It was bad enough not being a Michigan man. It was bad enough going 3-9. But now that allegations have surfaced that Rich Rodriguez violated NCAA rules governing workouts, can he survive this season?
Rodriguez has denied the allegations, first reported by the Detroit Free-Press. Michigan has launched an investigation after several players from the 2008 and 2009 team said the hours spent on football during the season and in the offseason far exceeded guidelines.
That seat Rodriguez sits on was plenty hot before this. It has got to feel like a raging inferno now.
How can Rodriguez survive what has happened in the year and a half since he became coach at Michigan? The program had its worst season ever in 2008, sending fans to call for his dismissal. Several players transferred and complained about the atmosphere Rodriguez has instilled. One said Michigan no longer had the family values it had when he signed with Lloyd Carr.
Throw in allegations of NCAA rules violations and the situation is almost untenable. Granted, anyone who believes student-athletes only do football activities for the NCAA weekly limit of 20 hours is foolish. Players are allowed to work more on their own, provided it is voluntary.
According to an NCAA report released last year, selected football players surveyed in Division I-A said they spent an average of 44.8 hours a week on their sport. That included practice, training, games and the training room. About 21,000 athletes at 627 Division I, II and III schools were surveyed — including more than 1,600 football players.
“As a former player, I certainly don’t understand or couldn’t even fathom 20 hours a week of football time,” said ESPN analyst Andre Ware, who won the Heisman Trophy at Houston. “It would be impossible. That would be gobbled up in two days.”
We don’t know who has made these allegations because the players spoke anonymously. Perhaps they have a beef with the way Rodriguez is now running the program. He has hired a much tougher strength and conditioning coach, and Michigan has had harder workouts.
The fact that current players spoke out indicates Rodriguez could have a mutiny on his hands, whether he is found guilty of the violations or not. That is a problem he is going to have to get a handle on before the season opens Saturday against Western Michigan. He cannot lose this team.
Given all this, nothing absolves Rodriguez if there were indeed rules violations. He must be held accountable. Violating NCAA rules is a serious matter, and it would be the first time in the football program’s history Michigan would be found guilty of major violations. Even if Michigan had gone 12-1 last season, these allegations would be damaging.
But given the state of Michigan’s program, it is hard to imagine Rodriguez surviving, even if he is cleared of any wrongdoing. There is too much poison to clean up.