This doesn't sound good, Michigan fans.
In a revealing and potentially damaging story first published Saturday evening, the Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff have regularly made their players spend more time on football-related activities—both during the season and the offseason—than is allowed by NCAA rules. And though Rodriguez is denying the allegations, it's hard to argue that the sources in the story don't know what they're talking about.
Because the sources are his players.
As the Free Press reported:
Players on the 2008 and 2009 teams described training and practice sessions that far exceeded limits set by the NCAA, which governs college athletics. The restrictions are designed to protect players’ well-being, ensure adequate study time and prevent schools from gaining an unfair competitive advantage.
The players, who did not want to be identified because they feared repercussions from coaches, said the violations occurred routinely at the direction of Rodriguez’s staff.
“It’s one of those things where you can’t say something,” one current Wolverine said. “If you say something, they’re going to say you’re a lazy person and don’t want to work hard.”
In a statement, Rodrigeuz said he and his staff have been "completely committed to being compliant with all NCAA rules." His players apparently disagree.
The NCAA is almost certain to launch an investigation here (though, given the pace at which they've pursued the Reggie Bush situation at USC, maybe we shouldn't expect it to be wrapped up any time soon), and if Rodriguez and his staff are found to have broken these rules, the once stately Michigan program could end up facing major sanctions. No, we're not talking the SMU death penalty. But a loss of scholarships or some version of probation is certainly possible.
And if such penalties were handed down, one would have to wonder just how much longer Rodriguez will last in Ann Arbor.
Nobody thought Rodriguez would fit in right away up there, but the transition has been rougher than anyone could have expected. The Justin Boren case was an embarrassment to the program, and several other players have since left on bad terms, too. Rodriguez has rankled some longtime Michigan fans and alums by not being more deferential to some of the school's traditions. And, oh yeah, there was also that 3-9 record last season. That didn't go over very well.
In other words, the coach already had enough to worry about before this story broke. He didn't need any more problems.
But now he's got one. And it's a biggie.
Photo: Michigan players say Rich Rodriguez makes them spend more time on football than is allowed by NCAA rules. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)