Michigan’s Intentionally Incoherent Response to NCAA – And Morris Takes a Fall

—  Of “Quality-Out-of-Control” Staffers, Too Many Practices and Coaches, Lay-Downs, The Big Fib, Intentional Incoherence, The Head Coach in the Compliance Bubble, ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Compliance, Code of Silence, The Big Ugly Fear, Theory of Inattentions, RR’s Hip-Pocket Guys, Martin & Labadie Go To Chicago, and Morris’ Tiny Fib On the Way Out the Door —

[Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon’s  April 26, 2010 letter terminated UM football great Jamie Morris’ employment with the University of Michigan.]

“MORRIS?” I exclaimed, when a friend of mine called. “Morris? – he must have stolen something, right?”

“No,” he told me, “you can’t” –and I interrupted him –“NO-body fires Morris. Who did it?”

“Brandon,” he said, “read the letter, it’s on annarbor.com.”

Heart-wrenching. That pulsating, horrible termination letter from AD David Brandon to UM Football icon Jamie Morris. It makes you want to wretch. Winsome Morris. He was one of the best. Ever.

I read the letter, first thinking: Couldn’t we have cut Morris a little more slack? Has he not built up enough capital with us all to last a lifetime? But there was more there than meets the eye, I realized – because I had read the entire UM and Rich Rod (“RR”) NCAA Filings of May 25, 2010 – every word, every Exhibit – that Brandon’s figurative pen on April 26 was driven down that termination letter by a long series of events and major forces which don’t, at first blush, appear to have had much relation to Jamie Morris’ job. It must have seared Brandon’s gut to do it, but Brandon had been caught, already, in his own tangled web, and had to knife Morris.

The tip-off was that the driver of the “Loaner Car” in the April 14 accident was a UM Football “Quality Control” Staffer… I mean … Coach… I mean…. Staffer…I mean … Coach.

If you’ve even half-heartedly followed the investigation of UM Football, the six “QC” (“Quality-Out-of-Control” might be a better name, in light of the admitted violations) guys might seem familiar, since their activities were central to the charges that UM had too many coaches and too much practice time. And you might have correctly sensed that UM’s response to the NCAA was largely a “Lay-Down“, in which UM admitted – right out of the box – to four of the five Allegations. UM and RR both admitted that the QC “Staffers” were “sometimes” acting as coaches, and both admitted to too much practice time. (Just so you know, “CARA” are practice time logs.) Both nonetheless denied that RR failed to “promote an atmosphere of compliance” in his program, while UM admitted that its’ Athletic Department failed to “adequately monitor” Football practice time and coach-number issues.

But UM’s response to the only “contested” Allegation – that RR “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance” – immediately startles you. In fact, you arrive at that section, more than halfway through the UM brief, thinking that the real thunder will surely now roll. Instead, what do you find? – A Two-sentence defense:

1) “The record reflects that RR has been committed to rules compliance in the football program and the academic success of student athletes at the University.” A booming, fatuous platitude. No facts recited; no citations to the record. So you wonder, well, maybe that’s just the “topic sentence” (you think that’s what that Angell Hall prof called it) and here it comes now, a long 60-page dissection of the evidence in support of this grand defense on the most important issue. But it never comes:

2) “As the interviews of the athletics staff members establish, RR has been responsive to direct requests from the (Compliance Office) and academic support staffs.” Huh? That’s all? “Responsive?” to “direct” requests? What’s that supposed to mean? Which “staff members” are they referring to? No facts? No citations to the record? No quotes? Thousands of man-hours devoted to UM’s investigation and defense on these NCAA charges (a half-million dollar legal bill)– and this is the entire defense, on the only contested issue?

After you’ve picked your jaw off the floor, you think: It’s a “fake-out” defense, sort of a Tom Brady bootleg on offense, except that UM’s is artless — and we’re supposed to be on defense. So, you ask, why do this? Why this “Big Fib” defense? Why didn’t UM just admit up front that RR didn’t promote an “atmosphere of compliance?” Why be coy with the NCAA?

