In Defense of Morgan Trent

In Defense of Morgan Trent


February 24, 2010
Former Michigan cornerback Morgan Trent (#25):
former team captain, 6th round draft pick, enemy of the state

On the heels of reports from the Detroit Free Press, the NCAA launched an investigation into alleged infractions by Rich Rodriguez and his staff at the University of Michigan. On Monday night, the NCAA’s allegations were made known to university administrators. On Tuesday afternoon, the university held a press conference, at which both head coach Rich Rodriguez and soon-to-be athletic director David Brandon admitted making past mistakes. Also on Tuesday afternoon, former Michigan cornerback Morgan Trent was interviewed by the Detroit News and said the following:

“I’m not surprised because I know what happened, and I know what kind of rules were broken. I couldn’t see how they were going to get out of that.

“Whatever steps need to be taken (to restore Michigan’s winning tradition), I’m all for it. What is happening right now obviously is not working. I don’t know how long they’re going to let this last until changes are made. This year is going to be the tell-all what’s going to happen. We can’t have three losing years in a row. Not at Michigan. To lose seven of last eight games (in 2009) is an embarrassment.”

These comments immediately set off a firestorm in the Michigan blogosphere. In various places, I found quotes like “Morgan Trent is a piece of shit” (MGoBlog’s message board), “While you’re talking to the press Morgan, how bout telling us how Dwayne Jarrett’s ass tastes?” (Genuinely Sarcastic), and “[Morgan’s] father should have done us all a favor and pulled out. Or worn a rubber. Or punched your mother in the stomach” (a blog aptly named The Toolshed). Meanwhile, Trent was a sixth round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals and locked down their nickel cornerback job, making 28 tackles, 1 sack, and 4 pass breakups in his 2009 rookie season. If he’s “truly horrible at football” (another MGoBlog message board post), then put me down as somebody who wants to be truly horrible at football, too.

As I was reading these comments – and responding to some – I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in Michigan’s fan base. Not only are the allegations perhaps the biggest letdown of the Rodriguez era, but Wolverine fans came out of the woodwork to denigrate and attempt to discredit Trent by insulting his body of work at Michigan.

To briefly recap Trent’s career at Michigan, he was recruited in 2004 out of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s as a wide receiver. He switched to cornerback during bowl practices of his freshman year, during which he redshirted, and played sparingly as a redshirt freshman. He became a starter opposite Leon Hall in the 2006 season, taking part in an embarrassing Rose Bowl loss to USC and The Horror against Appalachian State in 2007. In Rodriguez’s first season at Michigan, 2008, Trent started the entire year at cornerback, but his solid – although not spectacular – play took a step back in the one-year experiment where cornerbacks coach/defensive coordinator Scott Shafer installed a failure of a defense, was neutered mid-season in favor of the 3-3-5 stack, and was promptly fired at the end of the season. It’s not a coincidence that Trent’s season as a fifth-year senior was a disappointment – he was undone by poor coaching and a poor scheme. Despite the poor coaching, he was named one of four team captains at the end of the season.

Trent finished his career as a 41-game starter, tallying 149 tackles, 7 interceptions, and 24 passes defensed. In addition, he did things like this (fast forward to 3:35) and this:

Now, should Morgan Trent have said the things he did? Probably not. Trent really added nothing that people didn’t already know, and if he thought about it, he surely would have known that such comments wouldn’t help Michigan’s precarious position in the local and national media.

But he spoke the truth.

I’m not surprised because I know what happened, and I know what kind of rules were broken. Trent played at Michigan during the 2008 season, when some of these allegations took place. He was there. He saw it. Even if he didn’t know at the time that rules were being broken, he’s an insider – he knows more than any fan could. He might remember grad assistant Alex Herron showing up to 7-on-7s. He might remember practices going for an extra 20 minutes.

I couldn’t see how they were going to get out of that. An infraction is an infraction is an infraction. You can’t go back and change history, no matter how much you want to do so.

