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By now, the press conference held yesterday detailing Michigan’s NCAA violations has been broken down from every conceivable angle. Personally, I’m getting tired of it already, but this is a Michigan blog, and this is the biggest story of the year, so I feel obligated to share my thoughts.

First, as a staunch backer of Rich Rodriguez, I have to admit this: regardless of how you feel about the Free Press, their investigation, and the gravity of the charges, it is tough to completely defend or exonerate Rodriguez. Even if no other program in the country comes under the same type of scrutiny — from their own local media, no less — as Michigan has since Rodriguez took over, he left the door open for this type of investigation by simply not having proper control over his own program. That, quite frankly, is inexcusable: everybody knows the rules, and at a program that has never had any type of NCAA violations, it is your responsibility as the head coach to ensure that everybody in the program is abiding by them and is knowledgeable about them. Does Rodriguez’s lack of control merit his dismissal as coach? I don’t think so, and neither does Dave Brandon, who has more knowledge of the situation than you or I do. If, as he claims (and I believe him), Rodriguez has taken the necessary measures to take control of his program and keep them within the NCAA rules, I think the public embarrassment and (potential) NCAA penalties are more than enough punishment for his transgressions.

The brunt of my anger, however, in the wake of this press conference, is directed towards Michael Rosenberg and the Free Press. The WLA hits the nail on the head with their post “They Lied: A Retrospective“:

For reference, here is the Freep article (lead-in and details) that started the whole mess.

Initially I started fisking the article bit by bit, but there is no need to be that tl;dr. Here is the crux of the article, right in the intro:

“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.”

This assertion is repeated in various forms and in various detail throughout the article. ‘Michigan consistently broke the rules by practicing too much.’ This is false. The press conference today just made that official. The practice schedule as told by Rosenberg massively overstated the hours, and after all is said and done we’re talking about how to count time allocated for stretching (seriously). Further, there was nothing consistent or willful about the schedule or staff activities.

The whole article is worth a read, and it goes on to say that no player, not a single one, said anything about violating NCAA rules, which, if you read the above lede to their article one more time, is exactly what the Free Press claimed. I’m sure Michael Rosenberg and the Freep feel exonerated after yesterday’s press conference. They shouldn’t. The investigation still stands as a lesson in shoddy, agenda-driven journalism, and their charges of egregious practice-time violations look hilariously overblown after seeing the details of the NCAA investigation.

Finally, I’ve seen a lot of criticism directed towards Rich Rodriguez in the last day. That’s fine — not everybody is going to agree about a coach, especially one as divisive as Rodriguez, and everybody is entitled to their own opinion. Emails like the one I received this morning, however, will draw my ire:

From: [REDACTED]
Subject: Rich Rod

Message Body:
I have been a wolverine fan all my life and for the past two years I have been reluctant to call myself a fan.  Rich Rodriquez has driven the football program into the ground, breaking all the records no Wolverine wants to see broken.  Losing to State and the chestnuts two years in a row is a disgrace, nevermind two losing seasons in a row.  Rich Rod is a disease, it’s time to look for a cure.  Always a Wolverine bleeding Maize and Blue, GO BLUE!!

I’m sorry, but this type of argument doesn’t make any sense to me — if you’re a fan, you’re a fan, and there’s no taking a sabbatical just because you don’t like the head coach. This is called hedging your bets, or being a bandwagon fan, and I have a fundamental disagreement with this argument. I have a quote from Bo Schembechler that I keep on the right sidebar, and I’ve seen it used in just this situation recently in message board arguments and the like, but it bears repeating:

“When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing.” – Bo Schembechler
Even if you truly believe that everything that has happened in the last two years falls squarely on Rodriguez’s shoulders (I have seen, and made, numerous arguments to the contrary, but that is another long article for another long day), you are still a Michigan fan, and Michigan fans support the team and are proud to do so. Period.
For now, that’s all I have to say on the matter. Many other bloggers, however, have many more things to say. So, here’s today’s links, which are very heavy on the NCAA stuff:

I’m in between classes, and it’s midterm season for me, so I’m not going to have much of substance on Michigan’s press conference on the NCAA investigation. From what I can tell, the allegations are rather minor (practice time violations were way overblown), but that isn’t to say Michigan is entirely in the clear: there are violations, and Michigan will go before the NCAA in August. For more coverage, I’d recommend checking out these sources:

Honestly, if there was ever a day where I’d advocate signing up for a Twitter account, it’s today: the ability to get up-to-the-second updates on that medium has really changed how news is relayed. That’s all from me for now — I’ll have more when I’m out of class and I can dig into some analysis of today’s presser and its ramifications.

