Ace Anbender contributed to this report.
A few weeks ago, one of our users posted a fuzzy picture of an email purporting to be from one David Brandon:
We were already trying to confirm or dis-confirm the authenticity of this when Keith Olbermann's show presented it as a fact we're reporting. At that point we had to either confirm it or repudiate it. We've done our best to do so.
We are now reporting this is authentic.
This kind of thing is of course forgeable, but I let it stand because it felt like something Brandon would do. I know this because over the past few years about two dozen people have forwarded me conversations with Brandon ranging from polite enough to the above.
While the message board thread had a number of details off due to the hand-me-down nature of the information, Ace tracked down the original source of the emails, confirmed his identity over the phone and on Facebook, and got the original. I believe this to be real.
I asked the hivemind for help with confirming that the email was genuine. What followed was a primer on spoofing that led to one inescapable conclusion: nothing is 100% guaranteed. However, you can look at email headers and GMail histories and rule out all but extremely sophisticated forgeries.
This is where a second emailer comes in. Around the same time Brandon is alleged to have fired off the email above, he shot off another after receiving a short rant about how Al Borges was bad and should feel bad:
It also provided a larger body of information to evaluate. I ran it by a couple people intimately familiar with not just email in general but GMail specifically. The results:
The short of it is that the headers check out but there's no way to be 100% sure unless you know for sure the assumptions below are true. The smoking gun is indeed the back and forth GMail thread, that's just not possible unless fabricated by the recipient which we don't think it is (details on why below).
- Dave Brandon uses a GMail/Google Apps web client (versus say, a desktop client)
- [email protected] was not hacked and being accessed by an unauthorized third party
- Neither a 3rd party or the recipients know the specific Google Apps servers for umich.edu's domain
- The document with the thread between Dave Brandon and the sender was not fabricated
- The sender's headers appear consistent and indicate authenticity—however, a single email header is insufficient to prove authenticity
- GMail automatically detects spoofed Gmails and Google Apps addresses—user(s) would have received a warning
- Replies to spoofed email addresses will go to the real email address—the sender's emails were getting to [email protected] and being responded to.
- GMail uses signatures in headers to group threads together. Spoofed emails with the same subject aren't put into threads—the back and forth thread is the strongest proof that the emails are authentic.
- The back-and-forth thread does not appear to be a forgery—the spacing, elements, and little details (such as "mgoblog.com" being in purple because it's a previously visited address for the user) all seem to check out.
The longer thread looks authentic beyond reasonable doubt.
- Since the original email is discussed repeatedly in the longer thread, that seems certainly true.
- A second opinion from a professional in the field links the two emails together:
We have two separate emails that claim to be sent from DB with the same mail server in the header and the same SMTP address. I'm wholly convinced that neither are forged if these are indeed from 2 different people that couldn't have colluded.
The independent reports I've gotten over the last two years rules out a hack. Dave Brandon has on many, many occasions sent out emails of this nature in his tenure. People have forwarded me nice notes and not-nice notes; it is beyond a reasonable doubt these are authentic.
- Here are more interactions between fans and Dave Brandon provided to me.
"Quit Drinking And Go To Bed"
We are sick of all the talk, excuses, and most importantly the losses. You throwing Coach Rodriguez under the bus like you have this week was an embarrassment to the University and more importantly a big cheap shot on all of the players from his classes. Would you classify the game today as "big-boy football?" Would you consider Urban Meyer's offense "big-boy football?" Was that poor excuse of a defense today playing "big-boy football?" Not only was this season an embarrassment to this University, but your conduct over this past week puts a further black eye on this season and has no place at Michigan. Michigan is now truly a middle of the road Big Ten team and we have you (not Rich Rodriguez) to thank for that.
BRANDON: Quit drinking and go to bed.
Thanks for the classy response. You may have just lost another season ticket holder.
BRANDON: Getting advice from you on what constitutes a classy email is really a joke.
With all due respect, please explain to me what was wrong with my original email? Did I say anything that offended you or that wasn't true? All I did was reference points that you used in your media tour last week. When you go out into the public like you did, do you not expect some backlash? To accuse me of drinking is laughable coming from someone in your position. As I have been reading from various writers, I hope you have extreme concern that the 100,000 attendance streak is in real jeopardy. We just want to win and us fans don't necessarily appreciate seeing you on tv and in the newspapers every other day.
BRANDON: I don't believe you know what "due respect" is....
You sent a snarky, negative article at 11:58 PM the night of a very disappointing loss....telling me what "we" are sick of! I didn't know you had been elected to represent anyone. I don't know who you are....and I really don't care about your views based on "what you read." And, I don't accept you as a representative of anyone other than yourself.
For you to point out that "we just want to win" is really profound. Do you think our kids and coaches don't want to win? Do you think I don't want to win? Really????
I don't know what you do for a living...but if you want to be an athletic director....go for it. If you want to be a coach...go for it.
As it relates to seeing me on TV or in newspapers....I have no idea what you are talking about. I don't know or care about that stuff....apparently, you do. You really should get a different hobby!
