You may recognize him on television doing regular “Inside Michigan Football” broadcasts. You might even recognize him as the other half of the Michigan and Detroit Lions radio duos we hear during their respective seasons. No matter how you may recognize him, you can never forget a name.
In a historic moment for The Big House Report. Jim Brandstatter recently took time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions for me.
Q: To start, run us through a regular week you and your broadcasting team go through in order to prepare for a game.
A: I’ll start on Monday, since Sunday is the end of the work week in regards to football broadcasts . Monday morning, I get up around eight in the morning and head over to Ann Arbor since that’s where we film the Inside Michigan Football Show. Whether it’s an away game for the Lions and I get home around one in the morning, I have to be there by 9:30 a.m. to film the show. Pat McLaughlin, our producer, puts the show together and sends it to Fox Sports Detroit by 4 p.m. so they can get it in their system and be ready to go by six o’clock that night. Tuesday, would be most normally an off day for me. It’s one of those days where I try to get some reading done. You work the Internet to study both the Michigan and Lions upcoming opponent. Wednesday is a day where we taped a radio show with Brady Hoke live from the Pizza House in Ann Arbor. During the day Wednesday, you would prepare for that. You do the show from 7-8 p.m. and you’re home around 9-10 o’clock at night. Now Thursday I usually go over to the Lions and do the pregame type show. I do my pregame show called “Keys to the Game”, then I come home and start doing my “two-deeps”. Every person who does play-by-play has their own spotting chart. I do my own by PowerPoint. I start with Michigan’s opponent (heights, weights, etc) and then I start working on the Lions opponent, and that takes about four hours or so. If I have any more time Thursday I look at tape which is the same thing I do Friday. Friday, I look at tape I have recorded on my DVR and sometimes I will transfer them to DVD. I look at those to get a sense of the opponent and to make mental notes on who they are, who’s dangerous and who I like. I usually do that most of the day Friday. Saturday, I get up and go to the game. After the game is over, if it’s a Lions home game I will typically go home, and if it’s away I will usually take a plane that night to get wherever the Lions are playing. On Sunday, if the Michigan plays a late game I have to get up early and catch a flight to wherever the Lions are playing. If the Lions are at home, I drive to Ford Field and do the game, and Monday it starts over. My week is busy, it keeps me off the streets (laughs).
Q: As a broadcaster, how difficult is it to contain emotions during a game? Especially during a time in a game that might be incredibly stressful.
A: (laughs) It’s part of the job, you’ve got to be professional and you’ve got to do your job. You have to emotional to a certain degree because if you don’t show that emotion I feel that you’re doing your listener a little bit of a disservice because they’re emotional and they want you to be in the same mold they’re in. But at the same time you’ve got to make sure that you put a lid on it and make sure you’re still an observer and a teller of the story. You can tell it with a heavy heart or with great joy but still make sure they get an accurate story. Your emotion in that story will help them along because football is an emotional game. You learn to keep it in check over the years, and you also learn to let the emotion of the crowd in the stadium almost take over. Sometimes it’s almost better not to say a word and let the crowd noise come through the stadium and describe the event to the listener to make them feel like they’re there, that’s the best you can do.
Q: In your opinion, what would you consider your favorite moment as a broadcaster for Michigan?
A: I think in 1997 when they won the National Championship by beating Washington State. In the locker room when Lloyd Carr grabbed those guys and turned around and said “you have just won the National Championship”, that was a special moment and a special season. Frank Beckmann and I both felt the same way. That was one of those moments you don’t see happen often. They’ve also been great memorable plays. Such as Desmond’s catch against Notre Dame, Mercury Hayes catch in Lloyd’s first game and Anthony Carter’s catch against Indiana. Those were improbable, impractical things that happen were it comes at you. But, when you’re witnessing a head coach telling his players something that is monumental and momentous in regards to Michigan football where they hadn’t won a national title in 50 years, that was a really special moment to be apart of that.
Q: In your opinion, what would you consider your favorite moment as a play for Michigan?
A: There are so many memories. Obviously, the victory in ’69 and that moment after that game. When Bo came in, we didn’t like him very much. He put us through hell and we really as a team, he wasn’t our favorite guy. Yet after that game in ’69 when we pulled that upset, at the time you didn’t know how momentous it was. You knew it was huge, it set up 40 years of excellence and the Schembechler Era didn’t really end until Lloyd retired. That game was the watershed game for a lot of years down the road, we didn’t realize that at the time. At that moment we kind of looked at ourselves and thought “You know what? The guy is crazy, but there’s a reason”. We have to do what he put us through in order to become a team that wins Big Ten Championships. This is what it takes. He was the one that took us there kicking and screaming. There were many more after ’69, such as beating Michigan State and Ohio State my Senior year in ’71 for an unbeaten season, those are just great moments. But that ’69 moment, if you look back at it, in what legacy that game left probably was that great moment with Bo.
Q: Talk a little about Bo. What was he like as a coach and a person without the headset on.
A: Bo was a guy that constantly pushed you to be better at whatever you did. Even after you graduated. He’d ask you how you were doing, he would help you if he could to get better, to improve each and every day. The lessons we learned playing with him we carry to this very day. All the work I do during the week partly comes from his understanding of being better prepared than the other guy. You’ve got to outwork the other guy in order to be successful, that all comes from him. When you ask what kind of guy he was. He was a friend, he was a mentor, he was extremely funny. He could tell a joke or a story as well as any human being out there. One of the great joys of life is sitting around with him and a few of his college football buddies and be a fly on a wall and listen to the stories. Because they were beautiful and funny and yet they were also lessons learned about how to coach. I will never forget him talking about in 1984, when he had the bad year (6-6 season). He said” I forgot to do one thing. I forgot to coach attitude.” I’ll never forget that for the rest of my life. He just never left a stone unturned. He was very, very approachable. I think that’s the one thing many people may not have understood if he was this icon and a very famous guy, and yet he was very approachable. I don’t believe he ever turned an autograph down. He was extremely approachable and very interested in people. He was curious and interested in other human beings. That to me, was Bo Schembechler. A really great guy.
Q: At 11-2 last year, do you feel the team “over-achieved” in a sense? How do you feel Michigan will fare this year?
A: I don’t know whether I’d say over-achieved. But I think they played out to their potential and beyond that. Particularly on the defensive side of the ball. I think Greg Mattison did a great job, he changed an attitude on the defense and changed the scheme. Everyone of those kids bought in and got the job done. It was amazing to watch but it was also, in my judgement, you learn a lot from a team like that. All of the talk about talent and everything else. But, if you get them in the right scheme and you’ve got them believing and playing hard, they can do things they don’t think they can do. Very similar to what Schembechler did and how he coached. My belief is that this year, from a scheduling standpoint, they’ve got a very difficult schedule. While they may be better as a football team, they may not win 11 games. Going down to Dallas to play Alabama. They have to go on the road against Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre. All three of those teams really want a piece of Michigan. I truly believe that they are going to get better and better every year under Brady Hoke. I think this year you’re going to see some younger kids playing. You’re going to see Freshman and Sophomores that Hoke recruited the last couple of years that are going to be guys that are going to be contributors, and I expect that to continue. I think they can be in the mix for the Big Ten Championship this year and again it depends on the road games. You’ve got to beat Michigan State at home. Ultimately it’s going to come down to Ohio State on the road. You’re going to have to get the job done in the Big Ten, and you’re going to have to get it done on the road.