UM’s Wimpy “Corrective Actions”

We’ve already discussed, in the early post on Rich Rod’s phony “Didn’t Know, Didn’t Ask, Didn’t Read, & Overlooked” Defense, the complete absence of any substantive information from RR as to his “Corrective Actions” – he will “redouble [his] efforts” to make sure his staff understands, and “will be a better coach and compliance leader going forward.”   No details.  No thorough self-analysis of all of the times he asserts in his Filing that he or his staff “Didn’t Know, Didn’t Read, Didn’t Ask, and Overlooked,” followed by an RR commitment to specific changes in, say, his coaching staff, administrative staff, reporting conduits,  communication tools (email, text, phone, etc.)  Nothing. Just this gaping hole alone ought to make both UM and the NCAA very nervous.   Why?  Because even assuming the truth of RR’s overall claim of “inadvertence” or “unintentional” or “unknowing” Violations, any objective observer must still conclude that this guy Rich Rod is a Compliance risk: he needs to be put in a Compliance “straight-jacket”, which he can’t – intentionally or unintentionally –  wriggle out of.

And UM’s stated “Corrective Actions” are consistent with the “let’s-try to fake-out-the-NCAA” tone set by the rest of its’ Filing. UM’s Corrective Actions fail to address obvious, systemic underlying structural and personnel problems and ignore obvious, inexpensive (and State-of-the-Art) options. They are, however, consistent with David Brandon’s smug implicit premise: “Real Men don’t consider NCAA violations important unless they derive from athlete abuse, or demonstrated gain of competitive advantage.”

So let’s break them down quickly.  Because there is so little substance, it won’t take long, and we can break the 14 “Corrections” into several groups:

1. What UM should have been doing anyway:  These include: QC staff won’t do skills/speed and will get out of video rooms; CSO will, for the first time, review QC hires — who will get Rules Ed & must sign document indicating rules compliance; and CSO will do a “comprehensive” review of all CARA activities in every sport; and CSO has “increased the number of visits” to practices.

2.  So tiny they are hardly worth mentioning: CARA forms will be revised to show daily practice start and end times.

3. A Step Backward, Not Forward: CARAs will no longer have to be signed by all athletes, only a “randomly-selected” set of players.  This is a system capable of being manipulated by the coaches, and potentially decreases the “cross-checks” on coaches, because fewer players will be “signing-off.”

More importantly, UM again “plays it cute” by failing to discuss the most significant change apparently initiated: removal of the requirement that the Head Coach sign the CARAs, with an attestation that the practice times shown are accurate and compliant with bylaws. This is a HUGE step BACKWARD, and the UM Filing doesn’t even tell the NCAA that this is going to happen. It’s just one more way for the Head Coach to avoid responsibility for what is going on.

4. This is a Corrective Action? You’re Kidding, Right?:  Termination of Alex Herron (happened long ago);  Special Rules Ed Seminar for “Sports Administrators.”;  a “Special Meeting” on Oct. 9, 2009, to educate all coaches and QC about QC functions [note that this meeting preceded a number of the Practice Time violations which continued into Nov. ’09, so probably contained erroneous information]; and a Seminar for CSO Staff by the Big Ten Asst. Comish about QC staff and CARA.

More seminars?  RR and his staff were seminar-ed repeatedly, and they ignored it.  And a seminar for CSO staff? — there’s no evidence anywhere that they were  unaware of rules or interpretations.

5. The two Corrective Actions of any substance: a) retaining an outside vendor to provide a “comprehensive, athletics compliance web-based software system to include a CARA-monitoring system;” and b) establishing an “escalation policy” to communicate delays re: submission of Compliance forms.

These are substantive, and show that someone had at least two bright ideas. But they fall short.

What is needed is a complete change in structure and operations.  Here’s how: Brandon must have heard of “Loss Control” and “Risk Management,” because almost every business of any size have something like it. Any business wants to insure that its’ losses are minimized.

A good business will regularly re-examine itself, and this is accomplished by Risk Managers. Those Risk Managers are also oftentimes responsible for such re-examinations after a significant “loss.”

UM Football, by way of its’ admitted major violations, has suffered a major “loss,” (which may also be considered a second such “major loss”, if UM is deemed a “repeat offender” by the NCAA.)  In any event, this all should provoke a major re-assessment of operations by Risk Managers — which UM has failed to do. And oftentimes that major re-assessment has to be performed by an independent third party, precisely because “in-house” Loss Control staff were “too involved” to perform an objective review of the reasons for a specific loss; this is what UM needs to do, and they haven’t done.

Typically, such independent “loss control” assessments recommend big structural and operational changes – which is what UM needs.  UM, for example, has done zero to better define job functions and hierarchies. Their listed “Corrective Actions” blithely ignore the profound defects in job descriptions, but also the rather free-wheeling subversion of the monitoring system by Labadie and Draper. Draper should be removed; Labadies’ replacement is too closely tied to past operations, and Rich Rod, to have the level of reliability and objectivity which a new AD should insist upon.  UM needs to clean house, and set the standard.

