Mon Aug 31 11:37am EDT
Michigan has launched the obligatory investigation into the Detroit Free Press' roundhouse report Saturday that Wolverine players have been pushed far beyond NCAA limits on workout frequency and duration. The Free Press self-indulgently rounded up reactions to its own report, which were everywhere, obviously. Hey, people actually read that thing we did on the workouts! No way!
Michigan fans remain certain their quasi-local newspaper would rather torch the entire program that admit the truth of its law-abiding, academically rigorous, potpourri-scented excellence; either that, or it's just hopelessly naive about the demands of the arms race on the modern super program and the inadequacy of outdated restrictions. (Call it the Jack Bauer Defense, which sounds better than "But everybody else is doing it!") Ex-Wolverine QB Chad Henne, acknowledging no boundaries in the pursuit of gridiron excellence, told AnnArbor.com those whining slackers just don't want it bad enough. The Freep reporters behind the story went on local TV Sunday to explain their act of malice/betrayal. Even a few people in Alabama are having a little laugh. (Tiders have never been much for the irony.)
I will not speculate on potential punishment, except to guess that it will likely hinge on how many of the hours players put in -- which doesn't seem to really be in dispute -- can be plausibly classified as "voluntary." If Michigan handled its paperwork correctly, the answer will almost certainly be "as many as the department needs." That's not to say an 11 or 12-hour day at the complex is actually optional, in any real-world sense, only that it's presented and documented that way for the record. Simple paperwork -- the bane of Rodriguez's exit from West Virginia -- can save his skin here, as long as he does his part by winning a few games.
And until the NCAA attains the capacity to stare into the souls of players to determine their inner motivations and desires, the official designation of what is and isn't "voluntary" will carry the day, as it does across the country. The real issue this signifies at Michigan, long-term, is handling the cultural split that has a half-dozen players ratting out their coaches to the media for what probably amounts to standard evasive procedure at most big programs. This is not the time for low morale.
[UPDATE, 12:18 p.m. ET] Sounds like it got a little misty at Rodriguez's weekly Monday press conference:
"I guess I’m here to tell you that whatever you've heard or want to believe, the truth of the matter is this coaching staff cares very deeply about the young men in our program, always have, always will," Rodriguez said, teary-eyed and taking time to gather his thoughts. "Care very deeply about this institution. We know the rules. We go by the rules, and all we're trying to do every day is make our great fans ... make them proud. And we will continue to do that."
See video here. Re: morale, Rodriguez said the seniors met at his house Sunday for "a very positive meeting." Other than blanket assurances that his staff has "always complied with the rules," though, he didn't address any of the Free Press' allegations directly.