Full Transcript: Brandon/RRod Teleconference

Here's the full, long transcript of today's media teleconference with David Brandon and Coach Rodriguez regarding the self-imposed penalties.

Dave Brandon: "I would characterize today as a day of relief for many of us who have been working for quite some time on our internal investigation and working up our responses to the NCAA notice of allegations. The relief comes from the fact that it is all out there. In February within 24 hours of receiving the notice of allegations, we made them public and provided that all to you and we did the same thing today. Within 24 hours of releasing our responses or forwarding our responses to the NCAA, we've made it available. It is a lot of pages, as I think you've all discovered. It is a lot of detail. We think the documents pretty much speak for themselves in terms of what we did, how it happened and what we're doing about it. Coach and I want to make ourselves available to you today to answer any specific questions that you may have above and beyond of what is included in the document. So I'll open to you on the phone; what questions do you have.

Question: Our first question comes from Dave Birkett: Just curious in your mind, who's to blame in this situation that you guys are in now?

Dave Brandon: "I am. The reality is that we had failures across the athletic department and I take full responsibility for what happened because I'm the director of this program. If you go back and you read the documents, you will see that we had bad decisions that were made. There was sloppy handling of information, some of our check and balances were not implemented and executed the way they should have been. We had failures of communications along the chain of command and it led us to where we are today. If there was single person to be blamed for this, we'd be doing it. The reality is that frankly the blame for this complex set of issues spans a number of different areas and entities both within the football program and the athletic department overall."

Question: Mitch Albom your line is open: What is generally expected in this kind of situation is probation, that maybe a two year probation or something like that; is that what you anticipate from the NCAA and could you define as you understand it what probation would mean to the football program, what it could or couldn't do, recruiting bowls and all the rest of it?

Dave Brandon: "Yes. Mitch, we believe that probation is typically one of the outcomes of major violations and as a result we've identified that as one of our proposed self imposed sanctions. We believe a two year probation would be appropriate. What probation means as I understand is it, is not so much additional sanctions or penalties, what probation primarily means is a significant amount of detailed reporting between our program and the NCAA. Fundamentally what probation does is put your program under a microscope. It sets up all kinds of additional checks and balances and communication pipelines to a significant level of detail that makes sure that the NCAA has a very close understanding of your practices and your processes. So that really is what probation means as it relates to the NCAA."

Question: Our next question comes from Adam Rittenberg: Dave, besides the letters of reprimand is their any other discipline being taken against the seven individuals mentioned in your report?

Dave Brandon: "The only individual that received a more serious specific discipline was the individual that was terminated as a result of a lack of integrity in the process and that's detailed in the report. As it relates to the rest of the individuals who were named parties that were a part of the problems that occurred as we indicated, all of them will received a reprimand in their file that memorializes in their file the fact that they failed to act and/or perform and/or execute their duties at a level that was appropriate and consequently caused these violations."

Question: Our next question comes from Greg Krupa: Dave or Coach Rodriguez, are we sort of past the time here when the NCAA should make absolutely clear what strength and conditioning coaches do and what quality control staff should do; are those roles clear enough yet so that they can be easily complied with?

Dave Brandon: "I personally believe that when the smoke clears from all of this, there are a number of important topics that need to be discussed and there can be tremendous improvement in the clarity around the job descriptions, what is doable and nondoable, as it relates to quality-control staff. There are always areas for improvement. We clearly had misunderstandings between our compliance department and the NCAA on the interpretations on some of these rules and regulations and to the extent as a result of our experience here, we can work with them to tighten up those definitions and come to a better understanding of what is permissible and what's not permissible then that's as a member organization what we ought to be doing with the NCAA. I do not want that to be taken as a criticism of the rules. It is just in some cases where we can go back and see where we made the wrong call based on the interpretation of a rule that in some cases was somewhat ambiguous."