Then you review the whole record more carefully, and it strikes you there were probably some very good substantive reasons:

1) There is no objective evidence showing that RR did anything whatsoever to “promote an atmosphere of Compliance.” Zero. Even his own attorney, in the RR Filing, can hardly point to one affirmative policy, practice, procedure, meeting, statement, or symbol of compliance encouragement- much less enforcement- which was triggered by RR for the two year period. The best he can do is cite some flummery from Bill Martin that he knew RR to be a “straight shooter,” and then make some squeak-voiced quick reference to RR having attended a number of UM Compliance seminars — that squeaky voice, by all appearances, probably derived from the fact that a central lynchpin of the entire shameless RR defense is that he happened to have just “overlooked” the plain and endlessly-repeated topic-specific training he received in those Compliance seminars on most of these bylaw-violating activities his program engaged in.

Let’s take one example which shows RR’s (and Martin’s) bent toward discouraging Compliance: Even assuming the truth of RR’s loony claim he knew nothing about the failure of Brad Labadie (RR’s right-hand Director of Football Operations who worked directly under him in Schembechler Hall) to file daily Practice logs for 18 months, and that he (RR) first found out about those massive failures from the July 24, 2009 Audit Report, RR’s (and Martin’s) failure to fire Labadie, or demote him- on that very July 24, 2009 date – spoke volumes to RR’s Coaches and entire program, about “Atmosphere of Compliance.”  Everyone in the Football Program, and Athletics Department, was watching to see what would happen – what heads would roll – as a result of that very public Audit report released in late July 2009.  But nothing happened. Lessons were learned all across the Football Program and the Athletics Department that day: specifically, how little RR (and Martin) cared about Compliance – and, more accurately, how highly RR valued, throughout his tenure – any actions which serve to effectively gut the Compliance process (which is what the absence of Practice logs effectively did.) What the whole record in fact shows is an overweening de facto “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” compliance atmosphere engendered by RR, with Bill Martin’s acquiescence.

(Let’s just assume for a moment the truth of Labadie’s lame explanation for his failure to file CARAs for 20 months – that he was “afraid RR would be mad at him”: does this allegedly fearful environment “promote” Compliance?)

2) No objective reviewer can conclude that RR was a credible witness. When you scrub them down closely, RR’s long litany of excuses can only be seen as of the Middle-Schooler variety- and Bo would’ve laughed him out of the room. RR and his staff received so much repeated education from the Compliance staff, for example, – on the very topics which were the subject of violations (it’s all documented, there on the first page of Agendas for Rules Ed meetings Coaches attended over and over)- that RR’s long list of “didn’t knows”, “didn’t hears”, and “overlooked” contentions is not just beyond belief, but silly. And it’s worth noting that, sitting there with him the whole time at these many Compliance Seminars are his nine Assistant Coaches, paid like Governor Granholm (between $150 and $200K per year.) Aren’t they paid to pay attention in class? Or didn’t one or two occassionally look up from their Blackberrys? Anyone will grant the average guy a couple of “overlooked” excuses, but RR wants every inference to break his way. Only an NCAA with near-virginal naivete would allow every one of the RR excuses to slide him by. Who’s kidding whom?

3) AD Bill Martin, perhaps as much as RR, himself “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.” At least by January 2009, Martin clearly knew about and was actively (if this adjective can accurately be used to describe his essential “hide-in-the-bushes” approach) involved in “managing” the Practice Time and Coach-number issues. Martin certainly showed himself then, and throughout 2009 – until the Freep’s August 29 story – to have been in no particular hurry: almost nothing changed over those first nine months of 2009, as a result of Martin’s “direct” involvement — except that approximately half of UM’s admitted NCAA violations took place after January 2009. What Martin clearly fostered during those first nine months of 2009 (and before) was a “Code of Silence” throughout the department, meant to conceal the profound practice time and coach-number regulatory problems he should have immediately investigated and fixed in January.

In January 2009, for example, Martin neither ordered nor conducted any internal, Big Ten or NCAA investigation of the Coach-Number or Practice-Time issues, apparently hoping to force the issues back under-ground. For example, Martin knew of the upcoming annual UM Audit months long before its’ May 7 date, but did nothing to mandate that Practice data and records be in the Auditor’s hands by that date. Martin’s failure to act raises reasonable questions as to whether Martin’s real motivation was to strictly comply with NCAA and Big Ten rules, or to to do whatever he possible could to efficiently bury the entire problem (which itself raises not insignificant NCAA Bylaw 10.1 issues.) Why didn’t Martin go ballistic on January 8, call “All Hands on Deck”, and tell his Department that its’ highest priority is to get records and data within 10 days – and then personally and “directly” go to RR? We know Martin didn’t order anything close to an All Hands On Deck mandate; might that have been precisely because he actually did make a call or visit to RR in January, didn’t like what he learned, and then affirmatively chose to hide what he had learned from that visit? In fact, the most reasonable inference, in light of all circumstances, is that the August 2009 “leak” to the Freep was an “internal” one, from within Martin’s department, because someone perceived that Martin’s plan (successful to that date, despite the Audit) was to do whatever possible to bury the problems. But we’ll never know, because the UM Filing authors are, as usual, completely silent on these kinds of important questions.