I will let the ticket office know of your decision to give up your seats. I am sure we can use your email address to locate your file. I am sure you will be much happier....because clearly your anger and frustration over our disappointing season has gotten the best of you.
It's too bad...if you got to know our kids and coaches, you would likely enjoy supporting them even when times are tough. They are quality people who care a lot about Michigan. Their efforts, sacrifices and commitment goes beyond putting go blue in their email address and pretending to be a loyal fan - they stay positive and continue to fight even when people like you attack them and the outcome of their efforts.
I wish you well....and I hope you find a team to support that wins every game and every season is a complete success.
"I Am Sorry You Are 'Upset'"
This was posted as a diary in September by the emailer himself over a year after he'd emailed me and asked me to keep the exchange private. This is the key section and is verbatim from the email he provided me in 2013:
[My first name],
I received your message and I am sorry you are "upset" over a noodle.
Clearly, this is a very troubling matter for you.
Perhaps the lesson here is for you to be careful not to believe everything you read. There was an event at the Stadium Friday and this promotional piece was included. It was removed at the conclusion of the event.
I suggest you relax and enjoy the football game today!
Dear Mr. Brandon,
Thank you for your timely response. I am not upset about a noodle, however, but about the possibility of advertising in Michigan Stadium on game days now and in the future.
I suggest that you drop the condescending tone.
Thanks for your very helpful input!!
"Thank you so very much… incredible insight"
In response to a guy advocating against Les Miles for breaking oversigning rules, eating grass, and clapping annoyingly, ending with
Mr. Brandon likes to refer to Michigan football as a "brand." Though I would strongly suggest he stop using this term immediately (academia is not Corporate America, nor is UM football a pizza that tastes like cardboard), I'd also implore him to compare Les Miles' behavior with the "brand" he's trying to protect.
As you are helping define the difference between academia and Corporate America for President Coleman and me (thank you so very much….incredible insight!) you inaccurately stated my reference to branding at the University. I have never referred to Michigan Football is a “brand”….because it is not. I have referred to the “Block M” as a brand….because it is!
Michigan Football is one of the many ways we build our brand at Michigan…as do the rest of our athletic programs, our health system, our academic units, and just about everything else we do at the University.
If this troubles you….I am sorry. However, it won’t change the fact that our Block M is one of the most recognized global brands in higher education…and I would think anyone with an email address of “UM Alum” would understand the power of that!
Go Blue! And, thanks for providing your deep research on Coach Miles.
What about FOIA?
I have been informed that Michigan erases Brandon's email regularly to prevent responsive requests by a person who worked in the athletic department for three years.
A FOIA request for an email sent or received by Dave Brandon would end up going to his secretary. If the date of the email is given, his secretary would not even need to look to see if the email exists. All of Dave Brandon's emails are manually deleted from his university email once they are about one month old. They have been since he started. Since it is done manually, sometimes it's actually a little later, sometimes it is a little sooner, especially if the email is something that may be FOIAed.
But it was explained to me that the whole point is to avoid responding to a FOIA request (like this one). I've been following this email/FOIA issue, and after I spoke with one of my friends in the athletic department, we agreed that we would be shocked if that email still existed in his email, even if it did exist at one time.
This is why a specific request filed by an MGoBlog member turned up nothing. I have two FOIAs in with the department currently, one for six days of mail to and from two email addresses, the other for [email protected] and [email protected] dating back to January 1st of 2013. The department wants to charge me $385 for the first request and $1215 for the second—if those are at all proportional than there's approximately three weeks of email sitting there.
Is this legal? Our local law-talker BISB weighs in:
If a state employee (such as, for random example, a University Athletic Director) deleted email exchanges, he was probably in violation of Michigan's FOIA law. Emails sent by an employee in the course of his official function are considered public records. The University of Michigan, and its employees, have an affirmative obligation to maintain public records:
MCL 15.233(3): "A public body shall protect public records from loss, unauthorized alteration, mutilation, or destruction."
That duty extends to the individual employees. Intentionally deleting emails as a means of preventing them from being FOIAed would be a violation of MCL 15.240(7):
"If the circuit court determines... that the public body has arbitrarily and capriciously violated this Act by refusal or delay in disclosing or providing copies of a public record, the court shall award, in addition to any actual or compensatory damages, punitive damages in the amount of $500.00 to the person seeking the right to inspect or receive a copy of a public record."
"Capricious and arbitrary" essentially means without cause and in an abuse of power. The University of Michigan is the one subject to the penalty, but the employee is the one who committed the violation.
Since the punishment is so paltry, Michigan doesn't seem to care.
The recipients of these emails are private citizens who would like to remain such so I've blacked out their email addresses. All else is as received. There are links to the originals in every section; here they are in a group.
You were really animated in the fourth when the touchdown was scored. What were the emotions like?
