Rodriguez Sounds Off on Allegations

Rich Rodriguez addressed the media today and expressed his frustration with the allegations in Sunday's Detroit Free Press. Michigan's second year headman also found time to break down Western Michigan, his QB situation, and much much more.

OPENING STATEMENT: "Normally I don't bring notes, I just kind of speak from the top of my mind, but I did write a few notes down here for obvious reasons. I want to talk as Bruce mentioned about Western Michigan. This is game week, and we've had a good three-week camp, and I want to talk about any questions you have about depth chart or how preparations are going. But obviously we need to address the situation that came out yesterday, and then I would politely ask that all the questions after I review that, that they all refer to Western and our preparation. "

"First of all and foremost, I want to tell everybody, I am very proud of the way our players have worked the last seven, eight months. They've gave a tremendous commitment to this University, to this program, and to building a championship program. They're working hard in athletics and they're working hard in academics, and they've showed that and the balance in that endeavor in the way they've recorded the highest GPA ever recorded.  As a coach I am very, very proud of them, and they continue to do that to this day. They do it in practice, they did it in their summer workouts with Mike and his staff and in spring practice and they're doing it academically. They've obviously been able to show a great balance and been able to handle that. I also want to tell you that I feel it's an honor and a privilege to have Mike Barwis and his staff as part of our staff at the University of Michigan. Mike has been with me for many years. I have complete trust in him, and I think he is absolutely the best strength and conditioning coach in the country. He's made an impact on our young men, not only in football but in our sports here. We've had several of our current professional and former professional players come back and work out with Mike that didn't even know Mike. We have several NHL players that played at the University of Michigan that Mike trains now on his own time. I believe they understand and appreciate all he and his staff does for them.
Mike truly, as everybody on our staff does, truly cares about every one of the young men and women that he has worked with, and to imply otherwise couldn't be further from the truth. There's nobody that has a greater passion in developing young men and helping their careers than Mike Barwis and his staff. He has always complied with the rules, as has our entire staff.  Our record in the last 18 months here and seven years at West Virginia and 25 years as a college coach, my record reflects that. We know the rules and we comply by the rules. We have a very transparent program. You guys that follow us know that; you've been out to practice several times. "

"We have a very open relationship with our compliance department. I think they're very proactive, they do a great job, and in fact even this spring and summer they met with Mike several times to discuss, as you normally would, with Mike's off-season program, summer program, they met with him several times, and from what I understand even popped in several times on summer workouts. So they were there and actively involved and talked about workouts and hours and all those structural things. And that's a good thing.  Now, we have a great institution both athletically and academically. There's been many success stories here. But it is a challenge, and that's what the University of Michigan does, it challenges you athletically and academically, and many young men have reached that challenge. It's our job as coaches to help them achieve that, and they are. You could talk about records or whatever, but our young men academically are reaching that challenge as I mentioned with their GPA, and they want to reach it athletically.  I had the seniors over at my house yesterday, and every one of them to a man, because we don't want to go through a season like last year, we're committed to getting it right and to uphold our great tradition, and they've shown that. That's why we try to challenge them.  That's why it's so important for our guys to have success on the field and do the things that prepare them for that, and they understand on their own to do that. That's why our young men understand the value of a Michigan degree, that's why they make the time to balance those two things. And I as a coach have never hindered that. Nobody on my staff would never tell a young man to miss a class or miss a study session or miss a tutor appointment to do anything athletically, never have and never will.  I understand the importance of a degree; all coaches do. When I sit and recruit these guys or when our assistant coaches recruit these guys and sit in their parents' homes, they tell them we're going to challenge your son, we're going to make sure he puts in the work to get a Michigan degree, we're going to make sure we do all we can to help him achieve his goals."

"I guess the thing that bothered me the most about the things that were recently written or said or maybe some things in the last 18 months is the perception sometimes that's out there that we did not care as much for our players' welfare, and that is disheartening. To say that is misleading, inaccurate and goes against everything that I have ever believed in coaching.  I love working with our staff. I love our players like I love my own family. My family loves our players. That's why they're at every practice. You guys that follow us know that. That's the way it is throughout our whole staff.  Coach Barwis will work with these guys any hours that they want to work with him. He'll go to church with them on Sunday. Our staff will do anything that our players want for us to do to help them achieve their goals."

