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Posted on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Quality-control coaches at the center of NCAA allegations against Michigan football

By Dave Birkett


Six quality-control assistants are alleged to have exceeded their responsibilities by directly coaching and working with players during off-season workouts in Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez's program. (Photo: Angela J. Cesere |

As best Jim Donnan can remember, quality-control coaches came upon the college football landscape a couple of decades ago when the NCAA enacted legislation limiting schools to nine full-time assistants.

“It used to be you had unlimited assistant coaches,” said Donnan, the former Georgia coach and current ESPN analyst. “Back in the day, you had 14, 15 assistants. Now they’re down to nine.

“But the staffs around the country, because of so many demands on the head coach - fund-raising, recruiting, what all they got to do - you really do need a lot (more help).”

That help is at the center of five infractions the NCAA said Michigan committed under football coach Rich Rodriguez over the last two years.

In a Notice of Allegations released Tuesday, Rodriguez was accused of failing “to adequately monitor the duties” of his staff.

Specifically, six quality-control assistants are alleged to have exceeded their responsibilities by directly coaching and working with players during off-season workouts; watching game and practice film with athletes; assisting with stretching and warm-up exercises during spring and fall practice; and attending meetings reserved for full-time coaches.

The other allegations entail exceeding limits on practice time, a graduate assistant coach lying to NCAA investigators, and the athletic department failing to monitor the football program to assure compliance.

Incoming athletic director David Brandon acknowledged that Michigan violated rules on coaching limits, saying, “We clearly made mistakes in these areas and we have already taken action to prevent any of those mistakes from being repeated.”

Brandon did not detail what changes were made or what punishment, if any, the quality-control assistants face. But Michigan’s web site was updated last season to reflect several small changes.

Quality-control assistants no longer exist on Michigan’s football staff, but the Wolverines do have four “staff interns,” including Bryan Wright and Josh Ison, offensive and special-teams quality-control assistants last year. Alex Herron, the offensive graduate assistant accused of lying to investigators, also is a staff intern, as is Cory Zirbel, a student-coach last year.

Eric Smith and Dan Hott, named along with Wright, Ison, Adam Braithwaite and Bob McClain as quality-control staff members who engaged in on- and off-field coaching activities, are now offensive and defensive graduate assistants. Braithwaite has been promoted to outside linebackers-safeties coach, and McClain is an assistant at Tulsa.

The distinction between graduate assistant and quality-control coach or staff intern is important because graduate assistants can take part in actual on-field coaching.

Quality-control coach is a much more loosely defined position - the NCAA doesn’t even recognize the term in its 439-page Division I Manual - with responsibilities that typically include helping to break down game film, organize practice planning and assorted other administrative duties.

Most Big Ten schools employ quality-control assistants, though Michigan was the only school with more than two last year.

Donnan said having five quality-control staffers, as Michigan did, does not seem excessive.

“There’s certainly ones with less, that’s for sure, but there’s probably some with more,” he said. “It’s a real fine line between what you can do and can’t do as far as on the field and off the field. I think there (are) some people trying to get an advantage. I’m talking generically here, I’m not talking about Michigan or anybody else. But I don’t really feel like the quality-control issue is one that, based on my going around and watching teams practice, I don’t think anybody tries to take advantage of that.”

Whether the NCAA decides Michigan was trying to gain an advantage or not might ultimately decide what sort of punishment the Wolverines face. Michigan is due before the NCAA Committee on Infractions Aug. 13-14 in Seattle.

In its Notice of Allegations, the NCAA said staff members in Michigan’s compliance department became “concerned about the duties and activities” of quality-control assistants “shortly after” Rodriguez was hired.

The department failed to gather information that explained quality-control duties, and “athletic administrators with responsibilities in the football program failed to provide (the) appropriate information,” according to the notice.

Rodriguez is not the first Michigan coach to employ quality-control assistants. Lloyd Carr had three on his staff in his final season, including Tom Burpee, now a full-time assistant at Eastern Michigan.

And Donnan said the concept of quality-control coaches, which dates back Tom Landry’s days with the Dallas Cowboys, is important to the coaching profession and college football.

“The thing you got to look at is the people that are trying to get into coaching, there’s only so many ways you can do it and you got to bite the bullet and then take one of these jobs and hope you can get from there," Donnan said. "That’s how you move up."

