At 12:06 p.m., Labadie responded. “Figured out what the voicemail was about. Sorry I’ve been out this morning and I just got the auto reply that you are out later today.” Vollano wrote back the next morning. “They were here yesterday and are done with CARA. Right now, their report is going to have a finding that there were no CARA’s for football. Can you get them to me ASAP so I can have them reviewed by them? Please advise. Their report goes to Bill (Martin, the athletic director), the President and Regents.” Rodriguez has said that audit report was the first time he knew the forms were missing. A FOIA request by AnnArbor.com for any e-mails between Labadie or Draper and Rodriguez about the missing CARA forms returned no records. Likewise, a FOIA request for any e-mails between Labadie and Draper regarding the CARA forms turned up no records.
However, the report wasn’t the first time Martin was informed of the missing forms. On April 14, 2009, the compliance office gathered for a meeting with Martin. On the agenda? Compliance issues within the department including the football program. The fourth issue on the agenda: “FB has not submitted 2008-09 CARA forms.” It’s unclear what action if any, Martin took after this. The forms weren’t turned in until four months after this meeting.
A FOIA request by AnnArbor.com for "any/all e-mails between Bill Martin and Rich Rodriguez or Brad Labadie or Scott Draper regarding the missing CARA forms" turned up no records. Martin declined to comment. The process changes On Aug. 26, 2009, Martin met with Rodriguez, Draper, Labadie, Van Horn and Vollano to discuss CARA forms. “At the time of the audit during May 2009, no football CARA forms from the 2008-09 academic year has been submitted to the CSO. All other varsity sports submitted CARA forms for the academic year. An inordinate amount of communication between CSO, football administrative staff and sport administrators regarding football CARA forms,” the agenda reads. “The amount of time that student-athletes spend in practice/competition activities is a national ‘hot topic.’ Student-athletes in the sports of football and men’s basketball have organized nationally with practice/competition time commitments being one of the key issues. Having student-athletes provide written verification of the time they spend in countable athletically related activities protects the head coach and institution from unfounded allegations. Considered by the NCAA to be a ‘best practice.’ The group then discussed an action plan for making sure the CARA forms for the 2009-10 academic year were turned in on time. “Brad Labadie has revised the process for completing CARA forms. Dennis Murray, football strength and conditioning coach, will coordinate the gathering of student-athlete sign-offs through the Schembechler weight room. Student-athletes who do not complete their portion of the football CARA forms in a timely manner (approximately 3 days) will be required to engage in some special conditioning activity. Brad will collect completed CARA forms for submission to the CSO. In the event of future issues with collecting the forms, the CSO will inform Coach Rodriguez and Bill Martin in a timely manner.” In the months following that meeting, the athletic department tightened the CARA form process. According to a Feb. 18 memo from Van Horn to all athletic department staff, a new escalation policy went into place on March 1. Under that system, at the beginning of each month, the compliance office will send an e-mail reminder that forms are due in two weeks. After two weeks, “Staff/sports that do not submit the requested compliance document on time will receive a ‘Final Notice’ with copies going to the head coach, the document preparer, the sport administrator and the athletic director. “After one additional week. The President of the University and the General Counsel will be notified of any staff/sports that have not submitted their compliance forms within one week of receipt of the ‘Final Notice’ reminder.” The memo also notes that the compliance office is developing an online form for fall 2010 so “This new system will provide student-athletes the ability to verify and report practice activities to the CSO on a confidential basis.” Athletic director Dave Brandon has said the new system is designed to eliminate problems.
“The thing that will never happen again is that we will never have people at the lower end of the chain of command having discussions about things not happening,” Brandon said when Michigan released its response to the NCAA, “and those discussions not getting passed up the chain of command.”
David Jesse is a reporter with AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 734-623-2534.