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Posted on Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Michigan likely to lose practice time; some don't think that's a big deal

By Dave Birkett

Six years after he nearly led San Diego State to a shocking upset of Michigan, former Aztecs coach Tom Craft can laugh about the built-in excuse he had for the loss.

“Maybe if we would have had an extra practice or two we would have beaten Michigan that year we lost by three points,” Craft said, chuckling.

Now the coach at Riverside (Cal.) Community College, Craft experienced first-hand one punishment the Michigan football program is likely to face as a result of possible NCAA violations.

From 2002-04, San Diego State docked itself 21 practice days - seven during the 2002 season, and seven each during spring practice in 2003-04 - as a result of illegal off-season workouts.


Michigan is accused of that and four other NCAA infractions, according to a Notice of Allegations made public last month. The university has until May 24 to respond, but new athletic director Dave Brandon acknowledged in a press conference that rules on practice limits were violated.

Typically, schools found guilty of excessive practice time are penalized with future practice restrictions, often self-imposing their own punishment.

Craft said losing “practices like that, I don’t think it impacts you like people think.”

“I really didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” he said. “I think we overdo it anyway.”

In season, Craft said he was able to make up for lost practice time with small tweaks to his schedule. He gave players an extra day off before a scrimmage, and built another off day into a week with lots of hitting. In the spring, Craft started practice on its normal date so players had plenty of time to continue with unsupervised workouts before school ended.

“You can manage it, even if you lose a week’s worth (of practice time) and you can space it out,” Craft said. “They’ve already introduced the system that they want. I think the key is to go in early and let the kids work on the things on their own.”

Craft’s experiences aren’t unique.

Louisiana-Lafayette sports information director Daryl Cetnar wrote in an e-mail that Ragin’ Cajuns coach Rickey Bustle “doesn’t even remember” the five countable hours his program lost in 2007 for improper summer workouts and the school “did not (need to) purposely cut hours to comply” with the NCAA findings, which were released after spring practice ended.

Countable hours include time spent on athletically-related activities such as weight training and watching film. Coaches can require up to 20 hours a week in season, eight hours a week out of season, and four hours a day.

At San Jose State, sports information director Lawrence Fan said players watched more film independently last year, but no areas of practice were sacrificed to make up for the four countable hours per week (56 for the year) and three spring dates the Spartans lost as punishment for a low Academic Progress Rate.

And Rice coach David Bailiff, who inherited off-season practice restrictions when he took over at Texas State six years ago, said the penalty caused more anxiety than anything.

"I think, once you live it, you kind of go, 'Huh, that wasn’t too bad,'" Bailiff said.

Former NCAA Committee on Infractions chairperson Jo Potuto would not comment specifically on Michigan’s case, but said the committee often imposes two-for-one penalties on practice-time violators.

Schools accused of major infractions like Michigan are sometimes given lighter practice-related punishments because they generally incur other sanctions like probation and scholarship reductions.

The Notice of Allegations does not say how many hours Michigan exceeded NCAA limits by, but the Wolverines are accused of conducting impermissible activities “from January 2008 through at least September 2009.”

Included in that allegation are eight Sundays during the 2008 season in which players spent up to five hours on countable activities; four Mondays last year with at least 4 ½ countable hours; and offseason workouts each of the last two years that exceeded NCAA mandates by up to two hours.

While Craft and others expect Michigan to work around any practice penalties, Grant Teaff, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, said restricting a team’s practice time creates “a health issue for student-athletes.”

“One of the fine lines that the NCAA walks when they cut back on practice is the safety factor,” Teaff said. “That’s the reason I don’t like the rule at all. If there’s a penalty, they ought to penalize them some other way.”

Potuto said the Infractions Committee takes into account the wellbeing of athletes when it hands out punishment. As such, significant practice-related penalties are usually spread over multiple years.

Still, Teaff said fundamentals like blocking and tackling suffer when practice time is reduced.

“It just seems like that puts the student-athlete at a disadvantage and somebody’s being punished for something,” Teaff said. “Are you punishing the student-athlete or what are you punishing? And for a youngster not to have the time to develop to his fullest, not only physically, I think it’s unfair.”

Of course, the issue of fairness is why schools go before the Infractions Committee in the first place.

“What’s generally true is the school before the committee always feels, ‘Gee, we’ve got all these innocent student-athletes who haven’t done anything and we were trying hard and you’re just being unduly harsh,’” Potuto said. “All the other schools looking at it say, ‘We didn’t commit those violations and whatever you’re doing isn’t good enough compared to what competitive advantage may have been gained.’

