Michigan set to defend football program
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez concedes he is nervous about this weekend's hearing with the NCAA.
He's not alone.
On Saturday, Rodriguez will join university president Mary Sue Coleman and athletic director Dave Brandon in Seattle for the meeting with NCAA officials.
The NCAA has accused Michigan of five major rules violations related to practices and workouts. School officials plan to challenge the allegation that Rodriguez failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance but accept responsibility for the other four allegations.
"We're all anxious," Rodriguez said Thursday night. "Everybody involved in the process -- the school administration, the coaches, the players -- we're all looking forward to having this next process, which is this weekend, completed. Then when the committee finishes with their conclusion, ending that whole thing."
Rodriguez led the Wolverines in a practice Friday, trying to keep the focus on the field as college football's winningest program prepares for the season opener at home against Connecticut on Sept. 4.
Michigan captain Steve Schilling said the team won't be distracted by Rodriguez's departure for the NCAA hearing.
"He's not going to have to miss any practice time, so that won't affect us," Schilling said. "Most of the guys by now have forgotten about that or put it on the back burner. It's been going on for so long, and it's coming to an end."
The problems started nearly a year ago when the Detroit Free Press reported that the Rodriguez-led program was exceeding NCAA limits on practice and training time, leading to school and NCAA investigations.
The school admitted in May it was guilty of four violations. It reprimanded Rodriguez and six other people and announced self-imposed sanctions, including two years of probation. Michigan also said it would cut back practice and training time by 130 hours over two years, double the amount of time it exceeded NCAA rules.
It also trimmed the number of assistants -- the so-called quality-control staff -- from five to three and banned them from practices, games or coaching meetings for the rest of 2010.
Michigan hopes the NCAA agrees the school punished itself enough and agrees with its defense of its embattled coach, who is 8-16 in two disappointing seasons.
The school had a mock hearing to get prepared for the private session at a Seattle hotel with the NCAA infractions committee. It expects to spend much of the hearing defending the allegation against the coach.
After the hearing, Michigan will likely have to wait six to eight weeks to have the case closed -- barring an appeal.
Rodriguez had his team practice in pads for the first time this season Friday morning, gave players Saturday off, and scheduled two workouts for Sunday.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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