Whatever steps need to be taken (to restore Michigan’s winning tradition), I’m all for it. What is happening right now obviously is not working. That’s true. It’s not. Michigan is 8-16 over the past two years and they’re on the verge of “major infractions” (the NCAA’s words, not mine).

I don’t know how long they’re going to let this last until changes are made. This year is going to be the tell-all what’s going to happen at Michigan. We can’t have three losing years in a row. Not at Michigan. This is a common sentiment amongst Michigan fans, media, and – let’s face it – people within the program. Nobody knows how long Rodriguez has to right the ship. Some think that another losing season would get him fired. Some think he should get at least four years. I’m sure incoming athletic director David Brandon ponders the same question; he’s been publicly supportive of Rodriguez, but he knows that Michigan can’t endure infractions and losing seasons forever.

To lose seven of last eight games (in 2009) is an embarrassment. Does anybody want to argue that losing to MSU, Illinois, and Purdue wasn’t embarrassing? How about the 45-24 loss to Wisconsin?

All the ire directed at Trent is a defense mechanism. After decades of admiring Bo Schembechler and his disciples, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr, Michigan fans cannot bring themselves to criticize the people who are truly to blame for what is happening right now at the University of Michigan – Rich Rodriguez and his staff.

A poster on MGoBlog said something to the effect that it makes him angry that “Haters are bringing down my Camelot.” Yes, the Free Press did some digging – much of it unethical – and jump-started the investigation. But the crux of the issue is that Rich Rodriguez broke the rules. He overscheduled practice times. His staff watched off-season 7-on-7s when they shouldn’t have. His staff punished players who skipped class. All of those things went against the rules that were put in place by the NCAA.

I’m not calling for Rodriguez to be fired. Far from it. Firing Rodriguez at this point would set the program even further back than it is. Barring any further infractions, he needs to keep his job through the 2010 season, and probably even 2011. But the tenuous hold he has on his job isn’t entirely due to outside forces. From the onset of his Michigan career, he was put in a tough position with the roster and personnel and media working against him, but this attack from the NCAA and the media falls squarely on his shoulders.

Michigan fans, your anger is misplaced. Be angry at the Detroit Free Press for the unethical ways they tricked young football players into answering their slick questions last summer. Be angry at the NCAA for having rules that student-athletes shouldn’t be punished for skipping classes. Be angry at Rich Rodriguez for letting things get out of control. Cancel your subscriptions, send letters, send e-mails. Let’s not lose perspective of who’s actually to blame.

Go Blue!

23 comments

  1. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Feb 25, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Jeebus, you are full of shit. Clearly no need to check back in a this waste of Internet space.

  2. Comments: 21395
    Feb 25, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

  3. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Feb 25, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    I would like to ask Mr. Trent: Did Lloyd Carr ever 'break' the rules? Give us the non Michigan football playing public some perspective. If Mr. Rodriguez was breaking the rules why didn't you speak up then? Or did the 'ends justify the means' for you Mr. Trent now that you are cashing a big paycheck in the NFL?

  4. Comments: 21395
    maineandblue
    Feb 25, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    "Not only are the allegations perhaps the biggest letdown of the Rodriguez era"

    Really? I disagree. The record, end of streaks, etc. are by far the biggest letdowns. These allegations, imho, are not unethical and not a big deal. Most schools have violated some or all of these codes.

    "Now, should Morgan Trent have said the things he did? Probably not."

    Exactly.

    I think some folks have gone too far on both sides, but as of now Rich represents M football and the U of M, and until I hear that he's done something unethical or blatantly bad in some other way, I would hope fans and former players show their support rather than add to the madness.

  5. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Feb 25, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    So basically the premise of your article is "Morgan Trent wasn't as terrible at football as you thought he was, so we should give him a pass on saying classless things?" Way to move the goalposts.

    Trent never should have opened his mouth and made such comments, period, even if he was All Big 10 all 4 years here.