“So no matter what the committee does, there’s always one entity out there that thinks it was either too hard or too soft. I don’t think you ever get agreement.”

Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.



Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 4:23 p.m.

The key element here is that UM was accused of practice violations,they didn't turn in hte necessary paperwork for the next quarter!How dumb can you get? However,if all that extra practice got us a 1-7 record in the Big Ten maybe we shouldn't practice so much. BTW how did MSU like its bowl game.Most bowl games are a waste of time and the players have grades and conditioning to do.If we had gone 6-6 we might have gone to the Johnny-Wad bowl and lost.Would that help the program?


Mon, Mar 15, 2010 : 9:10 a.m.

I'm not surprised tater characterizes the infractions as involving a little extra stretching. In fact, they go beyond that. Such as having too many coaches involved in practices, and overseeing practices that they shouldn't be. In addition, the NCAA has cited RR for not paying attention, and also the athletic department itself. That's a nice way of saying everyone knew what was going on and looked the other way.


Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 3:35 p.m.

I thought this story gave a pretty good idea of what to expect if there are practice sanctions. Mr. Birkett gave examples of what he found from other schools that had a similar problem. More information is generally good. Then readers can make informed decisions and express opinions as should be happening here. Trying to shoot the messenger does not work and just muddies the real issues.


Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 12:58 p.m.

So Brickhead, It took you a month to put these together? What's the over/under on how many times you re-hash them before the HUGE(Sarcasm alert) penalties come down in August?


Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 12:58 p.m.

Birkett, instead of writing 4 articles in one day about the same thing, well, here's a thought, maybe u could preview spring practice? You are a writer correct? I should use that word loosely when talking about you and writer in the same sentence but u really wont let this die will u? Fair and balanced my arse. You're terrible Dave


Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 12:26 p.m.

As we see with the sudden onslaught of articles regarding a topic announced a month ago, Mr. Birkett and are trying to punish the football team for locking the media door to Spring Practice. The blatant disregard of journalistic integrity is finally beginning to catch up with Mr. Birkett. How does it feel, Dave? Still think it was a wise decision? Rational thought would have told a normal person in your situation, "Why should I fabricate stories about Michigan Football, when they control any and all access I have to the program?" I sincerely hope you take heed of this advice when you are demoted to covering EMU football. Don't bite the hand that feeds you!


Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 11:09 a.m.

Tater and Theo, exactly what does this have to do with MSU? This is about something UM's coaching staff and athletic department did --or failed to do. They got caught violating the rules, pure and simple. There are penalties when you get caught breaking NCAA rules, especially when its the guys in charge of the program. It's way different when some out-of-control kids commit a flat-out crime of assault against someone they have been fueding with. The court system is taking care of them. The worst offenders are off the team. They are paying for it. Their coaches didn't create or sanction the situation. I don't hear any complaining about how unfair it was to the kids or MSU. They seem to be taking their punishment like men. Grow up and quit whining like a couple of poor losers. Talk about something constructive for a change, like how to get the football program righted, and quit trying to shift blame to someone else. Leaders and the best don't whine and blame everyone else. They don't point fingers at others. They deal with it like men, fix it, and move forward again.


Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

Tater how is life in your mom's you have scUM in your about NIT....NO WAIT.....HAHAHA....RR cheated and got caught but like your gutless trolling in the middle of the night....he will never man up to it.....GET A LIFE you loser


Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 9:40 a.m.

At least when USC cheat they won National Championships. RR cheats and he can't even beat Purdue.


Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 9:36 a.m.

Oh golly gee Mich. has to go sit in the corner while we all sit around sucking our thumbs. Boys and girls, this he said she said doesn't bother my life one bit in fact I find all this entertaining. They made a boo, boo get over it, go fishing, hiking, hunting get a life this won't affect you or me one bit. I think disloyal fans have far more effect than this bump their facing. In the day when we wern't at a game we were either working, hunting, fishing or we had some sport pick-up game going on at the park. Mich. will be fine, RR will be fine, next season go to some games, buy some popcorn have a beer, enjoy the entertainment then get on with your life, it's all good boys and girls. Mich. had a great run and now they hit a speed bump as is the nature of life in this case sports. Be happy for what we had, have and the good things ahead. We're not doing the team, the coach or ourselves one damn bit of good by sitting around moaning and complaining. Out here in southern ca. no one is sitting around crying about Pete's departure out here one word pretty much covers it all,----next.


Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 8:28 a.m.

One night of dumb kids doesnt equal a season and a half of the whole team cheating.


Sun, Mar 14, 2010 : 5:48 a.m.

No extra practice for a bowl then lose more but sneak some in whereever you can. What has this program come to? Time for a change Mr. AD NOW!