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College Sports, Division I, Education

Highlights from Excerpt of New Book on Michigan Football Program: The NCAA Investigation and Rodriguez

The Detroit News is running an interesting series of excerpts from a new book, “Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football,” by John U. Bacon and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. The book provides insight on former University of Michigan athletic director Bill Martin’s “rocky search to find Lloyd Carr’s successor, which eventually led Martin to Rich Rodriguez”. The book also looks into Michigan’s NCAA enforcement investigation with the following notations:

  • During the internal investigation, Michigan’s then-compliance director, Judy Van Horn, initially conducted interviews of the coaches, staffers and student-athletes, which was described in the book as “a clear conflict of interest, since the quality of her performance was one of the central questions to be answered. Yet she did not stop the practice until Rodriguez’s lawyer — not the university’s or the NCAA’s — insisted that the U-M and NCAA lawyers should conduct the interviews”.
  • Van Horn informed investigators that she “wish” she told Rodriguez about the missing countable athletically-related activities forms. The book claims “if she had, it’s doubtful that the former director of football operations, Brad Labadie, would have been allowed to fail to submit them for more than a year, that a university audit would have been deemed necessary, and that Detroit Free Press reporters would have learned about the situation, prompting their FOIA request — and sparking the bigger story, and the NCAA investigation that followed”.
  • The NCAA enforcement staff or Michigan’s investigators failed to obtain crucial information from the only coaches Rodriguez kept from Carr’s staff, running backs coach Fred Jackson and strength coach Jim Plocki. Specifically, investigators did not interview Plocki. Further, investigators failed to “asked Jackson, or anyone else, about anything before 2008, including policies and practices that had been constant throughout”.
  • A “football administrator discovered on his university computer the resume of one of Carr’s quality control people, Tom Burpee”. Burpee “boasted about all the coaching his role required, one of the very NCAA rules Rodriguez’s regime was being accused of violating”. Rodriguez submitted the information, but to “his surprise, no one cared. Burpee’s claims of coaching were assumed to be simple resume padding — and the NCAA agreed. No one ever considered the possibility that Burpee was telling the truth — which he was”. The book concluded the aim of the NCAA and Michigan was not to investigate the institution, but Rodriguez.

About Michael L. Buckner, Esquire

An attorney who provides clients with internal investigation, civil litigation, estate planning and compliance services.


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