West Virginia fans' hopes that former coach Rich Rodriguez's troubles at Michigan would stay in Ann Arbor officially ended today.
The school announced this afternoon that it received a notice from the NCAA on Wednesday accusing it of major violations by the football program. The NCAA allegations cover the period from 2005 to 2009, including the final three years of Rodriguez's tenure, and interestingly enough, the first two seasons under Bill Stewart.
The allegations sound similar to the ones levied at Michigan. The NCAA says West Virginia used graduate assistants, managers, video coordinators and other staff members who should not have been in coaching roles to work with players during the spring and summer. Those staffers did everything from performing on-field work, analyzing video of practices and Mountaineers' opponents and sitting in on coaches' meetings they weren't supposed to attend, according to the NCAA.
The allegations also say that West Virginia exceeded NCAA practice time limits by an hour and 15 minutes for the week of Oct. 22-28, 2006. Practice time violations, first exposed in a newspaper report, were the catalyst to the probe that eventually made its way to Morgantown.
But most damning of all is that the NCAA alleges that both Rodriguez and Stewart "failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program." That is verbatim what the NCAA levied at Rodriguez while he was at Michigan.
Obviously, this is not good for West Virginia, or, potentially, for Stewart.
Michigan has already admitted many of the penalties and has self-imposed sanctions ranging from cutting back practice and training time by 130 hours over the next two years, reducing the number of assistants, official reprimands and two years' probation. Rodriguez and the school are scheduled to appear before the NCAA Infractions Committee on Aug. 13 in Seattle.
How the NCAA ultimately decides to punish Michigan will give West Virginia a good idea of what to expect from these accusations. If the NCAA accepts the reduced practice time and doesn't go much farther, then that's a good sign. What both schools want to avoid is scholarship cuts or bowl bans.
The Mountaineers still get to respond to the report, and Luck -- who just took over as the school's AD in June -- said that several measures have already been imposed:
"Because of our strong commitment to compliance, we implemented significant changes intended to ensure that those mistakes did not continue, and that they will not happen again.
"This past spring, we developed new job descriptions and employment agreements which clearly detail permissible and non permissible activities for graduate assistants and other sport-specific personnel. In addition, we have expanded rules education and monitoring programs.
"We have also reduced the number of football graduate assistant positions, restricted the duties of graduate assistants and non-coaching personnel, and restructured the student manager program. We may take additional actions."
Today's news raises a few key questions. One, how will this affect Rodriguez and the ongoing investigation at Michigan? More importantly for the Mountaineers, what exactly was Stewart's role in this and how much did he know about what was going on? (The NCAA wants to know that, too). Does this increase the pressure on him to win, especially with a new boss in town?
Here's what Luck had to say about that:
"I have spoken at length to coach Bill Stewart and his staff and I am convinced that they believe in operating a fully-compliant football program. Coach Stewart and his coaches have my full support, the full support of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the full support of the University."
Luck ended his statement with a rallying cry on this difficult day:
"Finally, let me say this: As Mountaineers it is in our DNA -- in our very nature -- to stand strong, to stand together, and to stand firm when we face challenges – whether on the field or off. As we approach the coming season, let us do so with pride in our University, passion in our football team and persistence in our mission. And, most importantly, let us stand together with our Mountaineers."