ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan coach
Rich Rodriguez said Monday that his football program has abided by NCAA
rules, despite allegations from anonymous players and former players
who say the team has practiced far beyond the time allowed.
"We know the rules," Rodriguez said, "and we follow the rules."
At a news conference in Ann Arbor,
Rodriguez became emotional and had to gather himself several times with
glassy eyes as he denied any wrongdoing.
"I guess I'm here to tell you that
whatever you've heard or want to believe, the trust is that this
coaching staff cares very deeply about the young men in our program,"
The school on Sunday launched an
investigation into allegations that the football program regularly
violates NCAA rules limiting how much time players can spend on
training and practice.
The announcement came after a Detroit
Free Press article in which players from the 2008 and 2009 teams said
the amount of time they spend on football during the season and in the
offseason greatly exceeds NCAA limits. The players spoke to the
newspaper on condition of anonymity because they feared repercussions
Big Ten compliance officials arrived
on campus Sunday to assist with the investigation, according to two
people at the school. One person, who spends a lot of time with the
team, said the school's compliance office often makes unannounced
visits to make sure the program is following the rules. Both people
spoke on the condition of anonymity because the school will not
publicly discuss the case until the probe is completed.
Rodriguez suggested the complaints
were an attempt to "tear up" the effort to rebuild a program that
stumbled to a 3-9 record last season, including a dismal 2-6 in the Big
Ten. It was Michigan's first losing season since 1967 and its first
without a bowl in 34 years.
"Nobody on my staff would ever tell a player to miss a class … never have, never will," Rodriguez said.
Michigan athletic director Bill Martin announced the school investigation, saying the allegations were taken seriously.
"We believe we have been compliant
with NCAA rules, but nonetheless we have launched a full
investigation," Martin said in a statement released by the school
Martin's statement also indicated
the school had reached out to both the Big Ten and the NCAA about the
allegations, adding the university would have more to say after its
inquiry was done.
Like Rodriguez, the university's compliance director, Judy Van Horn, has denied that the football program violated NCAA rules.
Those regulations allow players to
spend eight hours a week on mandatory workouts during the offseason.
Players told the Free Press that they have spent two to three times
that amount on required workouts.
The players said the amount of time
they spent on football activities during the season exceeded the weekly
limit of 20 hours and often exceeded the daily limit of four hours.
They also said quality-control staff often watched seven-on-seven
offseason scrimmages that are supposed to be voluntary and that only
training staff are allowed to attend.
Rodriguez said what has bothered him the most is the perception that he and his staff do not care about their players.
"That is disheartening," he said.
Rodriguez, who is guiding college
football's winningest program after a successful stint as West
Virginia's head coach, opens the season Saturday at home against
Western Michigan. He said he is not worried about the allegations
becoming a distraction.
"Nothing is going to change their focus," Rodriguez said.
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