NCAA says Rich Rodriguez guilty of major rules violation, 'but not as egregious as originally alleged'
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
Sometimes the captain of the ship is unaware of the daily duties of his crew. Sometimes the captain is ultimately held responsible for their actions anyway.
That’s how Paul Dee, chair of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, explained the mixed message delivered in a 29-page report regarding alleged violations committed by coach Rich Rodriguez at Michigan.
In a ruling anticipated for nearly three months, the NCAA reached a split decision of sorts on the one charge of five the university disagreed with during an August hearing - an allegation that Rodriguez personally failed to monitor and promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program.
Rather than follow the NCAA enforcement staff’s report that Rodriguez broke NCAA bylaw 11, which deals specifically with the accountability of head coaches, the infractions committee instead chose to charge him under bylaw 2, which deals with conduct of university employees.
The result of that change: the NCAA found Rodriguez guilty of failing to monitor the program, but cleared him of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
“It’s still a major rules violation, but not as egregious as originally alleged,” said Michael Buckner, a Florida-based attorney who works with universities and specializes in NCAA infractions cases.
At the university’s press conference Thursday, Rodriguez said he felt relief the case, which resulted in five major rules violations, had ended. He and athletic director Dave Brandon were “pleased” they decided to dispute the charge.
Still, the Committee on Infractions was “particularly concerned” by some of the inactions of Michigan’s third-year head coach.
It noted Rodriguez and his staff had been properly educated in rules meetings on Jan. 11 and June 3, 2008, as well as on Feb. 12, April 16 and July 29, 2009, yet did not follow them.
“At the hearing, the head coach stated that he had no specific recollection of reading the handouts supplied during the education sessions,” the committee wrote.
Regarding rules violations that occurred because of the misuse of quality-control staff, the committee wrote, “these rules were clearly stated, yet the staff of this veteran, experienced head coach consistently violated them from the time they arrived on campus.”
Regarding Countable Athletically Related Activity (CARA) forms never filed until a athletic department audit noted their absence, the committee wrote:
“The football program had historically been tardy in submitting the forms to the compliance office, but the problem increased once the head coach was hired in January 2008.”
Dee said the committee wanted to show a measure of fairness in its handling of Rodriguez, and that led to the switch to bylaw 2 charges.
“The coach is ultimately responsible, but that doesn’t mean the coach is involved in all the activities that occurred,” he said.
Before leaving Thursday’s press conference early to conduct football practice, Rodriguez said he appreciated the support of the university and had embraced changes.
“Everybody has accepted responsibility in fixing this,” he said. “The processes that were flawed are now no longer there.”
In light of the allegations, the university implemented a new reporting process in the filing of CARA forms. Athletic department spokesperson Dave Ablauf said Thursday all of the football program’s forms have been turned in on time since the new process went into effect.
Although Rodriguez is pleased with the outcome Thursday and escaped more serious penalties than the ones already self-imposed, the NCAA is not done with him yet.
He faces nearly identical charges in a case that stems from his tenure at West Virginia. Any penalties assessed in that case could be more damaging than the Michigan just concluded. Officials at West Virginia are in the process of compiling their response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations.
“Coach Rodriguez has already committed major rules violations,” Buckner said. “If the committee finds he committed another one, he could be looked at as a repeat violator.”