The people are finally getting what they want. On Friday October 31st, President Mark Schlissel announced that Dave Brandon had resigned as athletic director at the University of Michigan. Schlissel has named former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett as the interim athletic director in the wake of Brandon’s resignation.
Schlissel’s initial statement was firm and clear. “Dave feels that it would be in the best interest of our student-athletes, the athletic department and the university community if he moved on to other challenges and allowed the important work of the department and University to continue without daily distractions. And I agree with this decision.”
The president thanked Brandon for his commitment to the university for nearly five years, commending him for his accomplishments as athletic director and for his devotion to the student athletes. “I believe Dave has always had the best interests of the University of Michigan in his mind and in his heart. He is fiercely dedicated to all of our student-athletes, regardless of their sport or their background. During his nearly five years as our AD, he worked to ensure their well-being and their academic and athletic success, with programs and facilities that helped them grow as individuals and teammates and to succeed as students. For many years, Dave’s commitment to Michigan has touched many other parts of the University as well.”
Brandon has been at the center of controversy over the past few weeks. Amidst a second consecutive disappointing football season, Brandon has been criticized by the fan base for raising ticket prices and introducing cookie-cutter marketing and branding tactics into Michigan football games. Many fans resent these developments, believing that they retract from the tradition and purity of the atmosphere of experiencing the Big House.
The mishandling of quarterback Shane Morris’s head injury against Minnesota in late September brought Brandon to the center of very negative national media attention. Students have seized the moment to voice their dislike of Brandon, from staging on-campus protests calling for his firing, to printing t-shirts with the words “Fire Brandon.” Recently, mgoblog.com issued a report that contained numerous hostile emails sent from Brandon’s account to fans and ticket holders. The emails contained a startlingly condescending tone and portrayed Brandon as insensitive and paternalistic. The negative energy surrounding him seemed to be too much, both for the university and for himself, to remain in charge as athletic director.
Schlissel said that both he and Hackett would work together to begin the search for a permanent replacement for Brandon. Schlissel recently said, “I would imagine that we’ll begin the process of organizing a search in the coming weeks. I can tell you with certainty I haven’t talked to anybody at all — no matter what you read in the media — about whether they’re interested in a permanent position here.” His comments came on the heels of an ESPN report that claimed Michigan had contacted Northwestern AD Jim Phillips about his interest in the position.
Directly addressing the prospect of locating a full-time replacement, Schlissel indicated, “I will be looking for a person that prioritizes the welfare and the experience of our student-athletes, a person of unquestioned integrity, not just integrity to the level of NCAA rules but integrity to the Michigan way of doing athletics. I’ll be looking for someone who appreciates the bond and the cultural aspects of this great athletic program and what it does for our community. I’ll be looking for somebody who wants to make the athletic program as tightly integrated a part of the overall university environment as possible.”
Schlissel also made it clear that the state of the football program will be evaluated at the end of the season, like all other athletic programs, meaning that head coach Brady Hoke’s future will not likely be determined until the end of November: “Football, like all of our programs, are evaluated through the season but particularly at the end of the season. I would imagine that the interim athletic director would be intimately involved and in charge of the evaluation of football. These things have a cadence and we will figure out how to move forward as we would for all of our sports.”
Hoke commented on the resignation of Brandon saying, “Obviously, I have a great relationship with Dave and will always continue that. I think he is a Michigan Man. His heart was into what was good for Michigan, and he did a lot of good things. I met Jim before, at speaking engagements, and when I was here before (as an assistant coach). I look forward to working with Jim, and he’s a guy who cares deeply about the university.” Hoke further indicated that, “Dave was very supportive, and Jim, with having his roots and heart here at the university athletic department and football program, will be a great ambassador for the university.”
Players have been vocal in their support of their former athletic director. Linebacker Joe Bolden said, “Look around. Look what he’s done for the athletic teams, what he’s done for the university. I think playing for a team gives you a different perspective on how he is. He’s a great individual, I wish him all the luck, and I support him.” Former Michigan wide receiver Drew Dileo tweeted, “For those ‘loyal’ UM fans. @DaveBrandonAD and Coach Hoke are not the problem. Unless you’ve been inside the program, you just don’t know.” Former basketball star Mitch McGracy also took to Twitter to voice his support: “Sad to see Dave Brandon step down… Still, forever #GoBlue.” Seniors Brennan Beyer and Jack Ryan both referred to Brandon as a “great guy” and only had positive things to say about him.
Students, on the other hand, are happy to see Brandon go. CSG president Bobby Dishell made his opinion on Brandon’s resignation well known: “We were definitely surprised that it came at this time. We are looking forward to working with the interim athletic director and President Schlissel to ensure the student voice is heard and to ensure the strides we made with Dave continue and that we play a role in the search committee. We hope to be on the search committee for the new athletic director. I think we’ve seen that it’s of the utmost importance that the student voice is represented in that search.”
Zeil al-Kilani, the student who started the famed petition to fire Dave Brandon, was very happy with the decision: “I think it was the right decision for Dave Brandon. I know he loves the University and it’s hard to let go of something you love, but it was the right decision for the University.”
Michigan is heading into their bye week after a 10-9 victory over Northwestern in Evanston. They will face Maryland on November 22nd in the final home game of the season. Michigan needs one more to qualify for bowl eligibility.