So you realize that the UM Filing authors had nothing in the record to support any claim that RR promoted an atmosphere of compliance. You actually find this somewhat comforting, because it removes your doubt that the UM lawyers did their homework – in fact, they probably did review all the evidence in great detail. They are good lawyers, they’ve done the analysis, and they probably went to Coleman, Brandon, and Martin and told them: “Nothing: we’ve got no defense on this ‘Big A’ (Atmosphere} issue.”

But you still can’t figure out: Why, then, the “Big Fib” fake defense on the “Big A” question? If the UM Filing’s authors legitimately found that RR did nothing to promote an atmosphere of compliance, that his credibility was suspect, if not shot, and that Martin and RR instead promoted a de facto “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” compliance environment – then why not just admit that those things to the NCAA?

Perhaps the decision-making at this point was removed from the lawyers (no lawyer, after all, likes laying out a tiny two-sentence defense on the principal contested issue), and then veered toward emphasizing “political” and personal factors. Perhaps Brandon and Coleman intervened and exercised their authority. Perhaps Martin still had some influence on the lawyers and the Enforcement Staff. (This, in fact, is difficult to assess, since Martin has remained an employee of the Athletic Department up through, apparently, at least, this month, and the Administration has been coy about who really was the AD after December 2009.) Whoever made the decision, at first blush it appears obvious that it countermanded the weight of solid legal and factual analysis, and was a mandate that “UM will deny that RR failed to foster an atmosphere of compliance – Period.”

So, you muse, someone effectively told the lawyer minions to go slap a new two-sentence blue coat of paint on that Big Rock out there at Washtenaw and Hill, and then tell the NCAA that it is not — really — a — rock. And this mandate can be seen as having been rooted in someone’s desire, in light of the ponderous contrary evidence, to “protect” RR – and Bill Martin – with such a “Big Fib.”

But that’s not all of it, you realize, after you think about it overnight. There’s gotta be more to it than that. You review the chronology, the NCAA charges and the two Filings, and you again notice the portion of the RR Filing where RR makes that piping-hot charge about Martin, buried in the middle of his Filing (pp 4-28): he says that Martin knew when RR was hired that RR hired the QC guys, and that they would be “working with Strength staff.”  RR also quotes Labadie, quoting Draper, who said RR and Martin had “talked specifically about the new QC staff being hired to work administratively in the football offices and also to work with the strength staff on skill development.” (The Filing also refers, at p. 4-30 to Martin’s apparent denial that he hadd “knowledge about the hiring of the QC staff or whether they worked with Barwis and the strength staff.”)  The UM Filing never mentions, much less tries to resolve, this fundamental conflict.)

And then you figure it out: it wasn’t just the lawyers being blown off by Coleman, Brandon, Martin. It’s all of them – though Martin probably wasn’t in the room at this point, having been sent out the back door – sitting with the lawyers, and the lawyers laying out the stark reality: the evidence provides a good foundation for concluding that Bill Martin’s Athletics Department has lacked “institutional control.” Very serious stuff.

So you finally realize: the entire UM Filing is crafted by the lawyers with one fear in mind. And that fear is not, as you had originally assumed, of some finding by the NCAA that RR failed to promote a compliance atmosphere — because it is clear that the lawyers have told Coleman and Brandon that there is no chance that the NCAA will rule in favor of RR on that one. Instead, the big ugly fear which motivates the incoherent mess which is the UM brief, is that the NCAA might realize that there is plenty of foundation – based on the “Laissez-faire” compliance tone set by Bill Martin in running the entire Athletic Department – for concluding that there existed a “Lack of Institutional Control” as defined by NCAA bylaws.

