Saturday, August 29, 2009

Detroit Free Press: U-M Football breaking training rules is linking to a major sports investigative piece by the Detroit Free Press on alleged training abuses by the new U-M football coach. Direct link to the Freep story here.

Have to wonder if some of the old Ann Arbor News staff (i.e. Jim Carty) might have broken this story if they or others were still on the staff. Kind of embarrassing to have the Free Press break a major story that occurred in's back yard.


Anonymous said...

Isn't this the second time very recently the Freep has broken a U-M football story on's home turf?

Anonymous said...

I hate you.

Jim of L-Town said...

I'm leaving the above comment, although my first impression was to reject it.

If you have reflections on the article or the topic, please feel free to express it.

In the future, comments like the one above will not be posted. You are free to disagree with me or any post, but a comment like Anonymous 1:57 adds nothing to the debate.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, you just get your butt beat even in your backyard. And it's not like the Freep is in foreign territory here. A large staff with good contacts (something AA News had back in the day) can break this story. A new staff with virtually no UM football reporting background just isn't going to get it done.

The linking, or aggregating as the web folks call it, is appropriate in this case because there's not a damn thing they can do to match it. ESPN, Fox Sports and all other sports media websites are doing the same thing, as is expected.

Now, if this keeps happening then the folks have a problem.

Jim of L-Town said...

Anonymous 8:55:

I agree with you and that's my point. By losing your former staff through buyouts, layoffs, etc. you have left yourself vulnerable even in your backyard.

For the record, I'm not blaming the new sports staff at, but the folks at Booth and Ann Arbor News and who eviscerated their former staff is where I would think the problem lies.

The difference between ESPN, Fox Sports, etc. is that Ann Arbor is not their backyard.

Anonymous said...

"I hate you"? Yeah, Jim, it's your fault they got their butts kicked.

Anonymous said...

So far, there's nothing I've seen on that shows the company would attempt anything like the Freep story.

Sad. Though I'm waiting to be convinced will become something other than food and parenting blogs.

Anonymous said...

First of all there is no "breaking story" to scoop. This is the biggest non-story I've ever seen. It amounts to a few disgruntled (mostly FORMER) players complaining that they had to put in too much time at Schembechler Hall. There is no proof of any wrongdoing on the part of UM or its football staff nor did Rosenberg uncover any.

Ever since Rich Rodriguez came to Michigan, Michael Rosenberg has been grinding his axe. This is nothing more than a journalistic hack job to create a stir, sell some newspapers and drive traffic to their website. It is disgusting and fails to meet any reasonable level of acceptable journalism. They ran this as their front-page story on a Sunday. You’ve got to be kidding me. A few kids - some who have since left the program - cried to Rosenberg that they were practicing too much. Good grief. Call the FBI!! Get homeland security on the case ASAP!!

I’m hearing rumors that Rosenberg may be leaving the Freep soon (before they close their doors) and he wants to pad his resume. That’s all this is.

Jim of L-Town said...

Anonymous 1:27:

First, I'm guessing you are a Michigan football fan.

Second, you complain about the Free Press use of sources and then add this:

"I’m hearing rumors that Rosenberg may be leaving the Freep soon (before they close their doors) and he wants to pad his resume. That’s all this is."

And who are these "rumors" coming from, former Free Press staffers, disgruntled readers, you didn't bother to mention.

You just did the same thing you complained about Rosenberg doing.

I'm sure this goes on at other universities, probably in a more subtle manner, but the REAL point is that Rich Rod has lost a large enough portion of this team that they are willing to go to the press.

Where student athletes are reasonably happy they probably grin and bear the "Torture Tuesdays" and being called out of class to work out, but it appears there is a disconnect between the coach and many of his players at Michigan.

How many transfers have there been?

Don't shoot the messenger.I'll bet if they were writing about Tressel or OSU you'd be loving it.

inky said...

Wow, see what happens when you push all the "grizzled old vets" out the door? You get your butt kicked on a story in your own back yard. This isn't isolated to Ann Arbor; Flint got pasted by the Detroit News -- the Detroit paper most likely to close, NOT the Freep -- on a sports story it should have had.

