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2009-11-17

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'U' audit finds football team didn't report practice logs, experts on NCAA rules say more trouble for program

Andre J. Jackson/AP
Rich Rodriguez addresses Free Press allegations at an Aug. 31 press conference. Buy this photo

By Gary Graca, Editor in Chief
and Kyle Swanson, Daily News Editor
Published November 16, 2009

A University audit released yesterday found the football team failed to turn in forms that track various athletic activities for the 2008-2009 academic year. And though University documents say the issue has been resolved, several experts have said they believe this seems likely to be the latest in a growing pile of problems the Athletic Department is facing.

Documents

Click above to read the memo to Michigan football coaches and officials

Click above to read the University's full statement regarding the audit

Click above to read the University's Intercollegiate Athletics NCAA Directed Review

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The audit, conducted by University Audits in partnership with the Athletics Compliance Services Office was completed on July 24 and came nearly a month before the Detroit Free Press published its report on Aug. 30 that alleged the football team violated rules governing practice time and off-season workouts.

The audit — the University’s annual compliance review — “did not observe any issues of non-compliance with NCAA rules and regulations,” but did find that the football team did not submit Countable Athletically Related Activities forms. Auditors stated that the failure to turn in these forms did not violate NCAA rules.

CARA forms, which are essentially practice logs, track the number of hours student-athletes spend on their sports and are used to track compliance with NCAA rules regarding countable practice hours. The forms are supposed to be submitted monthly by both the coaches and players, though the Athletic Department allows flexibility for larger teams. However, the audit stated the Michigan football team failed to submit its CARA forms in a timely manner.

In response to these findings, the auditors wrote a memorandum to head football coach Rich Rodriguez, Bradley Labadie, director of football operations, and Scott Draper, assistant athletic director for football operations, explaining the problem and urging the Athletic Department to correct it.

“Athletics should emphasize to the football program the importance of submitting CARA forms timely to ensure compliance with NCAA limits on athletically related activities,” the memo stated. “Athletics should also determine if the football programs process for completing CARA forms can be improved and assist if necessary.”

The memorandum ended by stating, “There will be no follow-up review for this issue and your response is not required.”

However, the University’s statement yesterday explained this statement in the memorandum, saying that “response to the issue was required and did occur” and that “forms are now turned in on a timely basis.”

In contrast to that statement from the University, an auditor’s note in the audit stated that, in fact, not all CARA forms have been turned in.

“Football out-of-season forms were submitted after the audit was completed and were therefore not reviewed by University Audits. Football regular-season CARA forms still have not been submitted,” auditors wrote in the report.

University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham declined to comment on the apparent discrepancy in a telephone interview yesterday, because of the ongoing investigations by the NCAA and the University.

It is unclear when off-season CARA reports were received, and the University’s statement does not explicitly address the matter.

At the time the allegations from the Free Press were published, Associate Director Judy Van Horn, the Athletic Department’s compliance officer, denied allegations of wrongdoing.

“We have not had any reason to self-report any violations in this area with any of our sports,” Van Horn said in a statement at the time.

Rodriguez and Athletic Director Bill Martin both denied allegations in August that the team had violated NCAA rules, saying they did not believe any wrongdoings had occurred.

The denials from Van Horn, Rodriguez and Martin came at a time when at least some of the CARA forms — the regular-season forms — had not been submitted for review.

Speaking to the audit’s limits with respect to the NCAA investigation, the University’s statement yesterday explained that the “audit does not identify where the system broke down and it did not identify any other areas of concern with respect to the football program.”

However, a report by the Free Press yesterday about the audit report quoted several experts who raised serious concerns about the Athletic Department’s operations in light of the report’s findings.

Josephine Potuto, a law professor at the University of Nebraska and former chairwoman of the NCAA’s committee on infractions said she didn’t believe compliance officers could effectively do their job without CARA reports.

“I find it very surprising if the compliance people didn’t know that the forms weren’t being submitted,” she told the Free Press. “One of the obligations of compliance is to collect those forms and review them.”

Michael Buckner, a lawyer from Florida who consults with universities during NCAA investigations, told the Free Press that if the University cannot produce evidence to convince the NCAA of its innocence, there could be much more trouble for the Athletic Department.

“The enforcement staff is going to be looking at whether the institution failed to monitor,” he told the Free Press.

Buckner continued by telling the Free Press that could be “a major violation.”

“It’s one step below lack of institutional control,” he told the newspaper.

A third expert quoted in a report by the Free Press yesterday, Mark Jones, a former NCAA enforcement supervisor, said the University’s lack of records was another piece of bad news for a program already under investigation by the NCAA.

“There always can be factors that can influence things that may not make them as bad as you think,” Jones told the Free Press. “But in the long run — still not good. No way getting around that.”

Today’s releases are the first major ones from the University since the Detroit Free Press published its report on Aug. 30. They come almost four weeks after the NCAA issued the University an official “notice of inquiry” — a procedural notice that the NCAA is moving forward with an investigation.

In today's statement, the University noted that the audit and an accompanying memorandum were provided to the NCAA "at the outset of its investigation."

According to the notice of inquiry, signed by David Prince, the NCAA’s vice president of enforcement, the NCAA investigation is focusing on possible violations that “primarily involve the matters under review by the institution and the enforcement staff concerning the football program.” The letter added, though, that the NCAA would consider information “that leads to expanded inquiries.”

According to the notice, the NCAA expects to complete its investigation by Dec. 31, 2009.

Speculation from many has focused on whether Rodriguez may be dismissed from his position as Michigan’s football coach if the NCAA allegations are found to be true. Though Rodriguez’s contract includes a penalty for early termination, it also includes a clause that would exempt the University from paying the penalty if he is found to have violated NCAA rules.

“If the Head Coach is determined by the NCAA, the Big Ten Conference, or the University to have committed a major violation of the NCAA Rules, or to have intentionally committed any other type of violation of the NCAA Rules, whether while employed by the University or during prior employment at another NCAA member institution, the employment of the Head Coach may be terminated as provided in Sections 4.02 and 4.03 of the Agreement,” the contract states.

"In no case shall the University be liable to Rodriguez for the loss of any Base Salary, Additional Compensation, collateral business opportunities or any other benefits, perquisites or income resulting from activities such as, but not limited to, camps, clinics, media appearances, television or radio shows, apparel or shoe contracts, consulting relationships or from any other sources that may ensue as a result of the University's termination for cause of Rodriguez' employment under this Agreement," section 4.03 of Rodriguez's contract states.