A reader, a Michigan fan, e-mailed to inquire about my opinion regarding the latest college football controversy, the brouhaha and investigation of Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez. Is he exceeding NCAA limitations on practice time? Is he demanding more than the allowable 20 hours per week from his players? Is he the victim of yellow journalism?
First of all, it isn't yellow journalism. The Detroit sportswriter wrote what kids told him. These kids are disenchanted. They probably are Lloyd Carr recruits. One player who was mentioned, Tony Clemmons, was recruited by Carr. Now he is at Colorado and bad-mouthing Rodriguez.
Rodriguez' recruits bought into his program. The Carr recruits didn't. There always is disenchantment when there is a change at the top of the program. This whole incident wouldn't have surfaced if all of the players were recruited by Rodriguez.
Michigan is getting singled out in this case but almost every major college--more than half of the 119 Division I schools, I would estimate--breaks the 20-hour rule. In my view, the whole issue is being overblown. The problem is much more widespread than on the Michigan campus.
Twenty hours are enough if you want your athletes to be students. But college football is a big business so 20 hours aren't enough. To be great and to be No. 1 and to get to the NFL means you have to put in more time and effort, especially if you believe college is a springboard to future success.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said as much when asked to comment on the Michigan/Rodriguez controversy. Sure, some coaches think they can hide weight lifting and conditioning and film watching, then work their players for a majority of hours. But Tressel pointed out that most players want to work on their own. It's like trying to prevent a nuclear physics major from studying in the library.
No matter which program is singling out, Michigan or Kentucky or UCLA or Alabama or Illinois, fans will overreact, come to the defense of their coach and fight to the death for the integrity of the school and its program.
The problem at Michigan isn't any more unique than the slush fund at Illinois or Sam Gilbert at UCLA or John Calipari at Memphis or academic scandals at Minnesota or Florida State or point-shaving at Kentucky and CCNY.
If the NCAA can live with it, I guess we can, too.