Then the mighty intellectuals at Pravda/Ann decide the best way to handle the embarrassment of getting beat is to remove critical comments by readers.

But what really blows my mind is the "I hate you" reaction of Anonymous 1:57. Seriously pal, please come up out of the basement and get some help.

Anonymous said...

Jim, I'm an anonymous poster on a message board. Don't you think the Freep should be held to a higher standard than this? I don't have the ability to put my thoughts and rumors I've heard on the front page of the Detroit Free Press (which ESPN subsequently picked up and blasted across the airwaves).

At any rate, here is an article from MSU's own website. A Freshman QB chronicles his time in training camp. Note the second paragraph.

A typical day consists of showing up for meetings as early as 7:30 a.m. and being dismissed after our final meeting at 9:30 p.m. In those 14 hours, we have meetings, practice, lunch, more meetings, film sessions, dinner and meetings.

Oh my God!! If they are practicing 14 hours on Sunday and NCAA rules dictate that you can only practice 20 hours a week... They must only conduct football-related activities for one hour per day the rest of the week. I'm sure Rosenberg is blazing a trail to East Lansing to get to the bottom of this.

In the original article Rosenberg cited an anonymous source that Michigan players were at the facility for 10 hours on Sunday. Apparently MSU is going 4 hours longer. Do you think there will be an article on the front page of the Sunday paper about that?

So far the only player to go on the record is Toney Clemons who transferred out of the program this past off-season. You ask how many transfers there have been. There have been the average amount there is at every program including Michigan under Lloyd Carr. That's how many. So far not a single player recruited by RR has transferred out of the program (although one player has been dismissed from the team).

You are absolutely correct in that the biggest issue here is that there are malcontents on the team who chose to go outside the program to air their greivances. That does not amount to possible MAJOR NCAA violations as the Freep repeats over and over.

As to whether I'd like it if it happened to osu.... I'd relish the negative publicity but just like every knowledgeable college football fan, I'd realize that the charges are pretty week, have no teeth, are impossible to prove, and will fade away as soon as shoe meets leather this Saturday afternoon.

Anonymous said...

Inky, I'm still wondering what story was "scooped" by the Freep. Isn't it possible that the disgruntled player called Rosenberg? It wouldn't be too hard to put together a story at that point. Just call other players who didn't like the new staff and left the program. Use some anonymous quotes and, bam, you have a front page story for the Sunday paper.

Jim of L-Town said...

Anonymous 12:19:

I read the entire MSU diary you sent and nowhere does it say the 14 hour day was a Sunday.

It also doesn't give a schedule as to what goes on all day, or how long lunch and dinner is and if that counts as part of the "practice" time.

That said, if MSU is violating the NCAA rules, it too should be investigated.

The difference is apparently, if you believe the Free Press story, that 10 student athletes, current and former, and at least four parents from current and former players talked to the Free Press and apparently no one from MSU has talked to the Free Press.

From my experience, this is a story that likely started with someone approaching the Free Press reporter and not the other way around.

As to the use of anonymous sources, I don't like them. I always tried not to use them, but in some cases it is the only way to get a story because of fear of reprisals.

Do you honestly think there wouldn't be some form of reprisals from a football coach to a player who blew the whistle?

But, I will grant you anonymous sources hurt the overall credibility of the story.

We'll all just have to wait for the results of an independent NCAA investigation (I surely don't trust Martin to conduct a fair one). Until then, I'll reserve judgement on the facts of the case.

It is still a good story.

Anonymous said...

It also doesn't give a schedule as to what goes on all day, or how long lunch and dinner is and if that counts as part of the "practice" time.

And niether does the Rosenberg peice. He just cobbled up some complaints from former players and duped a couple of freshmen on the team into saying the wrong thing.

I guess that's what happens when you let an opinion columnist act as a reporter. Is that good journalistic practice?

This will be a quick internal investigation that has the full support of the Big Ten and the NCAA. This story will be dead in a few days. The training program they use for off-season workouts and fall camp had already been green-lighted by the NCAA compliance office before hand. There is simply nowhere to go with this.

Rosenberg's intent was simply to smear the University of Michigan, locally and nationally, and make a name for himself. He has succeeded on both counts. I wonder how long it will be before he's blogging for

inky said...