• NCAA rules spell out how many and what types of coaches a program can employ.

Download: • Michigan football staff Intern job description.pdf


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.



Sat, Feb 27, 2010 : 9:04 p.m.

We still don't know what specific skill instruction they gave, nor the extent of it. For example a department-wide S&C person could have been montioring those drills within NCAA bylaws. While it is not clear to me whether an S&C staffer could advise on certain fine points of running, or exploding out of a stance, etc. It is pretty clear that if someone was doing something that may cause injury, etc., and S&C guy (or gal) could stop the drills, and give advice on how to conduct them safely. The way I read the NCAA allegations, it sounds like the QC guys were interpreting their being at the pick up drills to be in the same category as a department-wide S&C staffer. The NCAA has now told them that interpretation is incorrect. Again, I am not claiming they were correct, and the NCAA is wrong. I am saying we don't know the extent of it -- whether it was aggregious, or not. i.e., if they were running, calling plays etc. through the whole drill, that is one thing. If they showed up, observed who was there and how they were doing, gave a player the drill script he requested (that was originally created by a coach, filed and made available to the players, and reproduced by the QC staffer), said "hey keep your head up or you'll get hurt", and maybe were drawn into answering some questions on form by a player. Hopefully, we'll find out in the end.


Sat, Feb 27, 2010 : 8:41 a.m.

maizenbluenc, The NCAA has not, just now, declared that these guys cannot participate in drills or observe and participate in summer sessions. These have been the rules since they first put limits in coaching positions. They are not ambiquous. S and C personel are not allowed to participate in these functions. They are allowed to be there only in case of injury, but they cannot advise or instruct at 7 on 7's. The only techniques they are allowed to teach, at any time, are those related to weight training and conditioning. Barwis and company cannot advise or coach a player on plays, execution, or other football activities. As for the rules being unfair, I would argue against that point as well. These rules are just like the 85 scholarship limits. They were put in place to create a level playing field for all college programs. At one time a team could put as many players on scholarship as they wanted and have as many assistants as they wanted. It was common for wealthy programs to stockpile players and even take recruits that they knew would never see the field for them, just to keep them away from a competitor. They could bloat their coaching staffs with hires made just to get coaches away from the competition or offer positions to HS coaches in return for bringing their star with them. These rules were enacted so that big wealthy schools could not just outspend their competition and have had a big effect on the increased competative nature of college football today. I can see where it would be in Michigan's best interest to turn back the clock and allow a many assistants as the AD could afford and give out as many scholarships as they want, but I do not think that you would find everyone in agreement that these rules need to be changed.


Sat, Feb 27, 2010 : 7:31 a.m.

RASWVU - understood: the NCAA now has declared being at the drills etc. was wrong. Its one thing if they knew it at the time, another if they thought they were in the same category as a strength and conditioning coach with department wide responsibilities. hoops100 - thanks for the perspective. My first reaction to the new job description is: oh how this must suck for someone like Braithwaite who wants to be a coach someday. And why would the NCAA want to limit the number of developing coaches to 2 GAs? Oh and I'll bet there are a lot of D-1 schools re-writing job descriptions and even a bunch who's QC assistants just became Strength and Conditioning assistants with department-wide responsibility. It amazes me that just 12 guys are expected to help 100 develop football skills, and that so much as a ball boy is considered a coach. Anyway, by the way the NCAA sees it, yes we are guilty of at least secondary violations. We'll end up self-sanctioning ourselves, (Braithwaite to Staff Intern for a year, reduction in practice time, remedial training and recertification on NCAA rules for the Staff Interns and Rich, maybe the one GA guy who lied gets fired, and a few compliance people) and get on with it. It would seem to me that the member institutions of the NCAA need to get together and propose some rule changes, because everyone seems to agree the rules are misguided. Otherwise those without microscopes on them will continue to try to find the next loophole.


Sat, Feb 27, 2010 : 7:05 a.m.

