The University of Michigan Central Student Government (CSG) President, Bobby Dishell, told the Board of Regents on Thursday, “The athletic department has broken its trust with the student body.” That sentence perfectly sums up the tenure of Dave Brandon as athletic director.
The tradition, trust and football team, all things that Michigan fans hold dear, are broken. They were broken due to Brandon’s callous and corporate actions. There has been a rally in front of President Schlissel’s campus residence, a petition that has collected over 11,000 signatures and countless e-mails and calls sent to the higher-ups all in an effort to relieve Brandon of his duties. Brandon is no question on the hot seat and the regents meeting on Thursday confirmed that.
Now he is trying to save his job. After the meeting yesterday, Brandon released a statement on the department’s website, mgoblue.com. “Michigan Athletics looks forward to forging a strong relationship with Central Student Government,” Brandon wrote. “This is an important relationship for us, one that we need to repair, and one that will provide mutual support among all students. We have worked closely with CSG over the past year, and this will continue to strengthen our very important work with the student community.” Brandon also confirmed that lower student season ticket prices will be released next week. It’s good that Brandon is trying to fix what he’s broken, but it is way too late at this point.
Brandon was hired as Michigan’s athletic director in 2010. In his four years, he has taken misstep after misstep and slowly created a toxic culture around Michigan athletics, specifically around the football program. The first mistake in his tenure was hiring Brady Hoke as head coach on Jan. 11, 2011. He hired a coach whose record was 47-50 and had won only one bowl game, the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl. Brandon had proven commodities as an option and he instead chose Brady Hoke.
This uninspiring decision was a sign of things to come. A major complaint against the embattled AD is that he’s just too involved. In the beginning of his tenure, you saw him more than you should have. Whether on TV or the sidelines, Brandon was basking in the spotlight. There were also reports that he watched film with coaches, which he vehemently denied. Regardless, the fact that there were even reports about such a far-fetched action should give you pause.
As if these mistakes weren’t bad enough, he then started to incorporate more of a corporate element to Michigan athletics. From the piped-in music to the corporate sponsored Facebook and Twitter posts, it all began to wear thin on Michigan fans. He strained the relationship with the students by raising the season ticket prices every year, regardless of how the team was doing. Students now pay the highest prices in the Big Ten. He did the same for regular season ticket holders.
Things were going bad enough for Brandon, but then the gaffes began to pile on. For instance, there was the skywriting incident last year. Brandon paid somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000 to skywrite “Go Blue” over the Michigan State campus. The athletic department claimed that East Lansing was not the target for the skywrite, but we all know it was. Although it was short-lived, there was also a Kraft promotion that same year that placed a giant Kraft noodle in front of the Big House. Of course, that left many traditionalists queasy as well and further dimmed their view of Brandon.
Then there is the streak of having 100,000-plus at the Big House on Saturdays. That streak has become more of a burden than a blessing. The department sank so low to keep the streak alive this season that tickets were found on sites like Livingsocial, Groupon and Amazon. There were also free ticket giveaways at local high schools. After countless, desperate attempts to sell tickets through questionable methods, then came the infamous Coca-Cola giveaway. This promotion allowed people to buy two Coke products and get two free Michigan tickets for the game against Minnesota. This promotion ended abruptly the same day after many complaints, but it was too late. The damage had already been done.
The latest incident that the department mishandled was when quarterback Shane Morris was kept in the game with what was later admitted to be a concussion. The response from Brandon, yet again, was too slow and too late.
After Thursday’s regents meeting, it’s pretty evident that Dave Brandon is on the hot seat. There may not be anything that can save his job, but that won’t stop him from trying. You can see that he is trying to repair the damage. He is trying to fix the strained student relationship by vowing to work with them and to lower prices. He’s also staying away from the public eye as much as he can. Four years in and now he cares about what students want? If that was the mindset from the beginning, perhaps he wouldn’t be on the chopping block today.
Brandon assumed this job with many aspirations and all of them were, in his mind, for the betterment of the university. If we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that Brandon was ever the right man for the job. A man with a political and corporate background has no business running a college athletic department. It’s too late to go back, but it’s not too late to do what needs to be done. Brandon is an employee who contributed nothing but errors throughout his time here. No matter what, he has to go. Michigan needs to fix the student-athletics relationship, but Brandon can’t be the one to do it. Michigan needs someone to unite everyone.. Too many things have been said and too much neglect has occurred. Michigan needs change, but it shouldn’t be initiated by Brandon. For him it’s too late.
A fresh start is needed; the sooner, the better.