Michigan stands trial for NCAA claims
SEATTLE -- Rich Rodriguez walked briskly toward the escalator, ready to get out of a hotel ballroom and back on a plane to Michigan.
"Certainly glad this part of the process is over," Michigan's football coach said in his only comment Saturday afternoon after a 7½-hour hearing before the NCAA committee on infractions.
Rodriguez, athletic director David Brandon and school president Mary Sue Coleman were among a large contingent of Wolverines who spent most of Saturday holed up in a downtown hotel defending themselves against NCAA claims that Rodriguez failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the Michigan football program.
The hearing began about 8:30 a.m. local time and, with the exception of an hour break for lunch, continued until 4 p.m.
"We had a very fair and thorough hearing and we feel good about the fact we were given that opportunity," Brandon said. "And the process will continue and under the rules based on the process as it's been laid out we're going to be very quiet. We're going to go back, we're going to prepare for a great season, we're going to get focused on football and let the NCAA do their work."
And even though he was busy defending his athletic department, Brandon -- the former head of Dominos Pizza -- found time to have an order of pizza delivered to the media waiting out the hearing.
Coleman did not speak after the hearing.
Brandon, Rodriguez and Coleman were among the first of the Michigan contingent to arrive in the hotel ballroom around 8 a.m. local time. Dressed in a dark suit with a Michigan pin, Brandon gave a "good morning gang," as he entered the room.
They were followed by as many as 12 boxes of material being brought into the hearing.
"When you have never done something before you never know what it's going to be like. We were very well prepared, our representatives, our internal counsel, our legal counsel we brought in, our specialists, everybody did a great job preparing us for what took place in there," Brandon said. "We went in there with a lot of confidence and a clear understanding of what our objectives were and as I said we got a very fair and open hearing."
The NCAA has accused Michigan of five major rules violations related to practices and workouts. The allegations came after a Detroit Free Press report that led to investigations by the school and the NCAA.
The school admitted in May it was guilty of four violations, but spent Saturday challenging the allegation that Rodriguez failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
Michigan will likely have to wait six to eight weeks to have the case closed -- barring an appeal.
When it admitted guilt in May, the school imposed it's own punishments. 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. Rodriguez is 8-16 in two disappointing seasons.
The school had a mock hearing to get prepared for the private session with the NCAA infractions committee.
"It's not an ambush thing at all, it's not really the nature of the process," Brandon said. "It was very collegial and professional and everybody was given a handful of opportunity to express their views, as it should be."
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