Defining that big, ugly fear, with the Big Fib as its’ stake-in-the-ground, helps understand why the UM Filing incoherently careens around, as regards any attempt to candidly define causes, culpability and corrective actions. The UM Filing authors are spooked, and they are desperate to “hide the ball” which is Martin’s failure to do much of anything, either before or after January 2009, to prevent and fix significant compliance issues he knew about. In effect, the UM Filing is a tap dance, with top hat and rhinestoned black cane, meant to divert the NCAA from any consideration of the underlying “Lack of Institutional Control” problem.

Look at the structure of the Filing: for each of the four admitted allegations, UM admits, but then attempts to minimize, by asserting that each violation was “de minimis” (tiny.) But the size of the violation, in each of those portions of the charge, is entirely irrelevant: basically the fact-finder/judge reads off the charge, and then says: “Admitted or Denied?”. When UM says “Admitted,” and then starts to explain, the judge looks up and says, “Hey, save it for later,” and reads the next charge. It’s just not relevant. [The “de minimis” argument is relevant (though fundamentally wrong – for reasons which will be explained in another posting)  regarding the contested “Atmosphere of Compliance” question, but the UM Filing never raises the “de minimis” arguments in that context (!)]

So the entire UM Filing is founded on one “Big Fib” denial with alot of irrelevant prattle tacked on to the four admissions. Once you understand the paralyzing fear which struck UM Filing authors when they did their half-million dollar analysis (that Martin’s and RR’s failures raise a serious prospect of some finding of “lack of institutional control”), the UM Filing can be accurately seen as “Intentional Incoherence.” As regards the final “Corrective Action” section of the UM Filing, the alleged corrective elements are, as one might expect after an Intentionally Incoherent alleged “analysis,” feckless and quite random, and generate only faint hope that the operation will change. (More on those alleged “Corrective Actions in another post.)

Consistent with the notion that most untruths seem to reproduce and mutate like fruitflies, the Big Fib, combined with the Intentionally Incoherent tap dance, gave birth to a number of mutant, vacuous UM conclusions:

1) The “Causation Theory of Inattentions”: Including any disciplined analysis of all the evidence in their brief would have both quickly exposed the Big Fib, and also led the reader to question whether there existed an overall Lack of Institutional Control, so the UM Filing authors boldly decided to just leave it out. But their commitment to Hiding the Ball also necessitated choosing some empty, non-judgmental – and essentially useless – explanation as to overall cause. They found it. UM effectively just shrugged its’ institutional shoulders, and then mumbled that the the violations over the two years were all just the result of “Inattention” (that’s a combination, presumably, of inattention by many) — thereby not only failing to distinguish this lengthy, complicated set of events and violations from, say, having left the front door unlocked one night, but also,  more significantly, attempting to hide from the NCAA the reality of RR’s ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ compliance atmosphere, and the departmental paralysis caused by Bill Martin’s counter-productive ‘Code of Silence’ environment.

Blaming it all on “inattention” does nothing to help the NCAA understand the overall picture. It is as if UM is advertising a car for the NCAA to buy, telling them that it “runs good” and has “very few mechanical defects“, but also adding that, right now, it is “completely dismantled.” One should at least try to sell the the NCAA on a theory of causation and culpability which has been competently and completely assembled — and make it available for a test drive, so the NCAA can make its’ own assessment as to what corrections or repairs are needed.

2) The concocted notion that Compliance Chief Judy Van Horn has predominant culpability for failing to go “directly” to RR about the problematic issues. Apparently believing that it helps distract the NCAA, and to “prop up” the Big Fib, to vaguely suggest that there might have been some major culprit in all this (while still adhering to the ‘Inattentions’ Causation Theory), the UM Filing singles out CSO Chief Judy Van Horn, describing an odd “go directly to RR” duty which she allegedly violated. The best anyone can tell is that this means “go visit [RR] in person”, which – in this digital age, where CSO has repeatedly, endlessly communicated to RR – is not unlike admonishing Van Horn to be sure also to store her tin pail of fresh cow’s milk in the icebox.

And you wonder how and why they happened to focus on Van Horn as the allegedly most culpable person in bringing about the admitted violations. Of all the principal characters (RR, Martin, Labadie, Draper, Parker, Barwis, Van Horn), the record shows that JVH was the probably the least culpable. This is partially because Van Horn’s CSO operation (as seen in the long Timeline of Events) appears thorough, timely and persistent – but also because blaming Van Horn is somewhat like blaming the scarecrow for the the weeds which have overtaken the garden: alot of this is just not her function, and she can only do so much.

