The offensive has begun.
Rich Rodriguez and his agent fired back Monday after Sunday’s Detroit Free Press accused the Michigan staff of flouting NCAA work-week rules.
“I believe this thing is going to be put to bed quickly,” said Mike Brown, Rodriguez’ longtime agent. “From what I understand, Michigan already has been in there and all the records have been on the table.”
Brown added that the Michigan compliance department makes regular checks of strength coach Mike Barwis’ records in terms of hours spent by players in the weight room. Part of the accusations have to do with players having multiple and lengthy strength sessions in violation of the NCAA 20-hour work week limits.
“If Rich and the staff wanted to do this, anybody can walk into Schembechler Hall and walk into the weight room and practice facility and see what’s going on at any time. They’ve had spot checks by compliance," Brown said.
“Mike Barwis was asked to submit his workout schedules to compliance and it’s been approved.”
In a sometimes teary, 13-minute opening to his regular game-week press conference Rodriguez defended his program. Asked to flat-out deny the report, Rodriguez told reporters on Monday: “We completely comply by the rules, the hours, always have and always will.”
Rodriguez went to say the report was “misleading”, that players might not have understand that medical treatment and study hall do not count toward the 20 hours. Brown also took that stance when contacted by CBSSports.com.
Brown criticized the story for using the statements of anonymous sources – parents and players. However, an internet report quoted Michigan transfer Toney Clemens (now at Colorado) as saying the Free Press story was accurate.
"Oh, yeah," Clemons also told the Free Press. "I'll always be honest. My mom and my dad raised me to be a stand-up guy. If they call me and I have to tell them my schedule, I'll tell them what I went through. I will definitely tell the truth."
Clemons has played under three coaches – Lloyd Carr, Rodriguez and now Dan Hawkins.
“With Coach Carr coming in as freshmen, we understood the rules early in the summertime,” Clemons added. “We never had anybody come out and monitor anything that they weren't allowed to be there for. And compliance at the University of Colorado is real in tune. They make sure that we know the rules."
Part of the Free Press accusations deal with Michigan graduate assistants monitoring offseason seven-on-seven drills. That is against NCAA rules.
“He (Clemons) can say it’s accurate but what it comes down to is what the records say and all the interviews that have taken place,” Brown said. “If they (coaching staff) wanted to circumvent the system they wouldn’t have kept the doors open at Schembechler Hall. If they were going to break the rules do you think they’d have it so open?”
Schembechler Hall houses the football facility.
Rodriguez obviously was shaken as he addressed reporters Monday morning, pausing several times while making points.
“Nobody on my staff would ever tell a young man to miss a class or miss a study session or miss a tutor appointment to do anything athletically,” Rodriguez said. “I understand the importance of a degree. All my coaches do. When we meet with parents, we tell them, ‘We’re going to challenge your (son).’
“The thing that bothered me the most … (is) the perception that was out there that we didn’t care as much for our students’ welfare. That is disheartening.”
Both coach and agent pointed to two recent gatherings of players. Two weeks ago 300 people, players and parents, gathered for a barbeque. On Sunday, the seniors gathered at Rodriguez for a previously scheduled preseason get-together.
“I believe I have 125 young men all in. I’ve not gotten any indication otherwise,” Rodriguez said.