In my daily conversations with fellow sports writers from throughout the country, we often go over the top headlines of the day. No sport is out of bounds and commentary is completely honest with an insider’s perspective. The latest talk has been centered around the Detroit Free Press article that accused U of M football coaches of violating NCAA rules regarding practice. Most of us are graduates of Big East schools, so we have seen Coach Rich Rodriguez from his first years of replacing legendary Don Nehlen at West Virginia. Our consensus was that Rodriguez has plenty to worry about that goes well beyond any potential NCAA investigation.
I have long believed that Coach Rodriguez will not last more than two seasons at Michigan. Based on all that happened when he departed WVU, especially the idea that Rodriguez had his focus elsewhere during a potential Big East clincher against Pittsburgh. They lost the game and his time at the school had grown short. School officials had to believe that last season was going to be one of transition – but 3-9 came out of left field. That team was completely out of synch and looked overmatched in a challenging conference. Going into this season, I would find it hard to believe that a freshman could lead them back to a bowl game. If Rodriguez doesn’t show any improvement this season, his time in Ann Arbor may be short.
What’s troubling about the allegations in the paper, is that he has officially lost his locker room. If players coming off a 3-9 season feel that too much work is unnecessary, then he’s not on the same page as his team. If the published stats regarding hours practiced are true, we are talking about tremendous violations that go well beyond the NCAA regulations. For Spartans and Buckeyes fans this comes like a dessert before the dinner – their rival is now perceived as being a soft team in violation of the NCAA. With a significant distraction hanging over their heads, it will be difficult seeing the 2009 Wolverines having any success this season.