Question: Our next question comes from Dave Birkett: Rich, I was just curious, this obviously hung over the season as sort of a black cloud last year; how do you avoid it becoming any sort of distraction again since you won't have a definitive answer midway through the season?

Coach Rodriguez: "I think even though the investigation really started mid season, I thought our players and our staff did a good job of staying focused. I think our players will continue to do that. I really like that attitude of the team Dave. I think they've been focused throughout this whole process and I do not think that this case that we go in front of in August will affect them at all. I think our players are very excited about the upcoming season. I know the staff is very excited about it and it's going to be a relief as Dave mentioned early to get this process over, but I do not think there is going to be anything to distract our guys from doing what they have to do to have a great season."

Question: Our next question comes from Mitch Albom: So that I understand this correctly Dave from a quick read of the documents; it seems that you are recommended from a punishment or whatever word you want to use that you lose more practice hours, two hours for every one that you went over the rules, etc. and that you would be under probation; A) do I have that right in terms of the general totality of the punishment and B) what if the NCAA says well we do not feel that is strong enough you need to lose something that actually could affect your program, i.e. bowl appearances, i.e. recruiting; these are generally the kinds of things that hurt programs in terms of their ability to go out and recruit players because players do not necessarily want to come to schools that are not going to be able to go to a bowl or there is a limited number of recruits; I do not see that in my quick read of this as something that you're recommending for punishment. Would you be upset or surprised if the NCAA wanted something along those lines or more than what you are suggesting in the practice hours being reduced?

Dave Brandon: "Yeah Mitch, a more thorough review, and I know it is a lot of tonnage of paperwork and you've had limited time, but a more thorough review will indicate that as it indicates to our self imposed sanctions, in addition to a two to one payback on any hours that we were over, we terminated the individual the who had the integrity problem. We're doing the letters or reprimand for everyone involved. In our quality control staff we're reducing it by 40%. So we're taking two of the five and we're eliminating those positions and the resulting three quality control staff are going to be suspended from any activity pertaining to any practice, on the bench at game time and/or coaches meetings, all of which are permissible. So what we're doing is denying ourselves the five positions that we used to have that have been reduced to three and the three that are left for a period of one year are basically taking them out of commission. So we believe we're addressing the time situation in terms of the countable hours. We believe that we are addressing the coachable position issue with what we are doing with the quality control folks, the two year probation we think sends a strong message as it relates to our commitment to adhering to the rules going forward and we believe based on the advice we've gotten and the precedent that we have seen from other cases that this is a good job of matching up the consequences of these violations with the content of the violations. Having said that, the NCAA has the ultimate authority here, and we have the ability go to before them in August, and we will and will take our case to those folks, and we will give them our point of view and ultimately they will decide whether are self imposed sanctions are appropriate or not."

Question: Mark Schlabach your line is open: The biggest disagreement seems to be the NCAA belief that Rich fostered an atmosphere or culture of noncompliance; you are steadfastly in disagreement with that; what was your basis for that disagreement?

Dave Brandon: "Well I strongly disagree with that. We did an internal investigation and obviously as the director of athletics here that was an area where I had an extreme level of interest and I can tell you that our compliance group talks about this coach as being as open and transparent as anyone that they've every worked with. Our compliance group has assured me that they had full access to this program in any shape or form they wanted to take advantage of that access. There was absolutely no intent by this coach or any of his assistant coaches to hide or deny access to our compliance people to anything and in some cases they were reacting to very specific direction that they were getting from compliance when they made the decision that they made. So we disagree, I disagree that Rich failed to provide an atmosphere of compliance. I think Rich is a coach that understands the importance of following the rules and has a history of following the rules and although he would be the first to agree, there were details that were not managed as well as we wish they would have and there are decisions we made that we wish we could reverse. At the end of the day, I do not believe any of that rises to the level of failure to provide an atmosphere or compliance and that's what we are communicating back to the NCAA."

