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Updated 9:30 AM September 8, 2009

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Coleman, Rodriguez comment on athletics allegations

President Mary Sue Coleman says a "thorough and objective" investigation is critical to determining the truth about allegations involving the U-M football program.
At his weekly press conference Aug. 31, U-M head football coach Rich Rodriguez said the program has followed NCAA rules. (Photo by Scott Soderberg, U-M Photo Services)

An Aug. 30 Detroit Free Press story, quoting anonymous sources, alleged that football coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff violated NCAA rules regarding the amount of time players were required to spend in workouts.

In her statement Wednesday, Coleman said:

"At the University of Michigan, we place the highest importance on the welfare of our student-athletes and the integrity of our intercollegiate athletics program. Our university is widely recognized for academic and athletic excellence, and it's something we work to achieve every day. I am proud of our unwavering commitment to that standard.

"As soon as the allegations surfaced about our athletic program, I launched an investigation. Our Board of Regents is fully informed on the matter. With the help of outside counsel, we are working in cooperation with the NCAA to discover and assess the facts of the situation.

"It is critical that a thorough and objective investigation is completed before any conclusions are drawn. We will then determine what — if any — actions need to occur to ensure full compliance with NCAA rules and our own rules of conduct.

The university has retained the firm Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC, of Birmingham, Ala., to assist in the investigation.

In an emotional press conference Aug. 31, Rodriguez defended the football program against the allegations, calling the newspaper article "misleading."

"I'm proud of the way our programs are run," he said. "What bothered me most was the perception that we did not care as much for our players' welfare. That is disheartening. (It) is misleading, inaccurate and goes against everything we believe in coaching."

"The truth of the matter is that this coaching staff cares very deeply about our players and this institution," he said. "'We know the rules, we go by the rules."

Rodriguez praised strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis saying, "nobody has a greater passion for football than he does."

"(Barwis) has always complied with the rules. We have a transparent program."

Football player Mark Ortmann, an outside linebacker, also defended the program saying, "I know what we do is honest and we all work hard. We follow the rules. We all put our time in."

Linebacker Obi Ezeh spoke of team unity saying, "In order to defeat that stuff you got to stick together. We're a whole bunch of brothers," he said.

"With the season we had last year everybody on the team has the mindset that we want to go above and beyond."

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