The fallout from Demar Dorsey’s commitment — especially the signing day press conference grillings by The Detroit Free Press’ Drew Sharp and AnnArbor.com’s Dave Birkett and the subsequent articles on Dorsey’s legal history — has sparked controversy in Ann Arbor and a considerable backlash against either (a) Rich Rodriguez or (b) the media themselves. I’ve already said my piece, but many Michigan bloggers and mainstream writers have written compelling pieces on the situation since last week. Here’s the best of what I could find:
Starting with the mainstream media, Jon Chait pens a very thought-provoking piece over at The Wolverine that brings up some very interesting questions. Instead of asking if Michigan should or should not have taken Dorsey (he actually gives merit to both sides), he asks if Michigan should be held to a different standard than other college programs (saying that is the only way to make the argument that Michigan shouldn’t have recruited Dorsey), and then takes the Free Press to task for their coverage of Michigan football:
Now, when evaluating a newspaper, it’s important to distinguish between straight news reporting and opinion columns. The latter shouldn’t normally be held up to taint the objectivity of the former. In this case, however, the distinction is impossible. The opinions of the columnists are driving the coverage of the straight reporters. In some cases, the opinion columnists are being allowed to break news about the same subjects they’re opining on.
From reading the Free Press, you wouldn’t suspect that Rich Rodriguez has had few disciplinary issues at Michigan, and those that have arisen (Justin Feagin, Boubacar Cissoko) have been dealt with swiftly and severely. One can legitimately debate whether and to what degree Michigan should have higher than normal standards of behavior and academics for its recruits. But that debate is very difficult in an atmosphere where the local media seems determined to impugn the coach’s integrity.
ESPN Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg takes a similar approach to the Dorsey issue as Chait, also looking at whether it is appropriate to hold players to a higher standard at Michigan:
Rodriguez and Michigan are assuming a risk with Dorsey, a larger risk than with most players because of his history. If he gets in trouble in Ann Arbor, the head coach and the university will take heat for it. Heat they’ll deserve.
But is that risk large enough to push the Wolverines away when other programs wouldn’t think twice about adding Dorsey to their roster? Does Michigan have to hold itself to a perceived higher standard, a standard that might not even exist in college football, much less at U-M? Some will say yes, but these folks need to open their eyes and realize this is big-time college football.
Lloyd Carr gave players second chances, too. He assumed the risk of them messing up again. Every college football coach does. Like it or not, it’s part of this sport.
The Detroit News’ Bob Wojnowski looks at the Dorsey signing from a different perspective, asking “With all the shrieking for [Rich Rodriguez’s] job, the real question might be: How could he not [sign Dorsey]?” and attacking fan hypocrisy:
Every fan wants to win, and the most vocal ones demand to win. No problem. Just don’t be a hypocrite and hope to reap the benefits without any risk.
I’m not a win-at-all-costs guy, but I’m also not an idealistic dreamer. I recognize Dorsey is a bigger risk than your average recruit, and the situation warrants scrutiny. If the kid blows it, he’ll damage more than himself, including Rodriguez.
Every time you give a chance, you take a chance. That’s the way it works in college football, like it or not.
Here’s the thing: Rich Rodriguez cares about his players. When he left West Virginia, they were the only people in the state to defend him. When the NCAA stuff came down and Rich Rodriguez had his press conference about it, he hit his shakiest, teariest point when he was talking about the effects this had on his players. When you listen to Mike Barwis talk about Pacman Jones, the pain is evident—they just couldn’t straighten him out enough. He has a good track record. He was right about Pat Lazear, and his disciplinary record over the past five years is considerably above average. Every time he picks up a guy with a rough past and puts him in college he’s trying to make the kid’s life better.
And yet he gets painted as a bad guy by people who don’t care about anything but themselves. Drew Sharp is a selfish, cynical bastard. He’s made a career out of making people angry with his half-assed, research-free opinions. He’s a disgrace to journalism. If the Free Press had any scruples whatsoever, rampantly bashing a kid with no evidence, or even an effort to collect any, would be so far beyond the journalistic pale that no combination of weasel words could save him.