Question: We will take questions form in the room from here on out. There is a provision in Rich's contract that says if the program is guilty of major violations under his watch it would be cause for termination; obviously he is still here, he is still the head coach right now, do you feel that what the violations were did not meet the standard of that?

Dave Brandon: "The contract says it could be cause, which means that I have the authority to make a judgment as to whether the offenses that occurred, the violations that occurred are significant enough to trigger that clause in the contract. I said in February it did not. There is no new information today that would suggest that any of those violations have changed. So the answer is the same as it was in February."

Question: So even though the NCAA deems this major; you look at it as not as major?

Dave Brandon: "Same question that I got in February, same answer. These are major violations, we understand that. They could be interpreted to trigger a dismissal clause in the coach's contract. We do not believe that is appropriate under these set of circumstances."

Question: When you were determining the penalties was it this penalty is for this violation and that penalty is for that violation; there is not cross-over there?

Dave Brandon: "Yes. As we consulted with people who have a lot of experience in this area, what the NCAA looks for is to take each violation, look at it on its merit and come up with an appropriate response and that's what we feel that we have done. We have gotten that agreement with the advisors that we have retained to help us work through that situation."

Question: The absence of scholarship reductions; did you base that on precedence and is that the one concern that you have is that the NCAA would possibly look at?

Dave Brandon: "I'm not concerned about that. All the precedence that we've seen when programs receive bans on postseason play, when they get reductions in scholarships, when they get reductions in coaching positions, typically those are associated with violations that rise to the level of lack of institutional control, unfair competitive advantage that would be impacted other programs and other players and none of that is relevant to the situation that we're dealing with today. So we do not believe nor do any of the advisors that we've retained who have a lot of experience in this area. We do not believe those kinds of punishments would be consistent with the violations that we've received. Ultimately the NCAA will decide, but we'll have our day in court with them to explain why we think they do not."

Question: Was precedence difficult because there is no case that necessary fits all the same criteria?

Dave Brandon: "Well you piecemeal precedence. Over the span of time, there are a number of programs that have issues with CARA forms and hours and there are other programs that have had other similar kind of issues and you do the best you can and that's what we've done."

Question: Dave how much money has this investigation and the attorney fees cost the University?

Dave Brandon: "I do not have a clue. It's not relevant to me at this stage. The reality is that we wanted to get the strongest and best advice and representation that we could to do a good job protecting the interest of our employees, protecting the interest of our department and University and whatever it costs, it costs."

Question: What do you think that this acknowledge, self imposed sanction does to the image of this school, this program that has had so much success on and off the field and hasn't had a day like this?

Dave Brandon: "There is nothing good about the word investigations. There is nothing good about the word violations. There is nothing good about the word probation. This is an unfortunate situation has we find ourselves in. Having said that, our history and our tradition and our value system is out there for the world to see. We operate 25 sports here. We've got hundreds of student-athlete. We've been in the business of football for 130 years. We'll let our brand and our integrity and our merits stand on our history and our beliefs. Yes we made mistakes, we are being transparent about it. We're accountable. We're doing something about it. We're going to make sure that they do not happen again and beyond that, I do not know what else we can do."

Question: Rich how much of your response was your doing and how much was it working with what Michigan wanted to be in there as well?

Coach Rodriguez: "I think my attorney and I and the Michigan counsel and the administration worked very closely. Individually, I was obligated to give my own response and it was very time consuming, a lot of time put in and I thought my attorney did an outstanding job of presenting the details and we'll continue to work forward. I think that it is important that everybody understands how closely we are going to work going forward and already have worked closely together and correcting the issues that we had to correct and communicating better and making sure that everything is in place and we're ready for the August meeting. I think that will be important this summer is that we'll continue to work close together and great ready for the meeting in front of the committee on infractions. I think it is also important to note that the staff, the players and everybody that was interviewed I thought did an outstanding job of being forthright and being available and being accommodating to the process."

Question: You call this a day of relief, does this now give you a chance to maybe get back to the business that you want to get back to rather than a lot of legal?

