Just when you thought Michigan football had hit rock bottom, the bottom is pushed down a little further. It’s a circus, and yes, it’s worse than the Rich Rodriguez era. Inept, complacent and incompetent are just a couple of the words you can use to describe both athletic director Dave Brandon and head coach Brady Hoke. What has taken over a hundred years to build has taken these two individuals three years to destroy. The mighty Michigan brand is taking its hits like never before and it may not survive this time. It’s not just about how the football team is performing, which is horrible by the way; It’s more so about the culture that both Hoke and Brandon have built. One based on incompetence and lies.
When you look at Brandon’s history, no one should be surprised about what is currently happening within the athletic department. Brandon wasn’t the right hire from the get-go. It doesn’t matter that he graduated from Michigan and played as a backup on a Bo Schembechler team. In fact, that was never relevant, regardless of what the university spewed. It’s about his business ethics and management, or lack thereof.
Brandon has a long history of mismanagement. He has served as a director at a variety of places such as Northwest Airlines, Burger King, Kaydon Corporation and TJX Companies. Most famously, he served as the CEO of Domino’s Pizza Inc. Yes, the same Domino’s that now has a marketing campaign apologizing for having a bad product for years and promising that they have fixed it. Brandon is a salesman and a businessman. He cares about the bottom line and nothing more. The product has never mattered to Brandon. Domino’s is the perfect example of that.
Brandon has overseen the athletic department since 2010. Since then there has been one blunder after another. His first mistake was hiring Brady Hoke as head coach and up to this point, there were many mistakes in between. There are too many things to list, but just some examples include: having piped-in music instead of the band, raising ticket prices regardless of the product, wanting fireworks at The Big House (as if it was an NFL game), the skywriting over East Lansing and the recent buy-a-Coke-for-tickets promotion.
We are now in the middle of his latest blunder. Quarterback Shane Morris suffered a concussion in the Minnesota game and was kept in even after being visibly shaken. After a press conference and a lot of bad press, the department promised to release a statement from the medical team. That statement never was received. Instead, we received a statement from Dave Brandon that was released at 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. That didn’t do anything to help quiet the noise, as now both national and local media alike are calling for Brandon to be fired. But did you really expect Brandon to handle this crisis differently?
Brandon uses the word “stakeholders” when referring to alumni and fans, as if Michigan is a corporation. In an interview earlier this year Brandon stated, “One of the things we think is important is to provide entertainment value. That’s above and beyond having a good football team and a great product on the field.” That’s what this program has come to. They care more about the perception than the reality. They are obsessed with the perception of a sellout streak rather than the needs of the fan base. Brandon cares more about having a good public image rather than doing the right thing. He always has and always will. This Morris situation just highlights that fact. It’s obvious that he is not the man to lead the athletic department and should be fired immediately, but he’s not the only one to blame.
Hoke is just as culpable for this entire mess. He has a history of being just as incompetent as Brandon. He too is a salesman. He told us all what we wanted to hear at his introductory press conference. He told us we would get back to winning and we would do it the right way. Four years later, we see him for what he is. Though he is a nice guy, he is deplorable at managing the team or the game. In his 12 years as a head coach, he has had six years with an above-.500 winning percentage and only three successful seasons. His team is currently 2-3 and they don’t look like they can win another game on their schedule.
It’s not only that Hoke can’t coach his team to win, but it’s also the off-the-field issues as well. For example, former kicker Brendan Gibbons was arrested by Ann Arbor police under rape charges on November 20, 2009. Nothing was ever revealed by Hoke or the department about that arrest, even years after. In fact, Gibbons got to play in the 2012 Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. It was his field goal that won the Wolverines that game. It’s disturbing that this was swept under the rug until The Michigan Daily newspaper revealed the truth. Another example is when Taylor Lewan assaulted an Ohio State fan after the game at a restaurant. Hoke defended Lewan, instead of holding him accountable.
Hoke has a history of not disciplining his players properly or at all and that’s not good for the team or the program. On top of it, he has a disturbing history of playing kids who are injured. This Shane Morris incident isn’t an isolated one. Last year, Devin Gardner played with a broken foot against Ohio State for the second half of the game. This year, Devin Funchess and Gardner got hurt at Notre Dame and were kept in until the game ended. At one point, Morris was so dazed that he almost stumbled to the ground. Even if Hoke didn’t know about the concussion, like he claims, Morris was visibly limping from an ankle injury but was still kept in the game. This is a pattern with Hoke. It may not be malicious, but it’s still bad.
Seeing the negative patterns of both these individuals, it really shouldn’t surprise you to see all the negative things happening for the Michigan football program. It’s happening because of a lack of communication and a lack of good management. There is no leadership and no accountability from Brandon or Hoke and both should be fired for that, among other things. Poor habits often repeat themselves and it’s no different for these two. Unfortunately, the downfall of Michigan football is happening because of these poor habits.
Fatima Harajli is a contributor to TheBigHouseReport.com. Follow her on Twitter @fharajli1.