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January 05, 2011


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Dear Jack,

Yes, it is all a bit embarassing; the level of public punditry about major-college football coaching, and the level of public ignorance about our state legislature. You're right about all of that.

But the University of Michigan's Head Football Coach is paid by the self-sustaining Michigan Athletic Department. There are zero tax dollars/general fund monies involved. No one's tax dollars pay for the Stadium, or the football coaching staff. Football money flows the other way; paying for non-revenue sports, and supplying full-paid tuition, including out-of-state tuition, et cetera, for all scholarship athletes. Anyway, you probably knew that, but it made your column sound better to gloss over that fact.

Here's the thing, Jack. People are indeed fascinated by college football, which is a brutally competitive enterprise. But which catapaults University prestige into a major money-maker for metropolitan Ann Arbor. I thought that was the sort of thing you liked. The model, as it were, for leveraging one of Michigan's universities into revenue streams, social and economic activity, local interest, national prestige, etc.

And there's this, most of all, Jack. There is a journalism meta-story in the saga of Rich Rodriguez. That meta-story is the outrageous, disgraceful way that local journalists -- and particularly three writers for the Detroit Free Press -- manipulated the Rodriguez story. Three writers -- Michael Rosenberg, Mark Snyder and Drew Sharp -- who all graduated from the University of Michigan. Now that one's a real story.

I'd propose a symposium, somewhere on the University of Michigan campus; to explore, as a case study in journalism ethics, the work of the Free Press with respect to former coach Rodriguez. There are some excellent local panel-member candidates: John U. Bacon; Brian Cook of MGoBlog.com; Frank Beckmann of WJR; Gene Meyers, Managing Sports Editor of the Free Press; Rosenberg and Snyder. And Jack Lessenberry.

If you'd like a lawyer to do the "prosecution" part of such a symposium, I'd volunteer.

Charles Brown

Michigan '80
Michigan State University College of Law '84

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