Anonymous 12:23: The majority of news stories break into two camps -- those covering public occurrances or announcements there for the taking(like fires, government meetings, pressers, etc.) and those that are uncovered through diligent beat reporting (called enterprise or investigatory), which would include tips. Most journalists who are "tipped off" have deep beat relationships that result in the tip.

So what the Freep "scooped" on is an enterprise/investagatory story. The Freep's Kwame Kilpatrick coverage is a good example: The Freep did not get this story by waiting for the ex-mayor to release his text messages; they got a tip that there were some very incriminating ones out there and aggressively sought them. The rest is Pulitzer history.

After the wet kisses the "Fab Five" UM basketball program got from a different Freep columnist who has since gone Hollywood, I'm sure it's hard to fathom that another columnist could take on something so sacred as UM football. If Rosenberg screwed up, then it'll be revealed sooner vs. later. But I know the Freep has excellent lawyers and for this to pass both an editorial and legal review, there must be something to it.

Jim of L-Town said...

The difference is Anon that you have players and their families providing additional information and allegations that you don't have (so far) with the MSU program.

I agree with you that an independent investigation should clear this up quickly.

But I don't think you can blame the columnist listening to the complaints of people on and recently on the team.

It would be journalistic malpractice to do otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Jim, you are accusing anon 1:27 of being a fanboy as the reason for his defensiveness. Maybe you're right, maybe he's a die-hard UM fan and that's all that's fueling this.

But let's talk about your biases for a second: first, you love that got scooped on this because, and I a may be mistaken here, you may not be the biggest fan of the content director there.

Is that perhaps blinding you to some of the shoddy reporting that went on here?

First, in the original Rosenberg piece, there are no quotes from players currently in the program who like the training regimen, are comfortable with it or think that it’s within NCAA parameters.

Maybe they don't exist, you say? Well, ESPN found one. The Detroit News got one. And got a former player who says the 20-hour thing was beyond unattainable while he was at UM under Lloyd Carr (

Now, it could still be a violation, but shouldn't that context have been part of the equation? You, as the diligent reporter you like to remind people you were, would have looked pretty hard for the other side before running with such a potentially damning story, right? Or if you couldn’t find the other side would have put somewhere in the story the exhaustive measures you went to looking for it that ultimately came up short?

What about the fact that the lone on-the-record player, a freshman, quoted in the piece feels he was misled?

Sure, it's a common excuse for sources to say they were misquoted. But, as you said in one of your comments, this story probably came about as a result of tips, i.e. not many people, especially the coaches or players, probably knew for sure that it was being looked into. So if a reporter goes up to a freshman athlete and is asking them to describe what a typical day is like for them or how college football is different than high school, said athlete describes it, then the quotes run in an investigative story about practice time violations, is that ethical? Shouldn't a reporter up front at least give a source some hint as to what the story he or she is working on is about? It doesn’t appear that happened in this case.

Maybe it's the athlete’s fault for not asking more questions himself, but again, he is a freshmen. There is probably a reason that the reporters of this story targeted freshmen rather than juniors or seniors who are more experienced with media.

If it's fair for newspapers to do investigations like this -- and don't get me wrong, I believe that it's fair -- why isn't it fair to thoroughly question how the reporter gathered information, who was talked to or why were they talked to rather than other potential sources?

Anonymous said...

sorry, had to do it in two parts:

This blog is often about blasting newspaper management for its lack of transparency (among other things). And sure, that's certainly valid. But don't kid yourself -- reporters, the perception that they often act unethically in order to get a more provocative story and on top of it, get all arrogant and "journalism is essential to a democracy"-ish when their methods are called into question is a major problem credibility problem. I get why anonymous sources are sometimes necessary, but most likely, some of these players are players who have transferred out of the program. Do they deserve the same anonymity that say a public official who faces potential death threats for talking would get? They are football players who left a program because they clashed with a coach. Sure, if a current player is talking and could face repercussions, give him anonymity. A transferred player though? In that case, it would seem to me that anonymity might encourage them to have more license to exaggerate.