That’s the point. Maybe Dorsey won’t make it, but he’s been clean for two years and deserves a shot. If he caught a break because he had a shot at going to college, that was a good bet by Broward County. He did, and now he’s going to Michigan. It’s up to Rodriguez and Dorsey to make it pay off.
The worst thing about all this pressure is that a Dorsey MIP is now a big deal in a way that Kevin Grady getting frighteningly drunk and falling asleep in his car is not. If Dorsey doesn’t keep his nose clean at Michigan, the rest of the team can have a spotless record and the storyline will be Dorsey this and Dorsey that. That’s a hell of a burden, one that few players with “checkered legal pasts” have to deal with. When Roderick Jenrette came to Michigan State, he was carrying two burglary arrests with him—about which more later—and no one knew. His troubles were explained away by Mark Dantonio and people either respected his privacy as a juvenile offender or were lazy or were just stunned by how magnificent Dantonio’s jaw was, and he was left alone.
Both are well worth a read. Meanwhile, the Wolverine Liberation Army has a couple takes of their own on Dorsey. The first is along the lines of what you’d expect from the WLA, a hilarious hatchet-job on Sharp that takes a suddenly serious tone at the end:
The worst part is that Sharp holds his audience in open contempt. He has stated that “You (the audience) morons should make sure you get both sides of the story before saying something definitively.” He genuinely dislikes his readership and listeners. I’m not sure why anyone would indulge Sharp in his patently sadomasochistic fantasies, yet here I am. Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment. Or perhaps I think Sharp was disgustingly indecent to a high school senior on what should have been (and hopefully still was) the best day of his life thus far. Either way, grab your snorkel. We’re chest deep in liquid manure.
The second piece is guest-written by a friend of the WLA who has “extensive real-life experience dealing with juvenile offenders.” The whole thing is a must-read, especially when the author pulls out the stat that, if a juvenile offender stays out of trouble for two years, they have about a 4% chance of re-offending. Demar Dorsey has been out of trouble for two years, so take that for what it’s worth. Also, from the author:
Finally, let us remember, aside from all the dismissed and acquittal squabble, that no one was physically injured by Mr. Dorsey. Maybe that is why the judge decided this kid was worth a chance. Had Mr. Dorsey been incarcerated, he may not have come out the kind of person he is today. Those are not charm schools those kids go to. They are not matriculated with academic all americans and missionaries. The lowest common denominator rules in such facilities. Kindness is a weakness. Hyper vigilance is the law. Perhaps it really is prudent to reserve such treatment for those who truly need it and not to just foist it upon those who upset our personal moral compasses.
Over at Genuinely Sarcastic, The Other Brian gives a somewhat-depressing take on the media backlash and what it means down the road for Rodriguez:
My endgame is this, and I hinted at it a while back, but sadly, I’m starting to firmly believe it: 2010 is starting to look like the end for Rodriguez at Michigan. Not because of one specific incident, but because of everything. The list is long, we all know what’s gone on. But the longer we hear silence from the UofM athletic department, the longer we can only assume that it will take an enormous improvement in 2010 to save Rodriguez. Could it happen? Maybe. I could definitely see an 8-win team. Would an 8-5 season calm the storm? In a perfect world, yes.
But as we’ve all become painfully aware of, since we lost Bo in November 2006, nothing is perfect about this situation, this university, this athletic department, and this football program.
This, obviously, is a situation that won’t be resolved overnight, or even over the next couple years: no matter what happens in the interim, Rodriguez and Dorsey won’t be out of the media crosshairs until Dorsey has gone on to the next stage in his life (whether that is the NFL or a career after graduating from school will largely be determined by Dorsey’s performance on the field) with a clean criminal record. So, for now, this is all I’ll be writing on Dorsey. We simply have to wait and see what happens. For now, I’m happy to have a talented and charismatic player at a position of great need. It is up to Dorsey to determine if we’ll have to look at him as anything other than, simply, that.