"When I left West Virginia I didn't leave my brains and my caring for my players when I came to Michigan. We're proud of the way our programs have been run. I've been a head coach for 16 years, and we've been fortunate to have eight league championships. But more than anything else, we've graduated a whole lot of guys, and a lot of them were first-generation college students. A lot of them were great success stories, and a lot of them still maintain contact with me and my staff to this day."

"I've gotten numerous letters from parents, calls from players current and past, telling me, coach, just do what you always do; help your guys achieve their goals. I know I'm at a great place, and my players and my staff are working every day as hard as we can to build the best program in America.  I think sometimes it's unfair to have these road blocks and these things thrown out there that go against the very fabric of how we establish our program. So I guess I'm here to tell you that whatever you've heard or want to believe, the truth of the matter is that this coaching staff cares very deeply about all the young men in our program, always have, always will, care very deeply about this institution. We know the rules, we go by the rules, and all we're trying to do every day to make all of our great fans, the people that support our program, and we have many great fans, all we're trying to do every day is make them proud, and we will continue to do that. The former players that know how this program was built, on their hard work and dedication and commitment to team. They understand that, and so do the 120 young men on our football team. So I would ask that you focus on those guys, the 120 men that are making this commitment to have success. "

"When I have two young freshmen that come into my office yesterday upset, saying, "Coach, what did I do? What did we do? We just said we worked hard, and it was harder than it was in high school and we were committed to helping win a championship." I said, "You didn't do nothing wrong. You did nothing wrong."  The positive things that are going on which maybe you don't see because you're not there every day like I am, like our staff is, the positive things that are going on in the classroom, in the weight room, why try to tear that up? Mike Barwis is such a great asset to this University. What he has done in strength and conditioning for a whole lot of athletes at this University and in his past is unprecedented, and the care he has, why try to tear up something that a man gives his life to for these young men that want it, for the players that want it? Because see, they want to succeed; these young men want to play and they want to play at the highest level.
It's amazing the commitment they make. It's amazing how many times they call on Saturdays and Sundays and ask somebody to open up the building, Schembechler, because they want to go, the last seven, eight months, because they want to go over here on Saturdays and Sundays. So we make sure a strength coach is in there so they don't drop a weight on their foot. And then the strength coach says, I'll go in there if you want me to go in there. "

"Meeting with the team, and we put this to rest yesterday, I mean, our guys are hungry, and they've been hungry for seven, eight months. It's game week, and they're excited it's game week, and they've earned the right to be excited. They had a terrific camp, they've come closer together as a team than I could ever hope for. I've got a wonderful group of seniors, and they're all in. They will not let anything be a distraction. I will not let anything be a distraction to the coaches. We've got to get focused. Western Michigan has got an outstanding club. Every game is a huge game, and I expect a great week of practice."

QUESTION: I've read your statement. With everything you said there, there was no implicit denial of everything that went on.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "I won't take any questions on it. We completely complied by the rules, the hours and all that, always have and always will. Again, you must understand, again, it was misleading. Sometimes the players, when you ask them about hours, and understand the treatments, the medical treatments do not count, study hall does not count, other aspects of the hours do not count towards your hours allowance, and our players are not…they don't sometimes know what the rule is and what counts and what doesn't count. But we've been compliant and always have been."

QUESTION: The fact that you have certain players and their parents willing to basically call out your program, is there a potential disconnect there?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Again, this is the last question I'll take on that. The response from our parents, our current players' parents to me, has been overwhelmingly positive. I have not had a single parent or a single player, and again, the players have an opportunity to meet with me, we meet every spring, we're around, we have an open door, and the parents always know that they can call. I've never had a single parent call me or player complain about anything. So to which end you speak, the guys on our team, again, I believe I have 125 young men all in, and I believe their families are all in, and I have not gotten any indication otherwise."