  6. Comments: 21395
    Feb 25, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    @ Anonymous 8:05 a.m.

    Let's not blame a 21- or 22-year-old kid for NOT reporting his coach for violations. Isn't that expecting a little much? It's the coaches' jobs to prevent infractions, not the players'.

  7. Comments: 21395
    Feb 25, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    @ maineandblue

    I do think that major infractions are a bigger disappointment than the losing. When Rodriguez came to Michigan, I expected us to lose for a year or two. I did not expect us to be incur infractions or be sanctioned.

    Of course, that's personal opinion. I'm disappointed due to my expectations. Perhaps your expectations were different.

  8. Comments: 21395
    Feb 25, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    @ Anonymous 9:00 a.m.

    My point is that I have seen all kinds of railing against Morgan Trent. What I haven't seen in the Michigan blogosphere is ANYONE skewering Rodriguez, who is the real culprit here.

    Also, Morgan Trent's play on the field is irrelevant to the discussion. Whether he was an All-American or a bench player, discrediting his athletic talents is a) irrelevant and b) unfounded, due to the fact that he's playing well on an NFL roster.

  9. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Feb 25, 2010 at 5:05 PM

    I think the blog gets it wrong here. Yes, Trent might have seen Herron at a 7-on-7. But I highly, highly doubt he could interpret NCAA compliance bylaws and determine stretching was a countable hour, or he knew the CARA forms were lagging.

    The point is, Trent probably didn't know what was going on. "I know what kind of rules were broken," he says, but he is almost definitely wrong.

  10. Comments: 21395
    Feb 25, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    Did he really have to say anything? No. Did he know that his statements would harm Rodriguez's ability to produce a successful football tean (i.e. this will hurt his ability to recruit if nothing else)? Probably. Should he have known? Yes. He attacked the program in the media and thus sold it out. He deserves no sympathy from Michigan fans.

  11. Comments: 21395
    Feb 25, 2010 at 5:14 PM

    @ Anonymous 12:05 p.m.

    As a former Michigan player, don't you think he would have some knowledge about what rules were broken? I mean, once told that practices can only last for, say, 2 hours on Sundays and he remembers being there from 2:30 until 5:00, it's really not that difficult to figure out.

    Maybe I'm reading his comments wrong, but I didn't read it as "I knew it was wrong at the time." I read it as "I've heard all about it, and yeah, we practiced for too long."

  12. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Feb 25, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    Thunder – so it is ok for a 24-25 y/o NFL player to comment on violations after the fact, but not for a 21-22 yo kid during his time as a Student-Athelete? Are they not told what the rules are?

    What I do want to know is: Did his experience under Carr differ from that of Rodriguez? In other words were the violations that have been brought to light (and he commented on) a issue with the new coach and staff or an issue that is part of Division I football programs (ie: also present under Carr)? You know because the common refrain is: "EVERYBODY DOES IT"- the NCAA has yet to catch them.

    PS: Your dad would not happen to be in Michigan High School Football Hall of Fame?

  13. Comments: 21395
    Feb 25, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    @ Anonymous 12:43 p.m.

    The difference is that as a 21- or 22-year-old kid, he would be ratting out his own coach. The guy who decides his team's success, the guy who decides whether he plays or not, the guy who could have a very large impact on his chances of playing in the NFL.

    Imagine if an NFL GM called Rodriguez to ask him about Trent after Trent reported Rodriguez. Would Rodriguez say good things about Trent? Furthermore, if Trent reported Rodriguez and UofM ended up getting sanctioned, don't you think Trent would feel guilty? Like I said, it's the coach's job to hold the program accountable, not the players'.

    As for your question about Carr, I can't tell you.

    P.S. My dad is not in the Michigan High School Football Hall of Fame, although now I'm curious about who you think I am.

  14. Comments: 21395
    Feb 25, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    Thank you for misrepresenting my comments, "[Morgan's] father should have done us all a favor and pulled out. Or worn a rubber. Or punched your mother in the stomach", ya tool.