What about an explanation of what goes on at other programs? There are a couple cursory quotes from MSU players who say “of course this doesn’t happen here.” But I’d be willing to bet that it happens anywhere where there is a powerful football team. Can you talk other coaches? Other players at different Big Ten schools? I’m sure the Freep can get the access. Did you try and get nowhere? If so, why doesn’t that go into the story?

MGoBlog, written by a guy who is hands down better than any college sports beat reporter in the state (yet no newspaper saw fit to pursue him, let alone hire him because "he's not a classically trained journalist," only to see his blog explode and now get a million or so uniques a month), has an insanely good recap of all this, posted throughout the day, including footage he shot himself at Rich Rod’s presser (yeah … some reporters shoot their own videos for stories well making considerably less than most of the one-dimensional buyout recipients) and even a short transcription of an exchange he had with Rosenberg at the presser, if anyone cares to read up.

Maybe the Freep reporters have airtight proof on this, making them comfortable to run with it. But the whole “we have to keep certain facts about the newsgathering process/sources secret” immediately makes this and other investigations like it open to criticism. Management doesn’t like transparency, in general, but a lot of reporters don’t much care for it either.

Jim of L-Town said...

First, I think I said I would reserve judgement on the outcome pending an independent investigation.

I also said, the anonymity of most of the stories hurts the credibility.

I also said if others are doing the same thing, even my favorite team MSU, they should be subject to the same probe.

Not being a fan of UM football I have never read the blog you cite, but I'll check out your link and get back to you on that. Don't know if they guy is a down the middle journalist or a 'homer' just don't know.

But if you're doing a story on a college football team, you don't have much choice but to talk to young players inexperienced with the media.

That is, after all, who makes up the team.

I'll check out your link and get back.

Anonymous said...


I need to clarify an earlier post where I linked the freshman blog entry on the MSU website. I didn't mean to imply that they are breaking the rules in East Lansing. In fact, I'm sure they're not. Just like rules are not being broken in Ann Arbor.

Here's two quotes, one from a Michigan freshman and one from a Spartan freshman regarding their first training camp in major college football:

"Stokes (UM) - "Hooooo!" Stokes said. "A typical week is working from 8 a.m. in the morning to 6 or 7 at night, Monday through Saturday."

Maxwell (MSU) - "A typical day consists of showing up for meetings as early as 7:30 a.m. and being dismissed after our final meeting at 9:30 p.m. In those 14 hours, we have meetings, practice, lunch, more meetings, film sessions, dinner and meetings."

The first quote was used by Rosenberg as "confirmation" of the rule violations when the kid had no idea what the writer's motive was.

The second quote was offered up unsolicited on MSU's own website but nobody from the Free Press thought that was necessary to look into. After all, who sells more newspapers, UM or MSU? Smearing which school gets you all over ESPN? The same article could be written on 100 different schools in the country right now but that doesn’t mean anybody is actually breaking the rules. Like Rich Rodriguez said in his presser today, “Do you think I left my brain in West Virginia?”

Another point in which I'm interested in your opinion is the placement of the article. Michigan "Practicegate" was the lead story on Sunday. Do you know what was NOT the lead story on Sunday? An article about how GM has transferred the bulk of its centralized power to Beijing, China. GM's worldwide operations now receive their marching orders from China not Detroit. Do you think that might be more relevant for the Detroit Free Press to run as a top story or a very shoddy, unethical, smear job about a football team practicing too much?

I've seen you blast people in the past for burying better stories and letting the sensationalized crap receive premier placement. I cannot think of a more egregious example than this.

And for the record, yes, I am a huge Michigan fan and will defend them when they are unfairly attacked. I also have spoken to or exchanged emails and posts with fans/alumni of SEC schools, ohio state and Michigan State who agree this is a bunch of nothing and laugh it off. It's called "Big Boy" football.

Jim of L-Town said...

OK, I think we found an area of agreement. Call me a news snob, but I have never liked this area's fixation on all things sports.

I'm a big Red Wings fan, but I'm always amazed when they win the Stanley Cup, it usually takes up all of Page 1 and then all of the Front Sport Page.

Sports is entertainment. Life goes on whether teams win or lose. So I will agree with you that its prominent placement as the lead story, I'm not in agreement with.

