Monday, July 25, 2011

Institutional control? Ohio State has it

On Friday, 10 Investigates, who has been killing it with news about the Ohio State NCAA investigation, dropped a bombshell: Tressel had alerted the Ohio State administration in December--before the school reported he admitted to knowing--that he had a tip about the NCAA violations. In essence, the report said that the athletic department also lied to the NCAA. Twitter exploded and the internets rejoiced until a full five minutes later when the Columbus Dispatch said, "Remember all that stuff from five minutes ago? Yeah, nevermind." Then they affirmed that the NCAA found no new infractions and OSU wouldn't face a lack of institutional control or failure to monitor.

This made sense, because there's no way OSU lost institutional control. All that happened was the head coach of the most profitable and visible athletic program for their university openly lied to the NCAA and school administrators about knowledge he had of student athletes committing major NCAA infractions while associating with a drug trafficker who was under investigation from the FBI. Institutional control? They have it.

But I'm just a simpleton. Maybe I don't understand what the NCAA considers a lack of institutional control. So what say ye, NCAA?
In determining whether there has been a lack of institutional control when a violation of NCAA rules has been found it is necessary to ascertain what formal institutional policies and procedures were in place at the time the violation of NCAA rules occurred and whether those policies and procedures, if adequate, were being monitored and enforced. It is important that policies and procedures be established so as to deter violations and not merely to discover their existence after they have taken place. In a case where proper procedures exist and are appropriately enforced, especially when they result in the prompt detection, investigation and reporting of the violations in question, there may be no lack of institutional control although the individual or individuals directly involved may be held responsible.

In a situation in which adequate institutional procedures exist, at least on paper, a practical, common-sense approach is appropriate in determining whether they are adequately monitored and enforced by a person in "control." Obviously, general institutional control is exercised by the chief executive officer of a member institution. However, it is rare that the chief executive officer will make decisions specifically affecting the operations of the institution's athletics program. Instead, the day-to-day duties of operation, including compliance with NCAA rules, will have been delegated to subordinates either by specific action or by the creation of appropriate job descriptions. Moreover, it is usually left to senior subordinates, such as the director of athletics, further to delegate various duties regarding compliance with NCAA rules.

In most institutions, especially those with large and varied athletics programs, such delegations are made to a number of individuals who are expected to exercise control over compliance with regard to specific aspects of the program. The specific obligations of such individuals should be in writing, and not merely an understanding among the senior officials of the university and the athletics department. Not only the director of athletics, but other officials in the athletics department, the faculty athletics representative, the head coaches and the other institutional administrators outside of the athletics department responsible for such matters as the certification of athletes for financial aid, practice and competition, are expected to assume a primary role in ensuring compliance. Even though specific action has been taken to place responsibility elsewhere, these individuals will be assumed to be operating on behalf of the institution with respect to those responsibilities that are logically within the scope of their positions. Their failure to control those matters so as to prevent violations of NCAA rules will be considered the result of a lack of institutional control.
So ah...

Emphasis mine for important parts, but isn't this precisely what happened at OSU? Tressel a head coach--a position explicitly stated represents the institution--broke basically every rule outlined here with regards to institutional control. But Ohio State, they have institutional control.

There's a caveat: "In a case where proper procedures exist and are appropriately enforced, especially when they result in the prompt detection, investigation and reporting of the violations in question, there may be no lack of institutional control although the individual or individuals directly involved may be held responsible." This is what the NCAA is going to hide behind. They're already saying that Tressel was a lone ranger who spearheaded this violation machine. Except the NCAA even argues that there need to be measures to promptly detect, investigate, and report the violations. Aside from the fact that Tressel didn't report the violations (hence the inability to report to the NCAA), the idea that this was investigated properly is comical. Not only did the compliance staff eventually learn that he received e-mails and decide "nothing to see here", but they also assured the public that there weren't any other NCAA violations other than those that initially surfaced with regards to Tatgate, which obviously was false.

None of this dismisses the fact that I'm still a simpleton, though. I'm probably just misinterpreting all of this. Maybe the NCAA has a section entitled something like ACTS THAT ARE LIKELY TO DEMONSTRATE A LACK OF INSTITUT... oh...

A director of athletics or any other individual with compliance responsibilities fails to investigate or direct an investigation of a possible significant violation of NCAA rules or fails to report a violation properly.

When a director of athletics or any other individual with compliance responsibilities has been informed of, or learns that there exists a possible significant violation of NCAA rules, and then fails to ensure that the matter is properly investigated, there is a lack of institutional control. Similarly, if an actual violation of NCAA rules comes to the attention of the director of athletics or a person with compliance responsibilities and there is a failure to report the violation through appropriate institutional channels to a conference to which the institution belongs and to the NCAA, such failure constitutes a lack of institutional control.

Among other things, the above section is a word-for-word description of what would constitute a lack of institutional control. Without a doubt, Tressel represents "an individual with compliance responsibilities". He learned of possible significant violations of NCAA rules. He failed to report that violation properly. It's like the NCAA wrote a rulebook specifically for this situation, and when it arose, they just said, "Eh, maybe next time."

In the same section, the NCAA even makes concessions for a university that's been the victim of one malicious employee, but notes that if that happens, the university needs to take action to punish or discharge the individual:
The institution fails to make clear, by its words and its actions, that those personnel who willfully violate NCAA rules, or who are grossly negligent in applying those rules, will be disciplined and made subject to discharge.

