ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The NCAA is accusing Michigan of five potentially major rules violations under coach Rich Rodriguez, who admitted making "mistakes" but will be back for a third try at putting the Wolverines back into the Big Ten title hunt.
Incoming athletic director David Brandon disclosed the NCAA conclusions Tuesday, while expressing full support for his coach, who is 8-16 in two seasons heading the nation's winningest football program.
"Rich Rodriguez is our football coach, and he will be our football coach next year," Brandon said.
In its notice of allegations – which Michigan received Monday – the NCAA said Rodriguez "failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program." He tracked neither what his staff was doing nor whether his players were following NCAA rules, particularly those limiting the time spent on practice and football-related activities, the report said.
It also said the athletics department failed to make sure its football program was complying with NCAA regulations. Brandon said the department "clearly made mistakes," but "there was no charge of loss of institutional control" – an allegation that in previous cases has led to severe NCAA sanctions for other schools.
An accompanying letter from the NCAA to university President Mary Sue Coleman said Michigan "should understand that all of the alleged violations set forth in the document" are considered to be "potential major violations of NCAA legislation, unless designated as secondary."
Brandon said he wasn't sure he understood "the difference between 'major' and 'minor' and 'secondary' and 'primary.'"
"They spell it out very specifically in their own language," he said.
Another possible problem for Michigan is that it could be subject to the NCAA's "repeat violator rule" because it was sanctioned in 2003 for wrongdoing within the basketball program.
"We will make all necessary changes," Coleman said. "What we will not do is make excuses."
Michigan has 90 days to respond and will appear at an NCAA hearing on infractions in August. The school will see how its internal investigation matches up with the NCAA findings and will consider implementing self-imposed sanctions, a move that could reduce NCAA penalties.
The NCAA said last October that it was looking into the Wolverine program following a report in the Detroit Free Press citing anonymous football players that said Michigan exceeded NCAA limits regarding practices and workouts in 2008 and 2009.
Rodriguez, who signed a six-year deal worth $2.5 million per season, tearfully defended his program just five days before the season-opener, saying he and his staff have followed the rules. He suggested the complaints were an attempt to "tear up" his rebuilding effort following a 3-9 season.
On Tuesday, the coach said if the football staff misinterpreted NCAA rules, "That's on us."
"We're looking at it to see why we misinterpreted and why we made mistakes," he said.
NCAA regulations allow players to spend eight hours a week on mandatory workouts during the offseason. Players told the Free Press they spent two to three times that amount on required workouts, though the NCAA report released Tuesday said players more often exceeded the limit by two hours per week.
The players also said the amount of time they spent on football activities during the season exceeded the weekly limit of 20 hours and often exceeded the daily limit of four hours. They said football staff often watched offseason scrimmages that are supposed to be voluntary.
Near the end of last season, the school released embarrassing details of an internal audit that discovered Rodriguez's team failed to file forms tracking how much time players spent on football during his first season and the following offseason.
The audit noted "a concern" that the football program failed to file monthly forms created by the school to comply with NCAA rules by tracking how much players work out and practice.
The school report did not find issues of noncompliance – a key issue for NCAA investigators – but acknowledged the practice logs for football were not available to be reviewed when the audit was conducted. The forms since had been turned in on a timely basis, according to the school.
"My reading of the situation is we had a breakdown of communication," Brandon said Tuesday. "We found we were not being vigilant in the way those (time records) were being filled and managed."
The time record system that the football staff designed "was too cumbersome to manage" and is being changed.
The decision to hold the infractions hearing in August means Michigan will have a distraction just as
the Wolverines are getting set to kick off a new season in their refurbished stadium.
Brandon, who takes over as athletic director on March 8, called Tuesday "a tough day" and said the university was taking "full responsibility for those events that brought us to this point."
"We will dedicate ourselves to learning from this and doing everything we can to prevent it from happening again in the future," said Brandon, the outgoing chairman and CEO of Domino's Pizza.
Rodriguez stumbled to a 3-9 season in his debut at Michigan, the team's first losing season since the late 1960s and his 4-0 Wolverines stumbled down the stretch last season, leading to speculation about his tenure in Ann Arbor.
According to his contract, Rodriguez can be fired for cause if the NCAA, the Big Ten or the school determines he has committed a major violation of NCAA rules or he has intentionally committed any other type of violation of NCAA rules.