That's a interesting take from a coach of 30 years. Is that they way you have run your teams, with regards to NCAA rules? Read the NCAA letter of allogations. They are not talking about some guy retrieving a football to toss back to a player or yelling "atta boy" after a good play. They specifically talk about these QA guys being involved in instruction in skills and techniques. They also talk about them directing 7 on 7 drills and summer workouts. That seems to me to be a little more involvement than some youthful over enthusiam causing a few innocent mistakes. To be clear, the NCAA does allow schools to have 2 GA's that fully participate in practices and coaching. These fellows can do everything the assistants do and this is the perfect starting point for aspiring young coaches-to-be. What the NCAA is accusing UM of, is having 5 additional individuals, beyond those permissable 2, that participated in coaching activities. I am surprised that an experienced coach would not see a competative advantage in having 17 assistant coaches instead of 12. I would also think that it would be an advantage to have a coach supervise and direct summer workouts instead of leaving it entirely up to the players, as the NCAA mandates. If your attitude is that all of this is OK, because these are struggling young aspiring coaches that work their tails off and deserve an opportunity to show their coaching skills, how do you feel about the poor struggling young player that works his tail off and brings in millions to his university by his performance on the field? How would you feel about some wealthy alum slipping him a few hundred dollars every so often, to help the poor guy out? After all the NCAA rules on this seem unfair too, right? So why bother with them. It is a slippery slope you get on when you decide to follow the rules you want and ignore the ones that seem unfair. It is easy to justify it in your mind if you think that everyone else is breaking the rules, too, but that has never gotten me out of a speeding ticket, yet. These young men knew what kind of job they were getting, when they took it and, if properly instructed, should have known what they were and were not allowed to do. It was an opportunity to get their foot in the door and estabilish relationships with the coaching staff that might lead to a promotion to one of the 2 GA positions that are actually allowed to coach. It was not a coaching job. I only see three posibilities here: 1) The NCAA got it wrong and these 5 young men did not teach skills, techniques, or attend summer workout sessions. 2) The coaching staff and compliance office did not instruct them on the NCAA rules and regulations, so that they thought all of this was OK. 3) The 5 individuals were instructed on the rules and, as a group, decided to violate them placing their institution in jeopardy. (Am I the only one that finds it interesting that that the NCAA is saying that it was not just one or two bad apples, but the entire QA staff that violated rules?)


Fri, Feb 26, 2010 : 11:50 p.m.

hey guys pretty interesting comments but let me give you a coaches perspective with 30 years of coaching experience. graduate assistants and quality control coaches are indeed young coaches that aspire one day to get into this crazy profession of college coaching. Unfortunatly that is the only way to get your foot in the door. They work 70 to 80 or more hours a week with very little pay and no benifits. Yes there job descriptions are vague and limited to mostly paper work and film breakdown. praise God for any coach and they are many as coach Rod that throws these young energic kids a carrot by allowing them to come to the practice field and learn from the full time assistants that design the drills and instruct the techniques. Shame on these young coaches if they get to energetic and pick up a ball and throw, or get excited and yell a word of encouragement to some player who does a drill really well. If anyone esp the ncaa really thinks a team is getting an advantage by giving these young men a chance to learn this game and one day be the next generation of coaches by being on the practice field and helping an established full time coach with a couple of drills then someone really does not understand football or coaching. Now that Michigan has been singled out they have corrected the situation and moved these poor overworked aspiring coaches back to the film room and the office, can we please move on. My grandmother used to say not to throw the baby out with the bath water or not to use a hammer to kill a gnat. coach rod is a good coach and the blue will win again and soon be patient


Fri, Feb 26, 2010 : 5:39 p.m.

maizenbluenc, It really does not matter what any of these guys did at 7 on 7 drills. They are not allowed to be there at all. They cannot instruct, they cannot observe, they cannot even be present. If they were there at all, it is an NCAA violation. 7 on 7 drills are supposed to be totally voluntary activities organized and run by the players. They cannot be organized by any member of the athletic department and no member of the football staff, coach or otherwise is supposed to even have knowledge of what occurs there. The only staff members allowed there are trainers, in case there is an injury, and they are not allowed to participate or offer advice. They are not allowed to report to the coaches who participated or how they performed. It is pretty clear that the NCAA thinks that Mr. Herron was aware that his participation was a violation, as they are accusing him of lying to investigators to try and cover up his presense at the 7 on 7's.


Fri, Feb 26, 2010 : 4:09 p.m.

