NCAA accuses Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez of violations at West Virginia
Ann Arbor News file photo
Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez is accused of major NCAA violations at two universities.
West Virginia, where Rodriguez coached before leaving for Michigan after the 2007 regular season, received an NCAA Notice of Allegations on Wednesday accusing it of five major violations and released it to the public Thursday.
Among the accusations cited was bylaw 126.96.36.199, which states Rodriguez “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program” along with not monitoring the activities of graduate assistant coaches and other staff members.
It’s the same bylaw violation noted in the NCAA Notice of Allegations that Michigan received in February.
“I regret any mistakes that were made or rules that were misinterpreted,” Rodriguez said in a statement Thursday. “Any errors certainly weren’t made intentionally. I openly discussed my past practices with NCAA investigators and will continue to cooperate fully during this process.”
When Rodriguez responded to the Michigan allegations on May 24 he fought the atmosphere of compliance charge - a point that will be brought up when Michigan goes in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Aug. 14 in Seattle.
“Rodriguez denies that part of allegation,” his response read. “Rodriguez has been an NCAA coach for 14 years and has never been involved in a major infraction. He takes rules compliance seriously and he demands that his staff do the same.”
West Virginia was also accused of having non-coaching, sport-specific staff members monitoring and conducting skill-development activities “at least two days a week” for parts of the spring and summer while Rodriguez was at West Virginia.
The non-coaching sport-specific staff members were accused of analyzing video involving West Virginia or opponents as well as attending coaching meetings. These were all charges the NCAA also threw at Michigan, which the university and Rodriguez admitted to.
“We’re certainly paying close attention to the situation, but we need to let the process - and the facts - unfold before we draw any conclusions,” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement. “I’m not going to speculate about any aspect of the outcome.
“I’ve already said Rich is our coach this fall and WVU’s announcement does not change that fact.”
Michigan Regent Andrea Fischer Newman said, “I support what Dave Brandon has said,” and declined further comment.
What might change is Michigan’s approach to next week’s NCAA meeting, at least according to Michael Buckner, a Florida attorney who frequently represents universities in NCAA cases.
“For the Michigan hearing, the West Virginia Notice of Allegations will not have a direct impact on the actual proceedings of the hearing because they are separate and distinct cases,” Buckner said. “However, it’s going to be the silent entity in the hearing room. Everyone’s going to know about it but no one’s going to talk about it.
“And if I was Michigan and if I was coach Rodriguez, the West Virginia case would impact my hearing strategy.”
The reasoning behind this, Buckner said, is because the NCAA can place a “show cause” order on Rodriguez out of the Michigan hearings, which the school would then have to monitor.
And when West Virginia goes in front of the committee, if Rodriguez is found guilty there, the punishment on Rodriguez could escalate in the number of years the order is in place, the number of days he can be on the field coaching or the number of days Rodriguez can recruit off-campus. Plus, he can be found as a repeat violator during the West Virginia hearings if he has a show-cause order attached during the Michigan hearings, Buckner said.
Buckner said the typical show-cause order lasts between two and three years.
“So for Michigan,” Buckner said, “your hearing strategy will be to get into this hearing and try to make sure that there’s no show-cause order against Rodriguez.”
The new allegations against Rodriguez haven't dimmed the views of one Michigan fan. Kenny Lipschutz, who endows one of the Michigan football scholarships, said he hadn't heard about the new allegations when reached by phone Thursday.
But he still supports the third-year coach, who he has met twice.
"My response would still be that I'm a Rich Rod fan," Lipschutz said. "I think he's a great guy. I think he's a kind human being, been great for the program and I think the athletic department is doing everything it has to to maintain the integrity of Michigan football."
AnnArbor.com reporter Dave Birkett contributed to this report