I was able to attend the Victors Rally at the Michigan Theater on Sunday to do some filming for The Wolverine, and I thought I’d share some of the video I got with you. The first two videos are from former head coach Gary Moeller’s speech. It’s really nice to see Coach Moeller staying connected to the program, and he had some great stories about Rick Leach (the event’s emcee) and Bo Schembechler, a nice dig at Lou Holtz (about the end of the ’94 Notre Dame game, which had been shown in one of the highlight videos just prior to his speech), and his thoughts on what became the themes of the day, the Michigan Man and turning around the program:

Former assistant coach Jerry Hanlon was a surprise speaker, and may have had the quote of the day: “I do want you to know one thing: for an old Irish man to still be included in what is the greatest program in the United States is very heartwarming. I am a Michigan Man.”

The whole speech is a great testament to the program, and to Hanlon’s part in it. Say what you will about this current coaching staff, but you can’t ignore the great effort they’ve made to reach out to former players and coaches. The show of support from the former players (Larry Foote and Brandon Graham were two of the speakers, and several former players were also in attendance) and coaches was a great thing to see, but that support doesn’t come if Rich Rodriguez and his staff don’t make an effort to connect with the old guard, and they’ve done an incredible job of doing so. None of the players and coaches involved with Sunday’s rally were forced to be there, but they were more than willing to step up on stage and stand behind the program and the current staff. I think that says a lot.

For the rest of my video from Sunday, head over to The Wolverine, where they’ve posted speeches by Rich Rodriguez and Foote, and Graham’s speech should be appearing there in the near future. If you weren’t able to make it to the Michigan Theater on Sunday, the video is well worth watching.

Well, that happened. I’m not sure what else to say about this team — they just don’t have it this year, and there’s really not a lot that can explain a team coming off consecutive road victories dropping a home game to a previously 1-12 Big Ten squad. The above picture is, in fact, from Saturday, but it just as easily could be from any number of Michigan games this season — you look out on the floor and wonder, is this really the same team that beat Clemson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year, and brought back every single scholarship player?

Apparently. But sometimes I wonder.

Once again, the issue was simple: this team just couldn’t hit shots. The team went 6-28 from three, with Manny Harris hitting four of those six shots (on ten attempts, but in relative terms that’s an outstanding shooting night). In other words, the guys Michigan has on the floor to complement Harris and DeShawn Sims, the guys who are supposed to be a threat to knock down the open jumper when the defense collapses on our stars, well, they shot 2-18 from downtown. If you want to know how stagnant this offense is, just read this paragraph from UMHoops’ game recap:

Last night, Penn State scored 4 points in the final 9 minutes and 57 seconds of the game and they still managed to win. The Nittany Lions gave Michigan every chance in the world to get back into the game but Michigan only mustered 7 points of their own in the final 10 minutes of action.

Want to see what that looks like? Here’s the game flow chart from Saturday:

That, ladies and gentlemen, is flatlining. Michigan’s season needs the defibrillators right now, and it’s not looking good. The Wolverines host Illinois on Tuesday night — with midterms this week and Michigan’s season in the state it’s in, I’m putting the odds on me making it out to the game at somewhere between zero and zero. Maybe I’ll halfheartedly watch while equally-halfheartedly studying. It’s been that kind of year.

Birmingham Seaholm's Shawn Conway (#4 in maroon) committed on Saturday following Michigan's Junior Day.

This weekend’s Junior Day produced a commitment for the Wolverines, but not from a player on most people’s radar: Shawn Conway, a 6-4 wide receiver from Birmingham Seaholm who has flown under the radar of the recruiting services, picked up a Michigan offer when he arrived on campus and made his pledge before the day was over.

MGoBlog has their commitment post up, which has some user-submitted junior-year stats (11 catches, 217 yards, and three touchdowns in five games) and maybe an explanation for Conway’s lack of recruiting attention or superstar numbers — his quarterback last season was a sophomore who wasn’t slated to start, and it shows in the film:

Watching those highlights, I see a player who may not have elite speed or quickness, but Conway shows off a tremendous pair of hands, great size, and a tremendous ability to go up and get the ball. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff uses him — his size and skill set could lead to a move to tight end, but Michigan may not be using those for much longer, so Conway may just be a big possession receiver.

Also, there’s this interesting tidbit from TomVH’s interview with Conway in the MGoBlog post:

TOM: I know you play basketball, too. Is that going to be an option at Michigan?

SHAWN: Coach Rod said he wouldn’t mind if I tried to walk on the basketball team, so I will definitely try to do that. Carlton (Brundidge) plays on my AAU basketball team, he was the first one I called when it happened. He was just really excited, and he said we should room together. We’ll see, I’m just excited about all this.

Conway boasts a 38-inch vertical (somewhat more believable than the 4.49 40-yard dash time he also claims in the same article) in the interview, and adding that type of athleticism without using a scholarship is always a bonus. Conway is an AAU teammate of 2011 basketball commit Carlton Brundidge, and sounded excited at the prospect of playing with him at the college level.

With (at least initially, before some expected normal attrition) just 14 spots available for the 2011 class, the recruiting focus will likely shift away from sleepers like Conway and towards blue-chip prospects at positions of need (offensive line and defensive front seven especially).