Could have seen this one coming…

August 30, 2009

Rich Rodriguez might be using his thumb to hitch a ride out of town soon.

Rich Rodriguez might be using his thumb to hitch a ride out of town soon.

Ugh.

Less than eight hours after I posted my Michigan blog yesterday, more disheartening news came out of Ann Arbor in the form of NCAA violation allegations. ESPN blogger Adam Rittenberg put it best in his report, saying the most troubling aspect of the story isn’t the allegations themselves, but the people who made them.

Former and current players allege that the Wolverine coaching staff not only mandated their athletes to workout well beyond the time alloted by NCAA regulations, they also covered up these infractions by telling the players that the extensive workouts were in fact permitted by the NCAA, although they most definitely weren’t.

This is another example of what some involved in the program believe to be a rift between coaches and players. Since coach Rich Rodriguez arrived in Ann Arbor, a discord has grown in the locker room. Rodriguez upset alumni and former players right off the bat by bringing in a whole new staff and doing away with several long-standing Michigan traditions, most notably doing away with team captains for the season, and instead appointing different captains for each game. After his first season at the helm that saw UM reach a new record of futility, he also told overcritical Wolverine fans to “get a life.” But the most serious black eyes have come from those who have just got up and left town. Several players and recruits abandoned UM citing an “eroding of family values”, as one offensive lineman put it. He than abruptly transfered to hated rival Ohio State.

Pot, meet kettle.

Of course, the players spoke out on these workout violations spoke on condition of anonimity, a tactic not only cowardly, but childish. To play devil’s advocate on behalf of the coaching staff, when someone is accused of wrong doing, they should at least be granted the right to know who the accuser is. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that these allegations, if proven to be true, will add another blemish to a program mired in uncertainity and

Some will try to play it off, saying that most NCAA programs tend to push the limits when it comes to workouts and practices, but Michigan has never been like most programs. In the 20 years that I can recall following Wolverine athletics, the football team has never been cited for major infractions. There was always a certain aura of pride in doing things the right way, opposite of the current “win at whatever cost” philosphy. The term Michigan Man was coined to describe guys like Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr. I don’t think Rodriguez quite fits in to this category.

Now, with this coming out and depending on what the NCAA does, the football team could very well be heading down the same path as the basketball team did a decade ago after the fallout of the Bill Martin scandal. It was a long uphill battle for the hoops squad to become relevant again, and the fact that the football team is already on shaky ground after RichRod’s disasterous initial campaign does not bode well.

Any optimism for the upcoming season has now been swept under the rug, much like the coaching staff allegedly attempted to do with these training transgressions. If the product on the field does not significantly improve from the past season, the cries for RichRod’s ouster from Ann Arbor will only grow louder.

Here is to a hot seat that just became hotter.

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