    I clearly stated that I wrote that blogpost back in October 2008 and not as a reaction to Trent's recent comments about M and RR. Those comments were designed to be crude and entertaining, not taken literally. And certainly not used for you to stand on your soap box and denounce those who speak ill of Trent.

  15. Comments: 21395
    Feb 25, 2010 at 6:18 PM

    @ Mr. Ace

    If your comments were designed to be "crude," then you succeeded. Regardless of whether they were about his comments or his play on the field, they were inappropriate. In fact, they were probably even MORE inappropriate being about his on-field accomplishments, rather than the comments he made in the Free Press.

  16. Comments: 21395
    Feb 25, 2010 at 9:26 PM

    For the record, a particularly crude comment about Morgan Trent was removed. You have the right to free speech, but I have the right to delete useless comments that consist of ad hominem attacks.

  17. Comments: 21395
    FGB
    Feb 26, 2010 at 12:10 AM

    I don't disagree that bashing Trent personally is wrong, both morally and factually. He was a very good player and an attack on his skills is not warranted, or relevant quite frankly. Your take is that some Michigan fans are reacting in an inappropriate manner, but the absurd personal attacks only obscure valid criticisms of his comments.

    He was a part of those embarrassing teams, and he didn't play nearly as well his senior year. You can chalk it up to whatever you want (changes in coaches, schemes, etc.) but its clear he wasn't buying in completely, which has to negatively impact his performance, so he has to at least share in some of the blame for that defense. And to say things are "obviously not working" puts him about on par with most MGoCommenters as to rational evaluation of the current regime. We all know the various impediments to success we've faced, some caused by the staff, some caused by external forces. Things take time, and Trent doesn't seem interested in taking that time, he'd rather get a shot in at the coach.

    He's entitled to say what he wants, but I think its reasonable to say that with these comments he's not interested in helping Michigan return to success. This comes off like Toney Clemons or any other player who didn't like the regime change…as an "I told you so" to the coaches, which really contributes nothing to finding a solution.

    And in that sense its fair to "place a bit of anger" with Trent. Lord knows there's enough to go around for him and everyone else you mentioned.

  18. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Feb 26, 2010 at 12:33 AM

    Sorry, but you're wrong about not calling out Trent on his play as a Wolverine. He directly commented on the play of the team by calling it "embarrassing". If it's okay for Trent to question the play on the field, then it's okay to look at Trent's play on the field as well.

    And the fact is, he was part of 3-9. He was part of (a BIG part, in fact) of Appalachian State. He was a HUGE part of the USC/Dewayne Jarrett humiliation.

    If he wants to call the football team an embarrassment, that's fine. He's certainly within his rights to do so. But if he's going to put the debate into the realm of play on the field then it's perfectly fair to also comment on his play on the field.

    Saying he should "eat shit and die" or stuff like that is obviously out of bounds. But skewering his middling-to-terrible years of play on the field at UM both with Rodriguez and without Rodriguez is not out of bounds given his comment.

  19. Comments: 21395
    Feb 26, 2010 at 2:04 AM

    Pretty good… I finally figured out that "Thunder" is the blog host. To steal the framework for one of your points, I don't know which is worse, the infractions (there is some gray, but to me they are real) or the sentiments of so many online M fans. As you wrote, something like 'infractions are infractions are infractions…' They got caught. On another level, I don't think it is right to push young student-athletes too hard, in one direction, for the wider changes in or failures of the program. It is not their fault, and it certainly shouldn't be up to them–they shouldn't be put in the position–to defend, cover-up, comply with, or whatever for other problems.

    But still, you… I don't blame the FREEP for their generally fair reporting. (Yes, a few interviewees were slightly blindsided.)

    Regarding RR, I am inclinded to believe he has some maturing to do at, or just plain isn't the world's greatest, manager (e.g., seemingly, the transition could have been managed better…). He also has some characteristics that are a bit on the sleazy side. But as the line from the movie Chinatown goes, "He has to swim in the same water as the rest of us." Coaches and people are not perfect; he is a good coach and a good recruiter and the promise for the team is there. As with the young recruits, I just hope he will…, well, improve.