Besides, there was never any need for her to “go to RR”, because Labadie and Draper (RR’s and – putatively, Van Horn’s – alleged “Liaisons” to Compliance) and Barwis all “went to RR” every day when they walked in the door to work every morning.’ These are RR’s “Hip-Pocket” guys — though reading the UM and RR Filings gives the (unknowing) reader the overall impression that these “Hip-Pocket” guys of RR’s perhaps worked in a different city. Labadie, Barwis (RR’s words, “I never go anywhere without him,”), and Draper: they worked intimately with RR — a level of intimacy which, by any normal rules of analysis, would give rise to a presumption that the knowledge of any of them – Labadie, Draper, and Barwis – should reasonably be imputed to RR, and vice versa, consistent with former West Virginia Head Coach Don Nehlen’s pithy observation that “The head coach knows what’s going on; don’t let anybody kid you. I knew what was going on in my program. Every Coach knows everything going on in his program.”

Besides all of that, Bill Martin (Van Horn’s boss) took over the issues in January 2009, and did less thereafter than Van Horn had previously daily done to seek compliance by RR and his entire program. By bagging Van Horn here, the UM Filing descends into the role of the charlatan.

And UM has recently been forced to cough up information which suggests that the decision to very publicly hang Van Horn out to dry not only had little factual basis in the record, but also required an affirmative decision to (unfairly and in bad faith) omit the names of RR, Labadie, Draper, Parker, Vollano and Barwis — all of whom we now know, from a recent UM FOIA response, received “letters of reprimand” also assigning them fault for failing to “go directly to” RR. Who made the decision to omit RR, Martin, Labadie, Draper, Parker and Barwis from the UM Filing’s list of culpable characters, and why? It’s quite likely that the UM lawyers knew there was no support for singling out Van Horn (and probably knew that RR and Martin were the major culprits), and the action again suggests the “foil” against which all decision-making was made: the fear that the NCAA will wake up and realize that the UM operation suffered from a “lack of institutional control.” Whatever the case, whoever dictated this course of action owes Van Horn a public apology.

3) The UM Filing gives the appearance of having actually “bought-into” the counterfeit — and utterly preposterous, in the circumstances – notion which has been implicitly promoted by RR, that he is the “Boy in the Compliance Bubble”, with whom one can “directly” communicate about compliance issues only in the most rarified of circumstances. First of all, Asst. AD for Football Scott Draper works in the same building with RR; his Job Description shows he is RR’s “Liaison” to Compliance. [Definition of Liaison: a means of communication between different groups or units of an organization.”] Need we look further? If there’s ever been any problem about “communicating” with RR, isn’t it fair to put that right square in the lap of Scott Draper? Why didn’t Martin go “directly” to Draper, say, in January 2009, and tell him: you fix this. You are the Liaison. This is a huge problem – Fix it.” Add to that the very appropriate instruction that, if it’s too much for you, Scott, then delegate it to your assistant, Brad Labadie.

And it is the scent of a scoundrel, with something up his sleeve, that we whiff when we read RR’s claim – as to a very important Compliance email sent him in August 2008 – that “I don’t remember seeing that email, or discussing it with anyone.” That email, however, was also sent to RR’s “Compliance Liaison” Scott Draper, so we can fairly assume that the subject was on Draper’s (or that of his own underling, Labadie) “Compliance Punchlist” that week (and every week ’til completion) for discussion with RR — correct? Not exactly. The record suggests that neither Draper nor Labadie even knows what a “Compliance Punchlist” might possibly be. The UM Filing, however, driven as it was to “prop up” the Big Fib about the Big A – never even mentions or analyzes’ Draper’s central job duty to always inform and speak for RR on Compliance issues. Draper is still on the job, and none of the self-imposed “Corrective Actions” listed by UM mentions or corrects these kinds of profound personnel and departmental-structure defects.

These numerous flaws in the UM Filing leave it – and those who finally authorized it – Brandon, Coleman, Martin – subject not only to the “Intentional Incoherence” label, but to a more devastating criticism: the thumping irony is that the disingenuous approach of the UM Filing is entirely consistent with the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ethic which pervaded RR’s program, and Bill Martin’s Athletics Department.  Examples:

–Don’t tell the NCAA who the prime movers were in bringing about these violations (RR and Martin, not Van Horn.)

