NCAA gives Michigan 3rd year of probation

Associated Press
Michigan head football coach Rich Rodriguez leaves a news conference in Ann Arbor, Mich., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010 after addressing the media on NCAA violation infractions. The NCAA on Thursday handed Michigan a third year of probation for practice and training violations, declining to sharply punish Rodriguez or his program for an embarrassing problem that cropped up just a few days before last season. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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University of Michigan officials and embattled coach Rich Rodriguez acknowledged a sense of relief after the NCAA agreed that the school's self-punishment was largely enough.

The NCAA added a a third year of probation Thursday for practice and training violations, but didn't decide that Rodriguez had failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance with NCAA rules.

"We were pleased to learn that the committee on infractions agreed with our position," athletic director Dave Brandon said Thursday.

Rodriguez was thankful, too, but wasn't openly celebrating an apparent victory.

"Everybody has accepted responsibility that needed to, including myself," he said softly.

Michigan also successfully argued that it shouldn't be labeled a repeat offender, less than 10 years after the NCAA said the basketball program was guilty of having the largest financial scandal in the history of college sports.

University president Mary Sue Coleman said she wouldn't put the problems with the football team in the same category as the ones that previously plagued the basketball program.

"This case may not be as sensational as other major-infraction cases, but to the University of Michigan, it could not be more serious," Coleman said. "We offer no excuses for the violations."

Paul Dee, the chairman of the Division I infractions committee, compared Rodriguez to the captain of a ship.

"Some of the things that did occur did not get all the way to the coach," Dee said. "But ultimately, the coach bears a responsibility for the program."

Dee didn't clear up the distinction between the original allegation against Rodriguez and the final one during a conference call that didn't last as long as expected, nor did Brandon.

"I'm going to punt that one just like happened on the call," Brandon said. "I invite you to crawl into the rule of the NCAA and try to come up with your own conclusions as it relates to that."

The NCAA also ordered Rodriguez to attend a rules seminar.

Michigan announced in May that self-imposed sanctions included probation for two years and reduced training time by 130 hours over two years, double the amount of time by which the Wolverines exceeded NCAA rules.

The problems came to light just before the 2009 season when the Detroit Free Press, quoting anonymous players, reported that the program was exceeding NCAA limits on practice and training time.

The school admitted in May it was guilty of four violations and defended Rodriguez against a fifth charge in August.

Michigan's self-imposed sanctions included reprimanding Rodriguez and six others, trimming the number of assistants — the so-called quality-control staff — from five to three and banning them from practices, games or coaching meetings.

Brandon said there were no surprises in the NCAA's report.

"There will be no appeals," he said.

Three months ago, the NCAA accused West Virginia of similar violations while Rodriguez was coach and under current coach Bill Stewart.

"I'll deal with that at the appropriate time," Rodriguez said Thursday.

After getting lured from West Virginia, Rodriguez filled all five quality control positions at Michigan — essentially apprentices to assistants who were paid $17 per hour to "run errands for the coaches, check on student-athlete class attendance and academic issues, and chart plays."

The school said the staff "crossed the line in specific situations and engaged in 'coaching activities'" as defined by the NCAA.

NCAA investigators said Rodriguez bore ultimate responsibility for his program and suggested he wasn't adequately prepared for a hearing before the NCAA in Seattle.

"The scope and nature of the violations also established that both the institution and the head football coach failed to monitor the football program," the NCAA report said.

"The duty to ensure that his staff abided by all applicable rules resided with the head football coach. At the hearing, he could not say with certainty that he read the educational materials provided to him."

One staffer who worked under Rodriguez at West Virginia before joining him at Michigan, Alex Herron, was fired after his claim of not being present during some activities was discredited by players. Brad Labadie, among those reprimanded by the school, later resigned as director of football operations, saying the move was unrelated to the NCAA probe.

The Wolverines, who have lost three straight after opening 5-0, host Illinois on Saturday needing a win to become bowl-eligible after losing a school-record nine games and flopping to a 5-7 finish in Rodriguez's first two seasons in Ann Arbor.

Brandon said the violations don't give him cause to terminate Rodriguez's contract, which has three seasons remaining.

"Before this failure to provide an atmosphere of compliance issue was dropped, I made it very clear that I did not feel that anything that had taken place here that should impact the status of our coach," Brandon said. "Where we stand today is in an even more positive position than we were then in terms of the number of allegations and the nature of the allegations."

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