Coach Rodriguez: "Sure. This is not the only thing that I've been working on but it certainly has been some things that I've had to work on and spent some time on. Not only with my response but also the issues within the program. So we have spent a great deal of time of putting measures in and getting things corrected. I think moving on from a standpoint of everybody knowing exactly what investigation entailed instead of rumors or not knowing and now everybody does. It was as Dave mentioned earlier, it was very, very detailed and there is a lot of information out there in both responses and I think that is as important as Dave mentioned to be transparent. I've always believed in that and our University believes in that and I think this shows that."

Question: What is the main point that you want to get across in your response for those who can't read the main point you want to make in your message?

Coach Rodriguez: "I do not know if there is one particular main point. I think more than anything we just want to present the details and the facts from the investigation. Some may view it as your explaining things but I think that is important because when we go in front of the committee we are going to have to explain the things in the program and basically what went on and what the response does it that. I'm sure that we'll get in front of the committee that there will be more questions that we have to answer and talk about, but I think more than anything my response to details some of the things that I felt that I needed to explain and where mistakes were made, where the communication can be better, where I can do a better job or the staff can do a better job and as Dave mentioned earlier that these corrective measures have already taken place on our program."

Question: From both of you, the response notes that the University found no evidence of student-athlete abuse nor did it find any evidence that its employees disregarded the student athlete welfare; how important was it for you to underscore that in the response?

Dave Brandon: "Hugely important. There was stuff flying around out there that suggested there were issues pertaining to the health and welfare of our student-athletes. That in some cases, at least it was perceived to be abuse that was taking place and we've now seen the NCAA work. We've done our internal work and the reason that statement is in there that we report with great certainty that none of that was the case and the issues we are dealing with relative to overages in practice time fundamentally had nothing to do with anything that would even remotely resemble the abuse or risking the health and welfare of our student-athletes."

Coach Rodriguez: "I may have mentioned it earlier John, but that was the most important issue for me to hopefully that would come out and the thing that we've taken the most pride in throughout my years as a head coach that we've done all we can to look after our student-athletes and we will continue to do so. The one thing that Dave and I have talked about earlier is that throughout all the interviews and through this process that it has become clear that our student-athletes never felt there were any issues at all with their welfare and there never will be. It is very important as a coach that your student athletes enjoy being part of the program and enjoy the process of developing as a student-athlete and we've always taken pride in that."

Question: Dave you acknowledge the quality control coaching issue, the extra hours; my question is, how is that not interpreted as a competitive advantage if your team is spending more times and had more coaches than the rules allow?

Dave Brandon: "Listen when you start talking about not counting stretching in warm up as part of your allowable hours, it is a violation. I think it is a significant leap of logic to conclude from that that somehow that created a competitive advantage. The amount of hours involved over the span of a calendar year, I do not believe the NCAA will look at that and say there was a significant competitive advantage gained by the Michigan football program. Were we less detailed, were we sloppy, fid we not communicate? Did our checks and balances fail? All true and guilty s charged but as it relates to creating some kind of a competitive advantage of the football program, I just do not feel that was appropriate."

Question: Dave what do you think ultimately broke down here; was it a situation that there was a new coach that wasn't familiar how things were done here? Why did it break down in that two year span?

Dave Brandon: "I think the fact that we had a whole new coaching staff with a whole new routine came in certainly did not help, but you need to know that most of the people involved in a lot of the administrative handling of this are people that have been around for a long time. I do not personally believe that was any one factor. It was a combination of a number of factors and the thing that will never happen again is that we will never have people at the lower end of chain of command having discussions about things that are not happening and then have those discussions not get passed up the chain of command. I can tell you right now, I get a lot of reports and I'm having a lot of meetings with what's going on with compliance. I can tell you right now that this guy has spent a lot of time with compliance. We're not handling these things at lower administrative levels. We're handling any issues at the senior levels were we can make change and make change happen quickly."


The Michigan Insider Top Stories