The narrative is starting to shift away from the AD and toward the fanbase as just a bunch of petty whiners who are only mad about the football team's win-loss record. Just dismiss them, wait until things die down, and go on with business as usual. They just want to complain, they don't even know what they want.
It's time to call that bluff. Here's what we want Dave, and none of it is just about football scores:
- Stop gouging the fanbase in the most insulting ways possible.
Stop nickel-diming the fanbase with water bottles, seat cushions, "dynamic" pricing that only goes up but never down, and so on. Here is a real life test-case for you coming up: Next year the home schedule will include both Ohio State and Michigan State. Your natural inclination will be to gouge what you can for these games, because you can. DON'T DO IT. It will alienate the fanbase - a fanbase you are going to need the following year . . . when OSU and MSU are back off the schedule. Sticking a finger in your fanbase's eye when you can is a bad way to keep them around for when you can't.
- Drop the deceit, spinning, and Orwellian double-speak. Immediately.
"Probable concussion??" "Retail activation??" What are you trying to accomplish with this kind of weasel wording? Because it's not working. All it does is insult our intelligence and piss us off. Do you have anybody that actually reviews these kinds of statements for the cringe test? It's obvious you have a staff of people that work on making these things up, now get somebody to review it and make it suitable for a fanbase that is not composed of morons.
- Treat the students and "regular" fans like they matter. Not just the large corporate donors.
We get that the big-donor guys are happy with you. But Michigan is not a private club. It's a public University. There are other people that are supposed to matter. Start acting like it. Actually go out of your way to show some goodwill. Here's an idea: Take a couple of your precious suites and make them available to students and regular fans for every game. Have a drawing that lets them use the suites for a half or a quarter or whatever. And wine them and dine them when they are there like they matter . . . like you do for the Big Guys. It won't break the bank and it will show that not only the big donors are "Michigan" to you.
- Be more transparent in both your words and deeds.
You represent a public University. Backdoor dealings hidden by a smokescreen of spin and manipulation are abhorrent to the charter of a public institution like Michigan. Change your mode of operation to a "Need not to know" basis. If there is not an absolutely compelling reason that something needs to be hidden, make it public and transparent. Here is another real life test-case for you coming up: If there does need to be a coaching search down the road, it can not all be done behind closed doors with a pre-determined result based on who was friends with who a decade ago. There needs to be some transparency and oversight injected into the process. No more huddling behind closed doors for days, culminating in 1:00 AM white Papal smoke announcements.
- Stand up for the things that make Michigan Michigan.
It is your job as the AD to stand up for the things that define Michigan. Do nothing to sell these out for expediency or a quick buck. If the Big Ten wants to move the Ohio State game from the last game of the season, your job is to scream "Hell No!" If they want to schedule all your key rivals as away games every other year, your job is to scream "Hell No!" You may not always get your way, but you won't know unless you actually, you know, try. If you are just going to "go along to get along" because you want to be the next Big Ten Commissioner or you don't want to make waves with your cronies in the Big Ten front office, then you don't deserve to be the Michigan AD.
- Leave some money on the table. Do not run the AD as just a profit center.
Follow Don Canham's advice: Don't make it all about maximizing revenue, even when you can. The money is a means to an ends, it is not the mission statement of the Athletic Department. If you could maximize total revenue by having a high price-per-ticket but a half empty Michigan stadium, would you still do it? If you could maximize revenue by focusing on TV rights and corporate suites while alienating regular fans and students, would you still do it? The answer so far has been "Yes, in a minute". Change it immediately to "No, that would be bad for the future of the program".
- Put some student and "regular" fan representatives on your staff.
You have shown every indication so far that you live in a tone-deaf echo chamber. The only voice you hear is your own, parroted back to you. Get some other voices on your staff. Get rid of a few MBA's and hire some students and regular fans to be on your staff to advise you on how things will be interpreted in the real world. Get somebody who will not just say "Yes, sir, that's brilliant", but will whisper in your ear "Uh, Dave, have you thought this through? Because this is going to piss a lot of people off, unnecessarily. Are you sure it's worth it?"
- Unite the student-athletes, fanbase, students, and alumni. Do nothing to pit them against each other.
We all need each other. It is not "us versus them". Nobody owns the players and gets to hide behind them to make whatever point they are trying to make. Without the fans, Michigan athletics are just a bunch of club sports played in the open fields across the train tracks. Without the players, they're just something curious from the Bentley archives. Nobody is going to "win" a battle that pits one group against the other or that favors one group at the expense of the other. We are all part of the same family and we need our AD to treat us all like we are, and that we matter.