RASWVU - The legal document you link to is interesting, and I'll admit it may point to a past clarification of what a QC assistant can and can not do. The context is missing, but it sounds like they told Rich he could only have two GAs (per NCAA bylaws), and they discussed what was considered coaching or not. Question: did they discuss observing pick-up 7 on 7 drills as specifically not being coaching? How about helping a player stretch? The allegations say they "monitored and conducted" and assisted "with flexibility and warm-up exercises". Question: did they QC guys go beyond the bounds without fully knowing the rules? Was their former QC job description as explicit as the current staff intern one around what they cannot do? (Did Rich know they were doing anything more than monitoring? Did Rich know they were even there?) As I said to Charley, hopefully we get more details in the end, so we can decide if the allegations sound horrible and intentional, or like simple misunderstandings about what constitutes coaching, and what doesn't. This is kinda like exceeding the maximum mandatory practice time by 2 to 3x, versus oops we didn't count 20 minutes to an hour of stretching and warm-up as practice. The real story sounds pretty minor. One of those deals where you say "who knew" and then change procedures and start counting it. Only time will tell.


Fri, Feb 26, 2010 : 3:48 p.m.

Charley Sullivan - We don't know what these QC assistants were doing at the 7 on 7 drills, etc., and whether what they were doing could be interpreted as coaching or not. Since the NCAA doesn't define the QC position, I can see where there would be ambiguity. Somewhere, I read they were leading stretch exercises, and the NCAA Allegations document specifically says these QC assistants were not strength and conditioning staff with cross-program responsibilities. That makes me think the staff thought it was OK to monitor and help with some activities, but the NCAA has clarified they cannot, unless they are strength and conditioning staff with cross-program responsibilities. The new job description for these guys ( looks very restrictive to me. As example, I would have expected that staff interns screened recruiting film and sent vetted selections with observations to the coaches for consideration and use. Sounds like staff work to me. Apparently the NCAA has declared it's coaching. They can't shag balls for a quarterback or a punter. I can see where this may lead to coaching advice, but just catching or picking a ball up and throwing it back is coaching? Apparently the NCAA has declared it is, as is monitoring voluntary pick-up games in the sport. Hopefully, in the end we'll get that part of the story: what they were doing besides just being there that is restricted to coaching. With that piece of the puzzle, it will be a lot easier to evaluate whether you and I think it was a misunderstanding of what the rules either say or imply, or whether they clearly overstepped the line between monitoring and helping out and coaching.


Fri, Feb 26, 2010 : 11:33 a.m.

maizenbluenc, I do not know when that document was produced and you may be right, that it was after the fact. Still, Rich should have been well versed on what the NCAA allowed with these assistants, no matter what name was assigned to them. This is a topic that reared it's head at WVU and was one of the "broken promises" that Rich stated caused him to leave. He wanted WVU to hire several more GA's and they told him no because they felt that their duties would violate these very NCAA rules. In Ed Pastilong's (WVU's AD) deposition from April 18, 2008, this very issue was discussed. Here is the entire transcript: The relevent section is on page 145 as is as follows: _____________________________________________________ October 13, a meeting with Rich and our 16 compliance coordinator. 17 Q And who was that? 18 A Brad Cox. 19 Q And what was that meeting about? 20 A Well, that was to discuss coaching limits, 21 personnel that were involved with practice. It was a 22 preventive type meeting, to make sure that we did not 23 have graduate assistants, people that were not 24 accountable with regards to the nine coaches, and two 25 assistants, that are permitted to coach, to make sure 145 1 that we didn't make an error, to protect us, to 2 protect Rich. ________________________________________________________ So Rich should have been well versed on these regulations, even before he came to WVU, and it is hard to understand how he could have misinterpreted them, unless he felt that UM had a different set of NCAA regulations than WVU.


Fri, Feb 26, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

maizenbluenc: I recommend Charley Sullivan's entry. I wrote something similar but it was deleted or perhaps never posted. I used the word "b-u-t-t" in it, and I guess that's too much for everyone's delicate eyes.

Charley Sullivan

Fri, Feb 26, 2010 : 8:21 a.m.