Let’s look briefly, by way of comparison Look at the massive spending by the UM Athletics Dept. on its’ website.  Or at the “Tweets” now generated by Rich Rod, on a special system created by the Athletics Dept.  — the creation of which shows the “upside-down” priorities of that Athletics Dept, in that Rich Rod, through the course of the NCAA investigation, has been shown to have failed to generate even one electronic communication to ANYONE in the entire athletic department. Instead of recognizing this bizarre fact as having been one of the significant causes of the Violations, and requiring that it be immediately addressed by changes in structure and process dictated to RR, the Dept. has spent its’ money so that RR can “twitter” with Fans!   So much for “taking Compliance” seriously.

One note of real-life context is required here: UM Athletics are a “financial elite”: it is one of the most profitable Athletics operations in the country, on a par with Texas, Ohio State and a few others.  They may even now be surging – because of the new $10 million per year in income which UM gets from the wildly profitably Big Ten Network — ahead of operations like Texas and OSU.  Because of that financial heft, UM’s Compliance operation ought not only be the best, and a “model”, but the “Corrective Actions” which it proposes to the NCAA now ought not be constrained, in any respect, by finances. So: UM ought have more Compliance staff, and their tools ought be State of the Art.  In fact, because UM’s Athletics is such a cash cow, and because UM is probably going to be deemed a “repeat” offender, UM should be itself designing and implementing its’ own State of the Art Compliance software system, which could be used at other schools to insure against any one school getting that “competitive advantage’ which seems so important to the UM Filing’s authors.

Here’s what an honest, imaginative, State-of-the-Art set of remedial measures, to address glaring both structural and personnel profound defects in the Athletics Dept., would have included, if UM and RR were anything other than disdainful of NCAA oversight:

1. Firing of Brad Labadie and Scott Draper, the two who worked for and under Rich Rod, and who were the point men on “crashing” the Practice-Time and Coach-number monitoring systems.  This would set a good example for all other employees that Compliance-adherence is high priority. As has been previously pointed out, the NCAA has not, as of this date, had any assurances that the personnel and structural problems at Michigan have been addressed, because every Athletics Dept. employee, including all coaches, have noted that Labadie and Draper got “protection” because they helped RR avoid the rules, and even went so far as to “zip their lips” when the NCAA came in.  The poison still runs through the Department.

2.  “Benchmark” the UM Compliance operation against one which is known to be the best. Texas comes to mind. Deloss Dodd (unlike Bill Martin) is aggressive, thorough, honest, and doesn’t put up with any Compliance  funny-business. Consult (and adopt, in part or entirely), for example, their Compliance manual, which is very specific in outlining the duties of every person in the Athletics operation, including precise deadlines for filing documents (like CARA), and implementation of “fail-safe” systems if the “first line” of oversight or monitoring happens to malfunction.   UM has nothing close to this kind of State of the Art system, and it appears it is because of Brandon’s attitude that “REAL MEN” don’t really care about these silly NCAA charges about practice time and number of coaches — unless some kind of player abuse or competitive advantage can be empirically shown.  Brandon should have warranted, as a part of these corrective measures, that he planned to go visit Dodd, and possibly others, to construct the Best Compliance operation in existence. But Brandon likes to spin, and lay out little gimcrack solutions to throw a bone to the NCAA.  In fact, Brandon’s tomfoolery on the Corrective Measures may be our first window on his management M.O. –  that he has little regard for substance, and is more concerned about appearance.

3.  Create a Practice Time monitoring process which is fool-proof:  each athlete has to enter the data on a computer at the practice facility at the end of the practice.  This is easy.  It might even be facilitated by having each athlete responsible for entering — even on his own laptop or Ipad provided by UM – all data associated with his workouts and practices.  What’s so hard, or expensive, about that? Again, design and implement a system which is the Best.

4. Explicitly state, and recognize, that the problem is not soley a “communication” problem between Compliance and RR. This formulation, which  was stated in the UM Filing, hides the truth: RR and his “Home Boys” (Labadie and Draper), had more than just a “communication problem” with CSO.  More accurately, CSO “communicated” with RR, Labadie and Draper ad nauseum. But there was essentially  ZERO communication back from RR, Labadie and Draper to CSO. It’s a matter of defining the direction of “non-flow” of information, and it’s all in the lap of the “Three Amigos” at Schembechler Hall. That must be fixed.  And it is fixed by the following kinds of changes: a) require RR to monthly meet and throughly report to CSO; b) require RR to maintain a Compliance-oriented email address, and  to affirmatively respond to each such email – if only to say, for example, it does not require a response; build an electronic system which makes obvious what has been seen and read by RR himself.

5. Impose different Rules or structure on Rich Rod:  Even assuming Rich Rod’s “Boy in the Compliance Bubble” excuse is believed, it still mandates that something be different to accomodate RR’s odd predilection to “forget, or not read, or not know.”

About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
This entry was posted in Corrective Actions, David Brandon, Deloss Dodd, Mary Sue Coleman, Michigan Football, NCAA Investigation, NCAA sanctions, NCAA Violations, Quality Control Coaches, Rich Rodriguez, Texas Athletics Compliance, Uncategorized, University of Michigan, West Virginia Football, WVU Football and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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