QUESTION: This is separate from that issue, but as to Western Michigan, yesterday you mentioned a meeting at your house. Could you describe the tone of that? Did you feel like you had to bring your team together?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "No, this is an annual thing. Every year at the end of camp, which is really this past week was the end of the three-week camp, I have the seniors over, and they come over to the house and we eat a nice meal and we talk a little bit. Zoltan was singing on the rock band, which wasn't very good, but they had a little bit of fun.  But we always do that.  Basically I talk to them about leadership, because the way that we run our game captains during the season, as you all know, which some people wondered about earlier, but all the seniors have an opportunity to be a game captain and then we pick the permanent captains at the end of the year. With that in mind, I talk to them about being a captain, enjoying their last year as a college student athlete, and going to that end it was a very positive meeting, and as I mentioned, they're very hungry to have a great year and to go out with a good feeling. "

QUESTION: They return seven starters on defense.  What type of challenges do they present to you?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, a lot of their young men that are back have played quite a bit of different things from watching their film, so they'll have a little bit more experience than what's perceived to be. But they're very, very aggressive. We know a little bit about Western, having played them a couple years ago in an opener back when I was at West Virginia. But they're very, very aggressive and do some different things coverage wise than what you normally see, so we've got to have a big week at practice. They force you to execute. They're one that they're not going to give you the easy things. They're going to force you to execute, and whether it's throwing the ball or running the ball, we'll have to be on tack. "

QUESTION: Back to that meeting for a second… how much of the talk yesterday was about the allegations?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Again, I'm going to talk about Western. This is all about Western, and I think I've addressed that issue.  All we talked about yesterday really in that meeting was, hey, seniors, let's do a great job leading, let's have a lot of fun and have a great week in practice because that's important."

QUESTION: The three quarterbacks you're going to be using Saturday, what are each of their strengths?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "There are all different strengths for all three of them. That's what makes it an interesting dynamic. You know, the two young guys, Tate and Denard, run very well. They're not the biggest guys but they have the ability to make some plays on the run and improvise a little bit.  Nick is the smartest guy as far as knowing the system right now… and that's to be expected.  But Nick has worked really hard, too, on his physical abilities. They're all pretty active throwers. They all can throw the deep ball.  Obviously the young guys are learning the system more daily than Nick has already learned. Nick has done a great job of increasing his knowledge and being quick with his decisions.  There are certain plays I think all three of them run better than the others, and we've kind of marked and denoted that, but in practice all three of them run all the stuff, so then we can figure out who can do what and get them ready by game time."

QUESTION: Is there any significance to Tate being listed first on the depth chart?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "No, you just put someone first. Again, we don't have a preset.  I don't imagine us having a preset series that this guy goes in, that guy goes in. It really may be more by feel and more by game situation; okay, we want to try these three plays or these four plays and which guy does that better and put them in there.  I've never been in this situation with three. I've had two several times, but three is a little different, so we're working through that. But it's worked well in practice. Had it not worked well in practice, I would be a lot more leery, but because it's worked so well in practice, I feel pretty good about it. "

QUESTION: When do you expect to make a decision internally?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Internally, several days before the end of the week. Once we get it finalized I may tell the guys on Thursday or Friday."

QUESTION: How healthy is the team?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Pretty healthy. Tim McAvoy injured his knee 12 days ago, so Timmy will be out, and that will be for a couple weeks. Toussaint, who's a freshman, got hurt with his collarbone in the first week of camp, so he's out. We've got a few guys with bumps and bruises, but I think right now, and we'll release probably a medical report Thursday as far as who's definitely out, who's questionable, but after having really Saturday off and yesterday because we didn't practice, I'll know a little bit more after today's practice."

QUESTION: How would you say Brandon Minor and Donovan Warren are?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Donovan is fine. Brandon has been limited, but talking to the training staff this morning, he'll be able to do more today and should be able to go on Saturday."

QUESTION: Are you going with game captains week per week again like you did last year?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, we'll have game captains until the last game against Ohio State and then the team will vote on their permanent captain. "

QUESTION: If your starting quarterback is playing well in the game, are you going to pull him?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "No. If we're really executing well and the offense is in a rhythm, I wouldn't want to disrupt that rhythm and let him keep going. But again, there's different plays I could imagine as the quarterbacks go in there and -- again, had I done this before, I would be a little more leery, but having done it in practice and having done it in a game with at least two guys, certain plays having a guy go in and do it -- and I've told the offense, it shouldn't matter to you who's the quarterback, you're going to do your job and execute and do all you can to make the play successful. "

QUESTION: Would you keep open the possibility of playing three quarterbacks but won't necessarily do it?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, I anticipate doing it. I anticipate playing all three of them."

QUESTION: How different is the package that you run with the three guys?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Not much. With three quarterbacks, yeah, it won't be much. Again, they've all done all the things offensively that we wanted.  All three of them can run, call the plays. It's just as a coach, particularly with the young guys, you've got to pare it down and don't give them too much because you know they're going to be excited the first game. And as I mentioned several times at this level, you don't have any preseason games, exhibition games, so it's a little bit different. Hopefully they'll be relaxed, and we want to give them things that they really know well and execute well to help them out."