I think the larger point, the one that I have tried several times to unsuccessfully make, I guess, is that it says something about the coach and his leadership that so many players have stepped out to smear him. That doesn't bode well, or at least it doesn't seem to bode well, for team unity.

Other teams may be doing exactly the same thing, but they don't have 10 or more players going public, anonymously or otherwise, complaining about the coaching staff.

I think THAT is the story.

UM completely bungled the whole changing of the guard thing when they dumped Carr and then had the Les Miles, etc. thing.

But we'll keep watching and see how things develop.

Anonymous said...

Jim, I think that, having read other accounts (including the excellent M Go-Blog), the Freep story was overplayed. There may be a technical violation of the rules here and if so, Michigan should be punished. But given the murkiness of the workout rules, and the fact (verified by accounts from many schools) that other top and not so top programs are guilty of the same infractions, the story was not, IMHO, that big of a deal.

There is a whiff of a columnist out to get a coach and of a desperate paper trying to sell sports on the front page. And I say that as a long-time Michigan fan and graduate who is not that happy with the Rodriguez regime or how he came to Michigan.

The Freep did a great job with the Kilpatrick stories. It's too bad that their second big "exclusive" is not really worth the ink they splashed over it.

However, I appreciate your restraint in covering the story. So many other Spartan fans are drooling.

Anonymous said...

Other teams may be doing exactly the same thing, but they don't have 10 or more players going public, anonymously or otherwise, complaining about the coaching staff.

I think THAT is the story.

I agree to a certain extent. Where I'm not sure I agree is with regard to the "10" players. I've read where Rosenberg says he used 5 or 6 former players and 2 current ones. The two current players, both incoming freshmen, were completely duped, felt horrible and went to the coach's office the next day to explain what had happened. They asked RR what they did wrong and he told them the truth: Nothing. The wrongdoing is solely on Mr. Rosenberg's shoulders and that will most likely be dealt with at some point in the future.

As for the former players, they all signed up to play for Lloyd Carr. Several transferred for various reasons after the new staff came in and I have no problem with that. I wish them well at their new universities. As to why some of them feel the need to grind an axe I cannot say. I do know that Carr and RR are very different kinds of coaches and that RR is more demanding. All of the public sources (of which I believe there is just one) and the "odds-on-favorite" tattlers were passed over for starting positions after RR became coach. They either didn't fit the system or didn't put in enough effort.

At any rate, there is a weeding out process that occurs whenever a new coach takes over a program. Some people may recall a guy named Bo Schembechler. He had so many people quit after he took over he put up a sign that remains to this day: "Those who stay will be champions". Someone who quit the team due to the new emphasis on physical training wrote on the sign "Those who don't will be doctors, lawyers and other successful people". I still get a kick out of that.

Jim of L-Town said...

The Michigan football story is like a journey of 100 days, we are at day 2. Everyone should wait and see what comes out of an independent investigation.

But I'm not in the camp that believes this is a story fueled by a sports writer out to bring down a coach he dislikes. Sorry, just not going to buy that.

It could very well be that it is a story fueled by disgruntled current and former players who are out to bring down a coach they dislike, but as a former beat reporter you go where the sources take you.

Many of my good investigative sources came from a whispered anonymous tip in a hallway. As I went forward with the story I sometimes was lambasted by folks for it, but you just follow leads where they take you.

As far as not piling on, as a Spartan fan and a student in the late 1970s I remember the glee my Michigan friends had when MSU found itself in hot water at that time. Including not being able to go to the Rose Bowl even after finishing tied for first and beating Michigan in 1978.

If only my Michigan friends had been as kind......

Anonymous said...

This story is already dying. After the glee of dragging Michigan through the mud for a couple days has worn off and the facts of the matter come to light, a completely different picture is emerging - that of a hack journalist who made a mountain out of a molehill.

Jim, do you know that some of the ex-players Rosenberg used also didn't know the intent of the article? They simply described how much time they used to put in and Rosenberg took it upon himself to surmise that there MUST be rules violations in there somewhere. There just happens to be a major flaw in his "story". He never made the distinction between countable and non-countable hours. A player is free to work out 80 hours a week if he likes. Some of the better players, such as Terrance Taylor (used by Rosenberg) busted their butts to improve their NFL draft status. It had nothing to do with RR standing over them with a whip.