— Don’t Tell the NCAA what your detailed analysis of all evidence actually proves as regards the only contested issue; pretend that you found that RR “promoted an atmosphere” of compliance.

— Don’t ask RR and Martin the hard questions – as to every single instance when each of them communicated with each other, or with RR’s Hip-Pocket Guys (Labadie, Barwis, and Draper),  about Practice and Coach-activity, over the two year period.

— Don’t ask Martin hard questions about why he did essentially nothing about the Practice Time and Coach-number issues for at least 8 or 9 months — all the while allowing new violations to occur almost daily.

— Don’t ask Martin why — despite the fact that his athletic budget and profitability rivals that of the Texas Longhorns – he doesn’t have a Compliance manual (like Texas’) which dictates in specific detail the duties (and timing of those duties) of the Head Coach to insure compliance on significant issues like practices and coach-numbers.

— Don’t ask Martin why it never bothered him at all that the Practice Logs finally turned in by Labadie after 20 months still didn’t comply with his department’s own requirements to get player signatures and the Head Coach’s attestation of accuracy.

— Don’t tell that you believe that RR’s claim that he knew nothing about Labadie’s long list of screw-ups until July 2009 is laughable. And don’t bother to closely cross-examine RR about every detail of his communications with Labadie.

— Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to protect RR and Bill Martin. It’s a perilous course, to choose to dissemble in your filing with the NCAA.

One final look at the role of Director of Football Operations Brad Labadie will bring us back to why this is all sheds light on the Morris termination. The long Timeline shows Labadie’s day-by-day ugly dedication to profoundly disrupt, delay and ruin the entire “practice-time” recording and monitoring function. It’s appalling. And this was supposed to have been one of his primary job functions. This was a UM employee who worked directly under RR, and in the same building, every day, and was paid an annual salary of $72,000. (Maybe a Loaner Car to go along with it?) And it wasn’t just one event Labadie subverted, or one time when his job performance was deficient. This went on day after day, week after week, month after month. Nothing. Not one Practice Time record — despite repeated, endless requests from Compliance. Nothing.

It must be noted here: Labadie was successful, even now, in accomplishing what appeared to have been his long-standing goal:  to conceal detail about practice times.  Even the UM AD now makes bold, assertive claims about the amount of practice time which actually occurred — knowing that the records (what ones there are) are profoundly deficient and thoroughly unreliable — due specifically to Labadie’s assiduous commitment to avoid generating any.)

And Labadie’s subversion of the entire record-keeping process went on from January 2008 through May 2009, at which point UM Auditors were due to come in to review records. Read the Exhibit to the UM Filing, where you can see Ann Vollano of Compliance pleading with Labadie – once again – in a last-minute email on May 7, 2009:

I just want you to know that the auditors are here doing the CARA [looking for Practice Time records.] They have an empty folder for Football.

And then the following day, again Vollano emails Labadie:

“Brad, they were here yesterday and are done with CARA. Right now their report is going to include a finding that there were no CARAs for football. Can you get them to me ASAP so I can have them review them? Please advise. Their report goes to Bill [AD Martin], the President [Coleman] and the Regents.”

Ask yourself (if only because no one apparently bothered to ask Labadie): why was this allowed to go on so long? When it was clear, in January 2009, that Martin knew Labadie had done nothing about Practice Time records, what happened? Was a disciplinary hearing held within one week, a la Jamie Morris? Was he asked pointed questions in a hearing (or in any other setting) about why this had happened? No.

On May 7, Vollano of CSO was legitimately concerned: the Audit report was going to go to the Big Shots: Martin, Coleman, the Regents. So, you think: Wow, the artificial turf is going to hit the fan now. Labadie’s toast now. Disciplinary hearing, for sure. And they (Martin, Coleman) will ask him what went on, why did you never file any Practice Logs? Or, did you even record any data at all, anywhere, even on some napkins? What in the world have you been doing? – we need an explanation. And, by the way, we need to know about every time you and RR discussed these topics. Did it occur to Bill Martin, by the time Labadie did a complete “no-show” for the May 2009 Audit, that Labadie’s relentless, pro-active failure to file Practice Logs for 18 months may have been part of someone’s plan, and that one reasonable potential inference was that Labadie (and others working with him) might have been intentionally “failing” to file those logs because they were trying to “cover-up” the actual practice times themselves?