QUESTION: How confident are you in your defense? How have you seen them executing the schemes?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "I have not seen a lot of mental or missed assignments in practice, so I think they understand the basic schemes pretty well. You know, Western and Coach Cubit traditionally will do some unconventional things. I know when he was at Rutgers before and we played and he was the offensive coordinator they'd run some different formations, they'd run some trick plays and do some things to try to fool you early, so we have to be ready for that, some things that maybe they have not shown on film that could pop out there, and we've just got to relax and adjust to them quickly."

QUESTION: At what point in the week do you tell a kicker that you're going to play him?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Probably by Thursday. Jason is in the forefront right now, Olesnavage, but that's kind of an ongoing thing a little bit with a couple days of practice. Hopefully he'll kick well this week and at least solidify the short field goal part of it."

QUESTION: Will someone else do the long field goals?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Well, it depends.  Again, we've kind of got a yardage limit for all the guys, but if it's a really, really long one, we've got a guy with a strong leg, Bryan Wright or Brendan Gibbons may be the one to put in there. The next couple days of practice, today a little bit, tomorrow and certainly Wednesday we'll finalize that."

QUESTION: Talk about the challenge of playing against Tim Hiller.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Yeah, he's a senior, a veteran guy who's seen it all, been in the big arena. They beat Illinois last year, played very well, and so he's not going to be, I guess, surprised by anything that you do. When you get a fifth year senior quarterback, kind of been there, done that, he'll be able to adjust to some different things and things that you want to throw against him. I think he's a very accurate guy, and he'll be able to find the open guy. So we've got to do a great job of breaking on the ball. You've got to put pressure on the quarterback; every coach will tell you that. And you can't give him a whole lot of time, because watching his film, you give a little bit of time, he'll find the right guy. "

QUESTION: Especially when you're not favored, how do you keep the allegations from casting a cloud over what you have coming up?  Also, how will practices be different this year because of these allegations?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Again, we're here to talk about Western and our preparation, and I think our guys' focus will be tremendous. We had a good meeting yesterday. The guys seemed very focused to me, and I would be shocked if we don't have a great practice today. These guys have worked pretty hard really for seven, eight months but especially the last weeks of camp to get ready for game week, and here we are in game week and nothing is going to change their focus for getting ready for an outstanding season."

QUESTION: Obviously you don't want to keep addressing this but it is pertinent, so can you just explain your Sunday practices, what goes on on Sundays, what happened last year and what's the plan for this week?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "I just said as politely as I can… we want to talk about Western. As I said, we completely complied by the rules in all aspects."

QUESTION: I'm not asking about the allegations, I'm just asking about Sunday practices in general.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "There's a day off that you have to -- I've gone back and forth, Sundays off and Mondays off, and it really depends on the course schedule and what season schedule you have. Last year we had Mondays off because we thought that the class schedule -- a lot of our guys had classes on Monday afternoon, so we had Mondays off last year.
This year we've made a decision back early in the summer to have Sundays off because of the 12 open days and because of the sense of urgency for the coaches to get ready for the next opponent with no open dates and no break in between. I thought it would make our Monday or our first practice more relevant. We'd have more time to have -- even though it's a short practice, a Sunday practice which will now be Monday's practice, has only ever been an hour, ever. It's only been an hour, and that's for as long as I've coached. Most teams will only practice for an hour because you don't have the whole game plan in. So you cover every special team, you do a little bit of a routine period, but it's no more than an hour every Sunday and it'll be no more than an hour on Monday.  But at least an hour now with us, the coaches having all day Sunday to watch more film, I think we'll have a little bit better idea of the game plan. It won't be finalized but it'll be a little better idea of the game plan."

QUESTION: On the practice routine last year on Sunday, but this year on Monday… and throughout the week.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "(Monday) we'll dress and we'll put on a helmet. We won't put on pads, it's just helmets and vests, but we'll do that on Monday. Normally Tuesday is a full padded day; Wednesday either full padded or half padded; sometimes Thursday is no pads, helmets and vests; and then Friday's practices most of the times we didn't practice on Friday. Over half the year last year we didn't even practice on Friday, didn't even change clothes. On a road trip we would go to the stadium and walk around and tell them where they stand, and even the home games we would not even change clothes for Fridays. We wouldn't even have a Friday practice. It would be a walk-through, and it would probably be no more than 15 to 20 minutes, at the longest a half hour. So where that came from, I don't know. "

QUESTION: Do you plan to play all four of your wide receivers?