Any operating compliance system may be thwarted by an individual who acts secretly in violation of the rules or who fails to ascertain whether a questionable action is or is not permissible. If an institution does not make clear that individual violations of NCAA rules will result in disciplinary action against the involved individual, and if it does not actually discipline those who are found to have violated such rules, it has opened the door to permitting further violations. In such a case, future violations of an individual nature will constitute failures of institutional control.
You almost feel bad for OSU reading that. Poor OSU, being duped by the malicious malcontent Jim Tressel who is so widely heralded for his public service, good deeds, and religious leanings. It's a good thing that they suspended him indefinitely and then fired him immediately upon further investigation. What's that? They initially only suspended him for two games against rollover opponents the following year and the athletic director was worried that Tressel would take punitive action against him?

I mean, how much more blatantly can you exemplify a lack of institutional control than what Ohio State has done throughout this entire process? Worse still is that the $250,000 fine that Tressel was required to pay is now being covered by Ohio State to make him go away quietly.

In years past, you could say that the Ohio State football program was the dirtiest in college football, but you could be tossed off as a hater or part of the witch hunt or just another Michigan fan who is bitter about not beating Ohio State in three decades. But now, with all of this on the table and the NCAA inexplicably looking the other way, we know (we know) that Ohio State is in to epic amounts of dirt. More embarrassingly for Ohio State, we know the athletic department and school president are implicit in the scam. What a fucking mockery.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Denard's INT rate and what it means for 2011

It will surprise precisely no readers of this blog that I'm more pessimistic about the upcoming football season than most Michigan bloggers. Despite the bevy of returning starters, the thought of switching from Rich Rodriguez's spread'n'shred offense to Al Borges' West Coast system makes me break out in hives, especially given that Denard Robinson had the 84th worst INT rate among QBs last year (3.8%). MGoBlog believes that putting Denard in the shotgun (and natural progression) will mitigate these problems, but I'm not entirely sure. So let's take a look at some numbers.

The first thing that I pulled up were numbers about Rodriguez's and Borges' offensive structure, and much to my surprise, Borges is not the West Coast gunslinger I thought he was. The following is a chart of Borges' teams' run/pass split since 2004. Last year's team is added for comparison.

Auburn 2004 Auburn 2005 Auburn 2006 Auburn 2007 SDSU 2009 SDSU 2010 Michigan 2010
Pass Att (%) 308 (36%) 339 (41%) 282 (37%) 356 (40%) 448 (58%) 426 (49%) 385 (41%)
Rushes (%) 553 (64%) 481 (59%) 470 (63%) 543 (60%) 328 (42%) 439 (51%) 556 (59%)

I was expecting to see Borges teams rely heavily on the pass, nearly the invert of what is shown here, and was going to follow by saying that relying on a mistake-prone quarterback in that type of offense, regardless of off-season improvement, was a dangerous proposition. But this isn't the case. Instead, Borges' offense, by the numbers anyway and with exception to the 2009 San Diego State team, looks a lot like a typical pro-style, I-formation attack.

If we use only these numbers, we can more or less expect the same reliance on Denard's passing skills next year. And given natural player progression (about which more later), the likelihood that Denard's interception rate drops in the coming year falls somewhere around "expected". However, with an offensive scheme change, and one that likely limits Denard's greatest attribute, those improvements may very well be mitigated. If we're using the information at our disposal (the Spring Game and Denard's awful interception rate a year ago) as any indication, the transition may be more akin to the shift from Carr to Rodriguez than we're all comfortable with.

One of the reasons this feels like Threetidan 2008 is because the Spring Game is impossible to ignore. The mistakes that Denard was making--overthrowing receivers, throwing behind receivers, etc.--are largely independent of offensive schemes and are habits he showed a tendency for as last season progressed. The more comfortable he is with specific plays, the better he'll be able to read and anticipate throws, but sailing passes to open receivers over the middle of the field is not indicative of a quarterback with the full range of passing skills. Even if his interception rate drops through natural improvement (though I'm relatively certain it's headed in the other direction), the effect will be minimal at best. Throw in a heavier reliance on a stable of running backs that proved themselves Exceptionally Average last year, and a serious offensive reversion to the mean (or worse) is in the making.

Most of the hope about next year's offense comes from a beaming smile and the misconception that all quarterbacks are created equal. Denard's improvement from year one to year two was unprecedented. His freshman year, Denard was a quarterback that showed barely any grasp of the offense, poor decision-making ability, and poorer mechanics. Then year two rolled around and he started smiling and holding babies and making stratospheric leaps.

Unfortunately, there's a reason many schools were recruiting him as a cornerback. Denard's ceiling is not something that's ever been discussed outside of Rodriguez's spread'n'shred attack, which had previously turned him into a Heisman hopeful. In a system that doesn't rely as heavily on his legs (or the threat of his legs), does Denard have even a moderate ceiling? A fair amount of his yards last year were on the one-man play action plays that made opposing safeties look silly and Denard look like a revelation. If you excise those plays from his stat sheet in an effort to replicate a West Coast, quick-passing attack, Denard's numbers likely start to trickle down to earth. So not only does expected improvement from Denard make a logical leap, his Spring Game performance coupled with his high interception rate from last year stand to reason that his performance may get noticeably worse.

I started writing this not entirely sure where it was headed, and as we near the 1,000-word mark, I don't think I've made my point. I agree that leaving Denard in the shotgun is the right thing to do, but Denard in Shotgun /= Lower Interception Rate. Given that he spent almost all of last year in the shotgun with a bevy of plays designed specifically to get easy completions as defenses compensate for his running ability, it's unlikely that an offensive shift that may not include those plays will positively affect his decision making and interception rate. Shotgun is the better alternative to having Denard under center where he'll have to deal with footwork and other details he hasn't practiced extensively. But I find it hard to see a scenario in which the offense, and Denard specifically, doesn't take a significant step backwards in 2011.