    Finally, I have to mention this. Brandon, a "communication failure?" That to me is not contrition. Take a look at the quality control assistants, look at their history with RR, consider their involvement in this on all its levels. Give them the benefit of reasonable doubt just to move on. To me, they got caught and it needs to stop.

  20. Comments: 21395
    Austin
    Feb 26, 2010 at 5:36 AM

    The problem is, Morgan Trent said, in the article, "Whatever steps need to be taken (to restore Michigan's winning tradition), I'm all for it."

    If he truly believed this, he wouldn't talk, because as an intelligent person, he knows that by publicly making these types of statement, he is putting the current team further behind the 8-ball. Thus, not improving Michigan. Now, unless he wanted the current staff out, then improvement, which is clearly implied by his comments. This ushers in the thought that he would prefer Michigan degrade further so that changes are made.

    For someone who wants Michigan to succeed, he doesn't do a great job of furthering the success of the program. That's my beef.

  21. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    Feb 26, 2010 at 6:31 AM

    Selling out the coaches by making dumb statements like "i knew what the rules were and i knew that they were being broken" is totally not kosher. You defending him to the hilt seems a little bit excessive, and i have been following your blog and some of your comments for a while now (you make yourself heard on MgoBlog so..)

    Let me ask you this, where the fuck were these comments when he spoke about the Freep expose back in Fall 09…..from what i can remember all that he said was something along the lines of "we seemed to have spent quite a long time at the football facilities on Sundays….but we needed to get better (standard boiler plate for a poor performance)" so what has changed now. He was not blasted by the M fanbase, and him having a nice rookie campaign for the Bengals could have only got him in the good graces of M fans (fairweather fans..the knowledgeable ones knew he had good skills).

    The only thing that has changed is the we sucked dong..again. I do get his feelings about his alma mater sucking and all the BS he has to put up as an ex-M football player in OH (he already had a taste of what things would be when he got his ass booed after defeating Ginn in the Dayton track event back in 04). So does this defend his comments in the media, especially when said media is doing all it can to nuke your program (coaches included). I say fuck no, while some of the criticism on the internet is from the usual fire breathing crowd and trying to set that right is akin to "charging the windmills", there are many folks with saner takes. But to dismiss Trent's comments with some weak ass "maybe its not kosher/he probably shouldn't have said those things" is similar to Rosenberg's "i can see why Coach Dan gave Glenn Winston a second chance right out of jail"…..its your blog but once you start "correcting" people, well you open yourself up too!!

    I do appreciate your contribution to M blogosphere as a football analyst, keep up the good work.

  22. Comments: 21395
    Feb 26, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    @ Anonymous 1:31 a.m.

    To answer your question about why Trent waited until now to make these comments, your hypothesis makes some sense…but what if he spoke out DURING the investigation? Don't you think it would have been just as damning – or even more so – to speak out before the NCAA finished investigating?

    Personally, IF he's going to say what he said – I'd rather have him do it now than right in the middle of the investigative process. Just like if you were being tried in court, wouldn't you rather have a friend speak out against you after the process rather than testify against you in court? To me, the timing of the comments is probably the thing that makes the most sense.

    Thanks for the compliment, and I don't mind being "corrected" as long as the thought behind it is rational. Like I said, the issue I had with the Trent-haters was that they WEREN'T being rational.

  23. Comments: 21395
    Anonymous
    May 31, 2010 at 11:57 PM

    For the record I dont think Morgan Trent was the greatest player but it seems like you went way over the top to defend this guy. No one likes whats going on the last couple of years but to blame it all on rr is stupid as well. When he came in he made it a point to say that everyone had to earn their spot and that ruffled a few people including morgan and terrance taylor to name a few. It was the right thing to do for rr and if morgan had taken the same attitude that brandon graham took perhaps he would have been a better player. For the record with the players michigan lost on offense and the defense not buying in our record was as good as you could have expected. dont forget that donvan warren did not buy in as well so it was an uphill battle

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