Does any of that happen? Does Labadie get a nasty, bilious character-assassinating termination letter from Martin? Does he get demoted? Do they at least take him off the CARA responsibility? Is Martin furious with him? No, no, no, no, and no. (Stop one second here: Does Martin know or at least suspect by this time that something is really fishy?)

Had Labadie been given the same treatment given Jamie Morris, Labadie would’ve had a disciplinary hearing and termination letter within 10 days of May 7, when Labadie’s completely unexplained, if not bizarre and 17-month-long “crash” of the Practice-time monitoring system came to the attention of the the Auditors. After all, didn’t the Auditors “go directly to” Bill Martin on May 7, to tell them about this giant void in his operation?

Morris was out of a job within 10 days of the tiny auto accident. Let’s look at what happens to Labadie 10 days after the May 7 Audit? In fact, Labadie –goes –to–Chicago — with –get this — Bill –Martin, to the Big Ten Conference Convention. Stays in a fancy hotel, rubs elbows with the panjandrums at the Big Ten spring meeting. There’s no hearing, no sanction, no investigation. He’s a major-league no-show throughout his tenure as Director of Football Operations, the “point man” on what are later admitted NCAA violations -and he goes to the Big Ten Conference spring meeting, as planned? That’s all. Kinda makes you scratch your head? Tell you anything about the “Atmosphere of Compliance” engendered by RR and AD Martin? Does it suggest to an objective observer that someone – RR? Martin? – might not necessarily have been displeased about the absence of Practice Time logs?

[One question, you say: what about the theory that Labadie was a “Lone Wolf”, with no connection to or direction from RR; just a fellow who maliciously hides from his boss what he is doing all these months, and only wants to subvert this entire compliance structure? However unlikely this scenario, wouldn’t RR’s motivation then would have been one of even greater anger – and legitimate motivation – to get Labadie out – immediately?]

So how about when the Audit Report- which goes to Coleman, and Martin, and the Regents – the Regents! – comes out in late July 2009? By this time they must be ready to roast Labadie, right? Geez, Coleman must think when she reads it, Bill Martin hasn’t fired this guy Labadie yet? Or his boss, Draper?

But Coleman doesn’t blink an eye. Never crossed her mind, apparently. (And at this point, you realize: Coleman is lost as any kind of moral force. )

But it must have crossed Martin’s mind. He should be livid, this should be the kind of thing that might make a guy accost somebody – Labadie, in fact. But he doesn’t. And there might be a reason he doesn’t discipline or fire Labadie, and never has, and that Labadie is allowed to just “keep on keepin’ on” in the same position. And here’s why: Martin needs Labadie, in July 2009 and for the whole length of this pending issue. Labadie knows. Labadie knows alot. Of stuff. He worked daily right alongside RR. RR and Labadie know – and planned -alot, together. We’ll never know precisely how much Labadie’s malversations might be directly or indirectly tied to things he was told explicitly or implicitly by RR, because no one bothered to ask RR. And Martin knows (and the UM lawyers probably know that Martin knows) how much Labadie knows. So the last thing Martin wants to do is give Labadie any kind of even slight sanction, much less a firing. And he doesn’t want anyone else asking Labadie any questions. No hearing, no sanctions. No questions, much less hard questions. Martin and RR “go easy” on Labadie….REAL easy. Sound like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?”… “Code of Silence?”

Contrast this with Morris’ experience. Brandon doesn’t go easy on Jamie Morris; Morris gets taken down hard. And the only reason Brandon clobbers Morris with the firing and the letter is because because Loaner Car usage by a QC Staffer is probative, for the NCAA, as to whether the QC’s really were coaches, and because Brandon is desperate to maintain the baseless fiction that RR “promoted an atmosphere of compliance,” and that there was no “lack of institutional control.”

But here’s the disturbing part: a reasonable scenario is that Morris was just doing his job – running the Loaner Car program – just as he always has, for years, in the context of RR’s entire Don’t Ask Don’t Tell environment, probably giving out Loaners to all manner of people, including QC guys (with Martin’s and RR’s acquiescence and/or encouragement).

