Using the FOIA to Get Michigan’s Football Roster is a Waste of Time
Rutgers University desperately wants to create a football rivalry with the University of Michigan. Michigan regularly recruits the best players from Rutgers' home state of New Jersey. There are other reasons for the mostly one-sided rivalry too.
Now the New Jersey media is on board with the plan.
NJ Advance Media filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain Michigan's football roster.
Is it a legitimate use of the FOIA?
Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014. They earned their first conference victory that year with a win over Michigan 26-24. Things were already going downhill for Michigan coach Brady Hoke, but the loss to Rutgers helped to usher him out the door.
Jim Harbaugh entered the next season and is 2-0 against Rutgers. 2015's game was a 49-16 win in Ann Arbor and last year's game was a 78-0 victory at Rutgers.
Harbaugh runs the team unconventionally at times. That includes not releasing the team roster until much later than most teams. NJ.com was not happy with the lack of roster. They wanted it to make a list of college football players from New Jersey.
So what do you do when you don't get what you want?
Abuse the Freedom of Information Act.
NJ Advance Media/NJ.com filed a FOIA request to obtain Michigan's football roster. Never mind that early rosters can be inaccurate. Consider the transfer we just learned about this week.
Why stop at the roster? They should have asked for the playbook. That might not be a joke in some states.
A UNC School of Law report says that "public records law can be used to harass, intimidate, and spy." It says North Carolina public records law, "is broad enough that it could potentially reach academic research, client lists from legal clinics, football playbooks, and academic exams."
Does the Michigan football roster FOIA request provide a true benefit to the public or is it being used in an attempt to harass and intimidate?
"Due to the large number of requests currently being processed by this office, it will not be possible to respond to your request within the five-day period accorded by the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. However, under Section 5 (2) (d) of the Act, the University is permitted to extend the deadline for not more than 10 business days beyond the initial due date. The University will respond to your request on or before August 25, 2017."
Harbaugh has followed with this:
Does Michigan gain a competitive advantage by not releasing the roster as early as other schools?
Possibly a little.
Is the late roster inconvenient to media outlets?
Does it really matter?