Consider Michigan's Plan a 'Plea Bargain'
But the NCAA still might rap the Wolverines on the knuckles hard enough to bruise them maize and blue.
At the very least, Michigan's limited admission of NCAA violations is historic. This university has long held itself above all others for running a clean program, at least in football.
Some rivals found the Wolverines holier-than-thou. They reveled in winning a lot without breaking rules in a way that critics called arrogant.
Much has changed under coach Rich Rodriguez. One defense offered by Rodriguez was that he was ignorant of what was taking place in his own program.
"[Michigan's staff] are not rogues, renegades or cheaters," Rodriguez's statement said. "Yes, there were violations. But they were not done deliberately or knowingly."
The major charge is that Rodriguez's staff over-worked the players while building a record of 8-16 over two seasons. Michigan admitted this.
"Nobody wants to be found breaking any rule," athletic director David Brandon said.
But the school was lenient on itself. The Wolverines denied a serious allegation.
"Rodriguez did not fail to promote an atmosphere of compliance," the report said.
So Rodriguez, among others, received a letter of reprimand. Training hours will be cut back. Minor staff reductions will reduce "quality control" coaches.
And that's pretty much it.
There was no reduction of scholarships, no ban from bowl games, no television blackouts and no forfeiture of victories from the record book. Does the punishment fit the crime?
Certainly, the violations revealed so far in Michigan football do not match the dirty-money odor that wafted from the "Fab Five" scandal that put the Wolverines' basketball program on probation.
But the NCAA might increase the football penalties after it meets with university authorities in August. Tuesday's admissions and self-imposed sanctions amount to plea-bargaining.
The whole mess comes at critical time for both the football program and the Big Ten conference.
Michigan Stadium -- also known as "The Big House" -- is about to open two huge tiers of luxury suites while the state around it still reels from an economic recession.
The league is hoping to expand to the east, west or south -- or all of the above -- because its traditional Great Lakes geographic base is losing population.
Brandon, who replaced Bill Martin as athletic director, is a rookie on his job. Ambitious politically in Michigan, Brandon was, until recently, chief executive officer of Domino's Pizza, Inc.
This is relevant if you watch recent television commercials for Domino's. They feature new Domino's C.E.O., J. Patrick Doyle, the man who replaced Brandon.
In a blunt way, the Doyle commercials review customer complaints. Among the comments: "Worst excuse for pizza I ever had" ... "Totally devoid of flavor" ... "Crust to me is like cardboard."
The promise, from Domino's, is to improve the product.
What the commercials don't mention is that this substandard pizza was marketed under Brandon's leadership before Brandon took over the Michigan athletic department.
Pizza notwithstanding, Brandon cannot be blamed for what took place at Michigan before he arrived. But it was curious to read what he said Tuesday about Rodriguez.
While conceding that the violations "could be interpreted to trigger a dismissal clause in the coach's contract," Brandon added "We don't believe that's appropriate."
Perhaps not. But a few more losing seasons, some empty luxury boxes and a loss of prestige have a way of defining what next becomes appropriate.
Like mediocre pizza, some cheesy things leave a bad taste in people's mouths.