Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's Time to Play

Timing is everything. Some timing is good, and some timing is bad.

When I proposed to my wife, I wanted everything to be perfect. The music, the flowers, even the time that she arrived home had to be timed correctly. That was good timing.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers opened training camp this past summer, news broke out about a sexual assault charge against quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That was bad timing.

With one week remaining until the start of the 2009 college football season, the University of Michigan is experiencing a case of bad timing.

The Detroit Free Press is reporting that numerous players from the 2008 – 2009 team have said that the football program is in violation of the NCAA rules which put limits on the amount of time that student athletes can spend on their sport. These allegations come one week before UM is to start year 2 of the Rich Rodriguez era, an era that started out with Michigan having their first losing season in 40 years and missing a bowl game. Needless to say, it was a very difficult year for UM fans.

Now these players, some former and current, are speaking to the Detroit Free Press on the condition of anonymity about the “ridiculous” requirements for UM’s off season and in season regimen.

Some of the alleged violations include exceeding the 20 hour practice time per week, having coaches watch off season 7 on 7 scrimmages, and making the off season voluntary weight workouts mandatory. If these allegations turn out to be true, then Michigan will be subject to penalties by the NCAA.

If they turn out to be false, as I suspect that they are, then it will be just another attempt by the Rodriguez haters to run him out of Ann Arbor.

From the day that Rodriguez has set foot in Ann Arbor, he has been scrutinized. Some of it rightfully so, others not so much.

I can see how many people don’t like how he even came to Michigan. Rodriguez had signed a multi year extension to stay at West Virginia University a year before he left to become the head coach at Michigan.

I’m not condoning the breaking of contracts, but let’s be honest; this happens all of the time in college sports. Recruits will even say that they are going to a certain school and then change their mind and switch to another.

I’ll be honest; I love the Michigan football tradition, as do many fans. When Rodriguez first came to Michigan, he didn’t seem to grasp how UM fans felt about the history and tradition of the program. That rubbed people the wrong way. For example, he decided to not reserve the #1 jersey to a veteran receiver. He later admitted that he didn’t understand the history and tradition behind it and stated that he would hold it for a veteran receiver in the future.

As I was reading through the article in the Detroit Free Press, I started to have some questions regarding its validity. First and foremost, I questioned the writers themselves. They are both good friends with former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr. Carr campaigned hard for one of his assistants to get the head coaching job after he retired. When Rodriguez was hired, Carr was reportedly upset. So naturally, Carr’s friends are not going to like Rodriguez.

Another mystery about this article is why there are no names attached to the players. I realize that the current players would want to be anonymous, but what about the former players? What do they have to lose? If the NCAA violation claims are true, then shouldn’t these players come forward for the good of the team? Especially when these extensive workouts are affecting the current players academically?

That leads me to another outlandish claim. One player, echoing the words of others, said the workouts in the past two off-seasons at Michigan “affected people’s grades. People were falling asleep in class.”

How can this be when this past semester the Michigan football team posted the highest team GPA in history?

The bottom line is this, when Rich Rodriguez came to Ann Arbor he brought his own offense. This offense was completely different from what Lloyd Carr had run. There were many players that were recruited to run Lloyd Carr’s offense on the team. Rodriguez had to let these players know that they may want to look for a transfer because they didn’t fit the style of football that he wanted to play. This led to the transfer of many upset players and fans.

If these allegations are true, then I believe that the punishment should fit the football crime. If they turn out to be false, then people will just have to accept that things are not going to be the same as they were in Ann Arbor.

Change is hard to take for a lot of people, especially when everything has been the status quo since 1969. After Michigan’s dismal year last season, people will want to see some improvement. They want reassurance that these changes will indeed work.

Rich Rodriguez knows that timing is everything. The time has come for him to prove that he will lead Michigan back to being a national powerhouse.

The clock starts this Saturday at 3:30 versus Western Michigan University.

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