From the UM's perspective they have done everything the right way and there is a paper trail to prove it.

1) The training schedules had been approved by the NCAA compliance office.

2) Every player on the team signed a statement that they practice within the NCAA regulations. (Weather this is akin to a "hostage video" is moot. Every player signed it and it is a paper trail that favors the university)

3) UM's NCAA compliance officer made numerous spot-checks during off-season workouts to make sure nobody from the coaching staff was observing 7 on 7 drills, etc. They found not a single violation and it is documented as such.

Rosenberg has the testimony of Toney Clemons who transferred to Colorado last year and probably doesn't understand what constitutes counted and uncounted hours. The rest of his quotes seem to come from people whom he misleads under false pretenses.

Rosenberg is slime and will probably have to account for all this in the future.

As for the investigation, expect the university to release a statement in a couple of months essentially saying "We have investigated, along with an independent firm, accusations made by a local newspaper. We found the football program to be in compliance with all NCAA regulations. We consider the case closed." The Big Ten and NCAA with accept their statement and that will be the end of it unless the U wants to go after the Freep.

Jim of L-Town said...

People hear in a story what they want to hear. I've seen the ebb and flow of these stories before, so I prefer to wait and not guess what is going to happen.

You seem to have solid information on the motives of everyone involved, but you too have given no sources for your information.

As to whether players were "misled" there is always the chance they are now regretting what they did and are turning it around. I just don't know.

I don't put much countenance into whether players signed or didn't sign compliance papers. I used to have to account for my time at a job (log book) and most of it was fiction and everyone knew it. It was for compliance purposes only.

A fair investigation should clear things up, but I try not to be a fan or an anti-fan in these cases because it clouds my judgement.

If you are looking at the story as "it can't be true because my hopes are high for my team" then your view of everything about it will be clouded.

Same for those folks who hate Michigan, they will accept every bad allegation as truth.

Again, I just don't know. But I'm willing to wait to see what does, or doesn't, develop.

Anonymous said...

The more this develops, the more it looks like it will be Snyder and Rosenberg who are screwed in the end.

I wonder how many subscriptions the Freep is losing over this fiasco. There is an awful lot of message board chatter about people canceling and I've seen some posts where people have called the corporate offices of Freep advertisers to let them know they will not purchase their products as long as they advertise in the Freep.

By Snyder and Rosenberg's own admission they used 6 sources. One is Toney Clemons, who transferred to Colorado, and last night he released a statement through that university that he never wanted to be quoted and that he does not want to be involved.

Another former player is Terrance Taylor who was interviewed last year while he was trying to get in better shape to improve his NFL draft status. He indicated how much time he was putting in (long days, 8-10 hours) and never was asked whether Michigan violated NCAA regulations. The authors took it upon themselves to ASSUME there must have been.

The ONLY TWO current players used in the story are two true freshmen interviewed by Snyder. The writer admitted on TV that he did not tell the kids what the story was about. He simply asked them to describe a typical day in training camp.

That leaves two other anonymous former players. Given the tales of the previous 4, it is safe to assume they either were mislead by Snyder/Rosenberg or were bitter over their time in the Michigan football program.

Still, the biggest hole in the story - one so big it makes the whole thing collapse - is that the issue of countable and non-countable hours is never brought up by the writers. They state that there is a 20-hour per week maximum during the season and that players routinely "worked" much longer than that which is absolutely TRUE. The problem is how much of that work is voluntary vs. involuntary. It is common knowledge and practice among every football program in America that you need to exceed the minimum if you want to excel - much like any other job in life. Those players put in a lot of extra effort that does not count against NCAA regulations but the authors conveniently left that part out. I guess they didn't want to defeat their own argument.

I hope their job search is going well.

truthiness said...

1. The Free Press writers were not obliged to tell the students what they were writing about and the students apparently were too stupid to ask. Either the program is in compliance or it's not.

2. Advertiser boycotts rarely work, especially when organized by whining homers.

3. I'm not surpised that the player in Colorado is changing hi story, re: his decision to talk to the media. He's probably getting the cold shoulder now that he's been tagged a "snitch."