In fact, the Morris matter normally would have remained a molehill – but for the fact that the Car Loaner problem boils up on April 23, 2010, only four weeks before the UM NCAA Filing is made. And the Morris car issue is potentially directly pertinent to the NCAA charges. After all, the central NCAA issue is whether the QC staff were acting as coaches. What was this QC “staffer” doing, this past April 14, driving a “Coach’s” car for a month? Don’t the RR and UM Filings both insist that the QC “Staffers” were not “Coaches” – they just happened to get caught doing some coaching a few times?

Morris lies, yes. He tries to cover up. This is not good. But look, for a moment at the context within which Morris has worked in the Athletic Department under RR and Martin. He knew — like everyone else — that Brad Labadie (and many others) not only got off without a scratch, when he was protecting and dissembling about the Department’s wayward Practice and Coach-number practices — but Morris also had learned the extent to which the Department values such efforts to hide reality as a part of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell ethic which prevailed. And he may have known two other things : 1) about the extent to which the QC Staffers consistently – as opposed to occasionally – acted as coaches under RR; and 2) That the March and April 2010 car use by a QC guy can hurt the NCAA’s adjudication of its’ charges against UM.

So in this sense, Morris is nothing but loyal – a morally misguided loyalty, yes – but loyal, and marching in line with all the other foot soldiers — Labadie, Draper, Parker, Barwis, nine Assistant Coaches, Grad Asst. Alex Herron – he has seen playing deaf and dumb within the RR and Martin-fostered Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Compliance environment. And the extent of Morris’ dissembling pales in comparison to that of RR and his Hip-Pocket guys over a period of years.

But it’s slightly more complex than that: As one can see from the Morris termination letter, there is some suggestion at the April 23 DRC meeting that Morris may actually know more about the extent to which this “QC Staffer Car-Loan” might have been a common practice. At the April 23 DRC meeting, Morris makes that implication. He obviously gets pressed on it. And then finally denies, when pressured, that there were any other instances of car-loan to other QC “Staffers”. We may never know exactly what decision-making went through Jamie Morris’ mind at that point, but there is there the strong odor of a notion that Morris knew that he had to keep his mouth shut and lie – or the whole NCAA investigation might be even more seriously jeopardized. A thought process not unlike, one might conclude, the kind of thinking which went through Bill Martin’s mind when he took over handling of the Practice Time and Coach-number issues in January 2009: just bury it and keep quiet.

And if Loaner Car usage by QC Staffers was not isolated to the one-month loan enjoyed by the QC Staffer who had the April 14 accident, and was, instead, common across all QC’s, then David Brandon’s role is called into question, and Morris’ denial of any such broader QC car usage is a “Tiny Fib” to protect Brandon. In that entirely plausible scenario, Morris dissembled to protect the very “Michigan Man” who fired him: Brandon.

So Morris has functioned as a good and loyal foot soldier, in an overall “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” compliance era at UM, fostered by RR and Bill Martin, and Morris ends up covering for everyone. But RR and Martin are the ones who get the unquestioning, blind allegiance and the ultimate “protection” of their reputations by the “fake-out” defense articulated to the NCAA. And Morris?: he’s shown the door, with a knife in the back from Brandon as he goes.

Let’s give this Morris tragedy a little more context. It might make you hyperventilate, if you read the whole record, and if you have any ability any more to get mad. Morris gets terminated within days of the April 14 auto accident, and the letter of termination is brutal. And he’s had his Disciplinary Hearing within a week of the accident. Bam! Gone, for one event. Then examine more closely that horrible letter Brandon sent to Jamie Morris. Make your own decision — based on the above review of the UM and RR NCAA Filings – as to whether one could – and should – substitute for the name “Jamie Morris” in that termination letter any one of the names RR, Bill Martin, Brad Labadie, Scott Draper, or Mike Barwis, so that the following findings in that letter might more accurately be applied to those individuals, and not Jamie Morris.

[Discharged for failure to] appropriately manage a significant aspect of your work…the use of poor judgment, willful deception… and unethical attempt to engage others in an attempt to cover up the truth…and a deliberate effort to misrepresent the truth to your supervisor.”


About brewonsouthu

Michigan and Big Ten fan, former lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
This entry was posted in Bill Martin, David Brandon, Jamie Morris, Mary Sue Coleman, Michigan Football, NCAA Investigation, NCAA sanctions, NCAA Violations, Quality Control Coaches, Rich Rodriguez, Uncategorized, University of Michigan and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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