Tuesday, January 15, 2008

WVU Meltdown -- The Australian Waters Syndrome

The Charleston Gazette reported that the WVA athletic department has accused Rich Rod of destroying school and personal player records with his video editor after returning to WVA from Michigan after his formal introduction in A2 as Michigan's head coach. A couple of the more poignant quotes from the Gazette:

West Virginia officials are wondering if assistant coaches aren’t all that Rich Rodriguez took with him to Michigan. They believe he may also have destroyed all or most of the paperwork files relating to every player on the current Mountaineer roster and virtually all of the activities conducted by the program over the past seven years.

Let's consider that statement, for the mere time it might take Charlie Weis to scarf down a bucket of Spot's wings. West Virgina officials actually thinking is quite an endeavor for them, especially if the reporter is actually referring to ol' Eddy Pastilong. Second, they "believe" R2 "may have" destroyed all or "most of the paperwork files". What!? To believe is not fact. It is simply a thought, with or without merit, mind all of you, that something occurred. Further qualified by the "may" as in, well you know we kind of think that someone might have destroyed files. You are kidding right? These WVA officials "went public" with something they think might have happened, but aren't so sure? And why the reference to "paperwork files". Is this a tacit admission that they still have all of the "electronic version files" of the same documents?

Let's consider this story even further:
Most disturbing, though, is the absence of all of the players’ personal files, which included, among other things, contact information, scholarship money awarded, class attendance records and records on personal conduct and community service, be it positive or negative.

Mr. Pastilong, you unnamed source you, cannot be serious. Does WVA really, truly, honest abe, actually expect anyone to believe that the only records for a Div 1A program's athletes scholarships, class attendance, and disciplinary records are contained in the private office files of its head coach? Does WVA have a compliance coordinator? Maybe not. You can actually apply for the position here.

As an example of what other schools do, here is link to the Maryland Athletic Department compliance staff, which actually contains descriptions of duties and responsibilities for various aspects of compliance. Just in case you couldn't write your own, Ed.

Mike Brown is R2's agent. He issued a nonresponse response this afternoon. The Freep and Jim Carty picked that up. There was also a follow up by Angelique here. Interesting quote from a phone converation between Angelique:

"I have to question the source of this information, or may I put it more correctly, misinformation," Brown said Tuesday night in a telephone interview. "This is a continued effort of misinformation and statements that are untrue made by people involved at West Virginia University since Rich left."

And, or course,

Rodriguez will not comment on the legal proceedings, Brown said. Brown, however, said aspects of the suit will be publicly discussed at the appropriate time


ESPN is reporting more than mere misinformation, which is what Mike Brown mentioned to Angelique. Brown states that many of the statements are downright false. This is good. Quote from Brown:

"The head coach and each assistant coach received hard copies of the strength progress," he said. "So I would think coach [Bill] Stewart and others would have those, too."

And, each assistant coach received copies of all player performance files, so Bill There a Still in My Backyard Stewart would have copies of the information allegedly taken.

Brown does implicitly acknowledge, however, that some personal files were taken by R2 from his office:

"The head coach and each assistant coach received hard copies of the strength progress," he said. "So I would think coach [Bill] Stewart and others would have those, too."

This, or course, is not surprising or unusual. It is not illegal. And, it is maybe, or maybe not, a violation of that employment contract we keep hearing about. It will be interesting if the information taken, if any, by R2 relates to his position that WVU did not perform its obligtions under his employment contract. He may intend to use this information in connection with the suit.

Update Number 2:

Mlive has significantly more than ESPN last night in its story today. Mike Brown did specifically point out WVU serious compliance issues in his phone remarks last night, going as far as to say that if the Gazette story was true it was indicative of "serious institutional control" issues. Well, yeah, and as of October they didn't even have a compliance director for day to day operations, leaving that activity to two assistant A.D's. Ooops. WVU looks worse everytime "Unnamed Source" Pastilong opens his mouth.

Update Number 3:

The WVU admissions office denies the forever lost story put out there by Eddy Unnamed Source Pastilong here.

University spokeswoman Amy Neil said the WVU Office of Admissions and Records maintains grade and attendance records in a separate location, so no student-athlete's academic career is at risk.

"We're not sure what records are missing, but all student records, including those of the football team, are kept within the Office of Admissions and Records," she said. "Those records are secure."

Neil said she believes it would not be unusual for the head coach to have copies of his own records to ensure players are maintaining their required grade-point averages or meeting scholarship requirements.

Mike Brown, Rodriguez's agent, has said Moutaineers head coach Bill Stewart, as a former assistant, should have copies of each players' strength and conditioning tests because multiple copies were made. He also said the university should have any records involving the finances of the summer camps it ran.

And, though the article is a bit stale from the days after Rich Rodriguez was hired, the substance of the quotes of at least one major donor seem very appropriate in light of this week's shananigans:

Earl G. ‘‘Ken’’ Kendrick Jr., part owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and significant financial donor to the university, are demanding accountability for what former employees have termed ‘‘a very, very unappealing work environment.’’

‘‘That environment is directly related to those (people) leaving,’’ Kendrick said. ‘‘As of (Wednesday) when I spoke out, I’ve begun to get e-mails from former employees (of the WVU athletic department). They said, ‘Thank you, finally somebody sees our pain.’ ”

‘‘One side shouldn’t be the only side the public hears,’’ Kendrick said. ‘‘If there is more than one side — in this case I think there is — it should be told. I am not embarrassed about shining a light on this area.

‘‘It’s very clear to some of us, there’s a lack of institutional control and good management practices within the athletic department. The institution needs to move forward. Do we want to leave that in the same hands?”

Here are some of the points it made, according to Kendrick:

There’s no business plan; no tactical plan; the department doesn’t give any reviews of its employees, meaning there’s little opportunity for advancement as he sees it; there are no staff meetings; it doesn’t have a human resources function; it doesn’t do any employee training; and it doesn’t allow employees to go to off-site training facilities.

‘‘They came away with some very, very strong recommendations,’’ Kendrick said. ‘‘If the university can do anything with something like this, it needs change.

Wow. Does that explanation, given on December 20 accurately foreshadow the shred-gate? I think so.

This meltdown, which some might call the China Syndrome, may actually burn beyond the center of the earth, past the gravity point, and straight to the Australian Waters of the Indian Ocean.