This QC situation is a set up for frustration and violations. Clearly, no matter what you call them, and with or without a job description, it's a violation of NCAA rules for anyone but the 12 recognized coaches to do any skill-related coaching with football athletes. This is spelled out all over the rule book, so there's no way that the coaching staff of the football team didn't know this. So, the QC guys are NOT there to coach. (What they ARE there to do is much less clear... assigned by position, are they essentially assistants/gophers for the coaches, and baby-sitters for the players? Not completely clear to me, but they're NOT coaches.) But when you look at their bios in the spring football guide, every single one of them comes from a coaching background, is a member of the coaches' association, etc. In other words, as people, they clearly ARE or have self-identity as coaches. So, this is a set up for frustration on their part, and I wonder if, given that there is a small group of them, it would not be unusual for them to form a sort of shadow coaching group. In any case, clearly if I had hired someone to NOT do what it is that they clearly want to do, I'd know I not only needed to make that clear, but to constantly reinforce it both with words and structures. The other weird thing... are they university employees at all? They show up having U-M email addresses in the university directory, but none are listed in the salary database (or are they just not up there yet?)


Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 6:42 p.m.

Metric SU, RASWVU: The PDF document attached to the story is for a Staff Intern, not a Quality Control Assistant. Four of the five former QC assistants are now staff interns. Clearly, now that the NCAA has spoken on the limits of what QC assistants can do, the Athletic Department has issued this new job description to ensure the allegations don't happen again. If you can product the QC Assistant job description from two years ago, and show that it had the same clearly defined restrictions, then you can say Rich and his QC assistants were clearly disregarding NCAA regulations. Anyway, why are you commenting on a U of M story? Obvious axes to grind eh? (I heard three more MSU player plead guilty today.)


Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 6:26 p.m.

Looking at UM versus all the other Big Ten schools... why do they have "9" quality control coaches? When everyone else has 2 or less? To me this sounds like Rick Neuheisal, sitting outside the recruits house texting the recruit to look out the window. Technically Neuheisal wasn't meeting with the recruit, but the intent of the rule was bent.


Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 3:35 p.m.

RASWVU: That's a pretty damning document. These 6 QC coaches have had to fill these out at WVU or other places. It's pretty clear what they are not supposed to be doing. Are we really supposed to believe they acted on their own in deciding to supervise drills and coach the kids? The NCAA may not be able to prove RR new about this, but any objective person studying this situation must conclude he did know. He either looked the other way or, more likely, he was the architect of it all. (No other B10 school had more than 2 QC coaches and RR had 6?)


Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 2:28 p.m.

Read this UM form for these QA's. How can RichRod or any of these assistants read and sign this document and then claim that they did not understand the NCAA rules or misinterpreted them?

Sean T.

Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 11:57 a.m.

RR is his own worst enemy. It's just not sensible to blame others for HIS doings. Everything that has went wrong with the program has shown he's at the roots of it. But the lies still arise; The cupbooard was bare, the team is young, he hasn't had his recruits in yet, the players from the last regime are talentless and my favorite......just wait, next year we'll go 9-3!


Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 10:47 a.m.

It is clear that some people are out to get RR -- unfortunately, some of them are Michigan People.


Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 9:59 a.m.

81wolverine - that is a very excellent point, the whole situation reeks, and is so flimsy it's ridiculous


Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 9:56 a.m.

What leader does this sound like? 1. Very mediocre to poor actual experience at the level of job he was given. 2. Promised to bring change -- and boy did he ever. 3. Should really never speak publicly without a script. 4. Surrounds himself with unscrupulous people 5. When in trouble, blames his predecessor 6. Has legions of illogically blind followers that cannot defend his awful results but do so anyways. 7. Has led his organization to the lowest lows it has ever seen 8. After the lowest lows, is more than happy to take credit for modest gains that are no where near equivalent to what has been lost under him. 9. Has his own ideology and is likely not willing or able to ever adapt from it. 10. Has seen his popularity drop steadily since his first few months on the job. and the answer obviously is. > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > Mr. Rich Rodriguez of course.


Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 9:31 a.m.

If the NCAA doesn't even recognize the term "Quality Control coach" in it's 439 page Div. 1 manual, where are they coming up with the responsibilities of the job that were allegedly violated at U-M? Is it a bunch of unwritten rules that everyone is "supposed" to know about?


Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 9:24 a.m.

Can we just please stop this nonsense and focus on our ice dancing siblings?


Thu, Feb 25, 2010 : 8:46 a.m.

Quality control starts and ends with the Head Coach. In this case the so called King??????????