Michigan looking at players' allegations

Updated: August 31, 2009, 10:22 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan announced Sunday that it has launched an investigation into allegations that its football program regularly violates NCAA rules limiting how much time players can spend on training and practice.

The announcement from Michigan athletic director Bill Martin came after a Detroit Free Press article in which players from the 2008 and 2009 teams said the amount of time they spend on football during the season and in the offseason greatly exceeds NCAA limits. The players spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity because they feared repercussions from coaches.

"We are committed to following both the letter and the intent of the NCAA rules and we take any allegations of violations seriously," Martin said in a written statement.

"We believe we have been compliant with NCAA rules, but nonetheless we have launched a full investigation of the allegations in today's newspaper," he said.

Martin also said that the school had reached out to both the Big Ten and the NCAA about the allegations. He said the university would have more to say after its inquiry was done.

Big Ten compliance officials began interviewing players and officials with the assistance of the Michigan compliance staff in Ann Arbor on Sunday and it will continue Monday, a source familiar with the process told ESPN's Joe Schad.

Former Michigan wide receiver Toney Clemons told ESPN on Sunday night that all of the allegations reported are accurate.

"The allegations are true," Clemons said. "Nothing is fabricated or exaggerated in that story. I was there on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. depending on if guys needed treatment. You were there daylight to nighttime."

Clemons has since transferred to Colorado. On Saturday night, another former Michigan starter and a current Michigan player who asked for anonymity started said the reports of excessive training and football-related activities were accurate.

"On Sunday, it was lifting, film, dinner and practice," Clemons told Schad. "I usually got out around 10:20. I truly don't want to be associated with the program back there. But I am going to help benefit my teammates back there by speaking and giving testimony."

Coach Rich Rodriguez and the university's compliance director, Judy Van Horn, have denied that the football program violated NCAA rules.

"We know the practice and offseason rules, and we stay within the guidelines. We follow the rules and have always been completely committed to being compliant with all NCAA rules," Rodriguez said in a written statement to the newspaper.

Those regulations allow players to spend eight hours a week on mandatory workouts during the offseason. However, players told the Free Press that they have spent two to three times that amount on required workouts.

The players also said the amount of time they spent on football activities during the season exceeded the weekly limit of 20 hours and often exceeded the daily limit of four hours.

A current member of the Michigan football team, who has started, also told ESPN his in-season Sundays at the football facility lasted from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., although he acknowledged the first two hours were spent in treatment, which is not counted against the restricted hours.

The player said this season players will be off on Sundays, practicing on Mondays.

The player said he worked out about twice as many hours as the allotted eight per week in the offseason. He asked strength coaches why the workouts seemed excessive and was told that some parts of the exercises, such as core work and injury prevention, were not counted as required.

The player said the strength coach told him that the workout plan had been approved by the NCAA.

Players told the Free Press that the quality-control staff often watched seven-on-seven offseason scrimmages that are supposed to be voluntary and that only training staff are allowed to attend.

The school can argue that many activities do not count toward the NCAA's allotment. For instance, voluntary individual workouts that are not supervised by coaching staff members do not count. However, those activities may be monitored for safety purposes by the school's strength and conditioning personnel.

The Free Press said five of the 10 current or former players it interviewed gave similar accounts of how the program is run and a sixth player confirmed most of the descriptions. Other players gave a general idea of the program. None disputed the allegations, the newspaper said.

The players acknowledged they had signed forms stating NCAA rules had been followed and had not told the university's compliance department about their concerns. One player told the Free Press that athletes would get in trouble if they didn't sign.

Big Ten associate commissioner for compliance Chad Hawley told ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg that the conference would not conduct an independent investigation and would only be involved in an advisory capacity for any probe of this matter. Depending on the circumstances, the NCAA could still investigate.

Michigan was 3-9 last season -- Rodriguez's first year as head coach of the Wolverines -- and did not make it to the postseason, ending a 33-year streak.

Information from ESPN's Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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