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Published: Wednesday, 5/26/2010

UM admits to football violations, will impose sanctions on program

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR - Believing the integrity of a historic college football program has not been compromised in light of an admission to violating NCAA rules, University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon yesterday described the findings of an internal investigation as not a "black eye" but a "bruise."

Ultimately, though, the NCAA has the final say in whether additional suffering will be levied against the winningest program in college football history.

Addressing the university's formal 79-page response to the NCAA allegations that the Wolverine football program violated five potentially major NCAA rules, Brandon told media members he hopes the university's self-imposed punishments will be viewed as satisfactory by the NCAA, which would essentially put to rest an embarrassing nine months for UM and its athletic department.

In a response sent Monday to the NCAA and released to the public yesterday, UM stated its football program will undergo two years of probation, its Countable Athletically Related Activities - training and practice time - will be cut by 130 hours over the next two years, and its quality-control staff will be restructured. UM, however, does not believe its infractions warrant a postseason ban or a loss of scholarships for the football program.

"Typically those [penalties] are associated with violations that rise to the level of lack of institutional control and unfair competitive advantages that would have impacted other programs and other players," Brandon said. "None of that is relevant to the situation that we're dealing with today."

Brandon and football coach Rich Rodriguez did, however, admit the allegations that UM worked its players beyond time limits set in place by the NCAA were true.

They also attested that members of the quality-control staff improperly presided over off-season workouts.

But Brandon believes it's "a significant leap of logic" to suggest the Wolverines gained a competitive advantage on the field, because the athletes spent much of the time stretching, and not practicing.

UM President Mary Sue Coleman and several athletic department members, including Brandon and Rodriguez, will travel to Seattle in August to meet with the NCAA's Committee on Infractions. If the NCAA administers further punishment UM can appeal.

The reduction of 130 Countable Athletically Related Activities is a "2-1 payback" because UM determined its players worked out a total of 65 hours beyond what they were permitted.

Of the five violations, UM admits to four, with the exception being that Rodriguez failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program.

UM said it believes the coach did not violate rules knowingly and that several parties were to blame for a breakdown in communication.

In a document separate from the university's response, Rodriguez's lawyers wrote the coach and his staff "attended rules education meetings, he invited the compliance staff to his Hideaway meetings, he ran a transparent program and he encouraged everyone, including the compliance staff, to bring any concerns directly to his attention."

Speaking yesterday, Rod-

riguez said: "As soon as that allegation came out, I certainly was upset. I think both the school's response and my response detail why we disagree with that."

Under the self-imposed probation, UM must set up additional checks and balances and report regularly to the NCAA.

Rodriguez's quality- control staff, which essentially is in place to assist the coaching staff, has been reduced from five members to three.

Additionally, those three employees will not be permitted to attend practice or be present on the sidelines, in the press box, or in the locker room at games.

Alex Herron, a member of last year's quality-control staff, has been terminated by the university for allegedly providing false and misleading information to NCAA investigators.

The document also revealed that since Rodriguez took over in December, 2007, UM has violated six "minor" NCAA rules, ranging from contacting recruits at improper times and conducting tryouts with sport-specific equipment, to a player engaging in impermissible modeling for two local stores.

Rodriguez and six others, including Mike Barwis, director of strength and conditioning, have been issued letters of reprimand for their involvement in the more serious violations. Under Rodriguez's contract with UM, a violation of major NCAA rules can result in termination, but his boss, Brandon, said in February he wouldn't exercise that option.

He maintained that stance yesterday.

"There's no new information today that would suggest that any of those violations have changed," Brandon said. "So the answer's the same as it was in February."

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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