QUESTION: How do you maximize them?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Of the first two guys, Martavious (Odoms) is the starter and Kelvin Grady has shown enough in practice that he's going to get significant time. But we also feel very highly on Roy Roundtree and Terrence Robinson. It's hard to get all of them, but we have some set formations where we have two slots in the game at the same time, and then Roy is also learning the outside receiver positions because we think he's a talented guy, can play a couple different spots. But that's a better problem than last year. I think I mentioned before that we thought Tay probably had too many snaps. There were some where he had 75. I think one game he was over 75 snaps, and with Kelvin's emergence and those other two guys, he won't have to play as much because he's going to be involved in the return game, as well."

QUESTION: Because of the record last year and people don't know about your team necessarily this year, do you feel the heat a little bit… the pressure?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "I think as a coach you feel that the first game naturally every year. You don't really know what you have until you play. But I feel good about our team, at least the way we've been executing. But I still like the roster; 89 of the 125 guys are freshmen or sophomores. 75 percent of my team has either never played before or played one year or very little. So when you have that much of your roster that you feel are relatively inexperienced or completely inexperienced, it makes you nervous. If you're sitting here with a veteran team, a lot of fourth and fifth year players that have played quite a bit, you have a little bit better idea of what you have. But as far as building the program, I'm very confident that we're right on track, we're making progress in a lot of aspects, and surely there's things -- everybody wants it to go faster and happen right now, and so do I and so do the players, but it's going to happen. As I said, the model and the plan is in place, and I just hope everybody will let us do it. We're doing it by the rules, as I said, and it's had success in the past, and it'll have success here, too. We've got a great place."

QUESTION: Is there anything to indicate that you think people are out to not let it happen?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "No, I just think it's disheartening, as I mentioned, to fight obstacles that aren't really there, that shouldn't be there."

QUESTION: Are there any other obstacles besides this one?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Well, I think there's… as I mentioned several times before, I don't say they're obstacles, but there's probably unnecessary drama. There's been a lot of unnecessary drama. It's like…it's a fair question about game captains as opposed to permanent captains, that's just a philosophical thing on our part that we like for the seniors to all feel ownership in the program, to be a game captain, and the permanent captains are the guys that get their picture on the wall. I think it's a great honor to be a senior. These guys went through a transition and they've battled. A lot of them have already earned their degrees and the rest of them will earn their degrees. Whether they're a starter or not, to go out in the big house and say I'm a captain and I can put that on my résumé that I was a game captain at the University of Michigan I think is special.
Again, I don't think the players affect that. I think it's usually something I just have to deal with in press conferences. There seems to be a lot of drama. But this is not the only place that has it.  Other schools have it too."

QUESTION: Why do you think there is so much drama?
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "Probably because the attention the program has gotten over the years. If you have the winningest all-time program and you've got the Michigan name, there's something there. As a coach I understand that.  But let's not get in the way of what's best practices. We've got tremendous tradition, but there needs to be something. Our former players understand that. The guys that played here understand that. What is the best practices?  I've read John Bacon's book on Bo Schembechler. I've studied it. Bo dealt with some things, too, as have all the coaches.  This is more public now, and I understand that, and it doesn't phase what we're trying to do or how we're trying to do it. But sometimes as players and as coaches, I know we've talked about it, like geez, what's that got to do with graduating with a degree and having success on the field? How does that relate to building a championship program? And if it doesn't relate, then you have to look and say, okay, is that helping us get here or is that hindering us?"

QUESTION: Some of your current players and parents were talking to the reporter. That seems to be where the drama would be coming from.
RICH RODRIGUEZ: "We're not talking about other things. Again, I want to make it clear… our players are working very hard. The players on our team right now have done a whole lot to help to build this program, the players on our team. And so I'm sure they're not happy to have to deal with this because they're working hard. They're not getting into all this stuff.
Again, at this time can we just move forward, let these young men and let everybody focus on this game week? There's a lot of positive things going on. Just look around, look what's happening on campus, and there's positive things that continue to happen in football."

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