The Detroit Free Press reported that Rich Rodriguez’s Michigan football program blatantly violated the NCAA’s limits on when and how long players may practice:
The University of Michigan football team consistently has violated NCAA rules governing off-season workouts, in-season demands on players and mandatory summer activities under coach Rich Rodriguez, numerous players told the Free Press.
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.”
That player was one of six current or former players who gave lengthy, detailed and nearly identical descriptions of the program to the Free Press.
“We know the practice and off-season rules, and we stay within the guidelines,” Rodriguez said in a statement issued Friday to the Free Press. “We follow the rules and have always been completely committed to being compliant with all NCAA rules.”
. . .
The players say they routinely are required to work out or practice many more hours throughout the year than the NCAA allows. They also say members of Rodriguez’s staff have broken rules by monitoring off-season scrimmages.
Rodriguez denies the Free Press’s report, but others are quickly corroborating it. Via twitter, ESPN’s Joe Schad added, “Former Michigan starter tells me he would put in 11-hour days on Sundays (4 hour required is max),” and further that “[a]nother UM player told me he was usually the facility on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The maximum allotment per day is 4 hours.”
Briefly, a word on practice limits. People do not realize it, but major college football teams are allotted less practice time than many high school squads, to say nothing of the 24/7 world of the NFL. In high school, teams have seven-on-seven passing leagues all summer, spring practice, time for two-a-days in the fall, and so on. In college, the NCAA strictly limits when players can work out, when and how long they can use the football facilities, and, most stringently, when coaches can be around. (This partially explains the rise of strength and conditioning coaches, who spend their summers with players and, because they do not focus on football, are allowed greater contact with players in the off-season. Note that I do not claim any great expertise in these matters.)
In any event, the Free Press ominously mentions that “[i]f the NCAA investigates and concludes that U-M willfully and repeatedly broke the rules, the NCAA could find major violations. That could trigger probation, loss of scholarships and loss of practice time.” What penalties, realistically, could Michigan be subject to if the Free Press’s report is ultimately borne out by an investigation (either by the NCAA or done internally)?