“I mean, the one touchdown we scored, that’s a big play in a four quarter game. We’re always talking about competing and challenging, don’t worry about the scoreboard, play. Just excited that our guys had a positive thing happen to them. They fought and struggled and it would have been easy to throw in the towel, so I wanted to let them know that we’re going to be there, we’re going to encourage them, [and] we’re going to coach them. When we need to correct things we’re going to correct things and when they do good things we’re going to reinforce that behavior.”
You said after the Notre Dame game seven weeks ago that the offense was still in its infancy. We’ve seen some growing, but why is this team still struggling to find offensive consistency and what’s it going to take to get that with the window on the season closing?
“Sure. A number of reasons, and we talk about it. Same story, and I know I sound like a broken record, but when you look at what we’ve done the number one thing is turnover margin. You cannot turn the ball over three times and expect to win football games. We’ve talked about it week in and week out. At times we’ve limited that but we haven’t completely eliminated it the way we need to, so it’s a focal point every day and we talk about it and we do drills in practice to practice it. It’s something our kids understand. We’ve just got to get better at it.
“The other thing is consistency in performance. We see week in and week out guys improve. The challenge we’ve had is getting all 11 guys at one time to be doing the right thing at the right time. You can see it compartmentalized a little bit and maybe you have one time here where this group does it right and this group doesn’t do theirs right, so it’s trying to get everybody on the same page. We’re still working to find the right answers.”
You played Shane Morris for a play instead of a series or not at all…
“Yeah, we were in a situation there towards the end of the game we told Devin, ‘Shane’s getting loose.’ We were in a situation where we didn’t know where the ball [would be] if we got it back at that point in time or not, so Shane went in for the play. We felt like Devin needed to finish the game being that he’s from Michigan and [it’s] his last time to play Michigan State so we put him back in the game.”
[After THE JUMP: Mind games before actual games]
News bullets and other items:
Desmond Morgan will be redshirted, allowing him to return next season as fifth-year senior
Jabrill Peppers was removed from the depth chart and will not “travel” with the team, but has not been ruled out for the season
The stake thing, according to Hoke, was not meant to disrespect anyone. Hoke called Dantonio to apologize for it.
Devin Gardner will start against Indiana
The team’s goals are still out there (because the new goal is to take it one game at a time and beat Indiana)
“Thanks for coming. Obviously we’re very disappointed in the outcome and the results last week. We came in as a team yesterday. We looked at it. We were critical constructively with each other about what we need to do. The opportunities that we had, because there were plenty of opportunities to make some plays on both sides and that's something that we weren’t very – executing the consistency with it, we need to be better. There's always a great emotion in a rivalry game. I think that always happens and we’re excited about the opportunity to have those rivalry games but win or lose you've got to move forward from them, and I think that's an important part for us with Indiana coming here for homecoming, with Tevin Coleman coming here as the leading rusher in the country. We have to play a lot better against the run defensively than we did the other day. One injury update: Desmond Morgan we're going to redshirt this year and then he'd be back as a fifth-year senior next year.
When you talk about consistency, you seem to hit a lot of the same themes each week. Is there something about the message to your team that isn't getting through?
“Well, I… one of the big things this week, which was a little different, was that we had seven drops and we haven't done that. We've caught the ball decently. When you look at it, and as you look at it as coaches, we're pretty much consistent on what is a drop and what's not but we had some opportunities. You move the chains, you have an opportunity to keep the flow going better. You also if you execute in those things you have a chance to change the mindset a little bit of how a guy calls defenses against you, and so those are the execution things that we've been pretty good [with]. Did we run the ball well enough? No. The offensive line was good enough, though, if we execute in some other areas.
On Saturday night you said you were going to think about what was going to happen with the starting quarterback. Have you made a determination there?
“Yeah, Devin will be our starter. I mean, Devin had some good throws the other day. Some of them we've got to come down with. And on the shovel pass, Justice gets knocked off. It's a timing play and so it looks like he flipped it to the linebacker, which is actually what happened, but we get knocked off on the shovel and so the timing of that. We've got to be better mechanically when we had the fumble. You get a fumble and then you fumble it right back. It was an opportunity that we had. But no, he'll be the starter.”
Talk about the run defense and what specifically has to get better team like Indiana that’s running the ball really well.
“Well, first let's go back so last week. Not that I don't want to talk about Indiana, but we've got to do a better job at the point of attack, and that was a disappointing thing. There were some double teams that we've got to hold on to a little better so the linebackers can run. At the same point, we missed some tackles and opportunities there, so from that standpoint we need to play a lot better and the same thing for Indiana. Block schemes are block schemes and we've got to do a better job of playing those.
[After THE JUMP: I’m askin’ bout practice]
“Thanks for coming out. We had a great practice last night. Physical, tough, lot of energy, which you usually have when you’re playing in a rivalry game but I thought what we got done from an execution standpoint was positive. It wasn’t perfect. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a perfect practice, but there’s some things we’ve got to clean up obviously and some things offense and defensively you look at and don’t want to do as much. So that part of it- I think we’ve responded very well from the bye. That is always important. If you’re playing with speed and playing fast I think that’s a big part of it and that’s one way to gauge it. I think obviously we have great respect for Michigan State. They’ve earned that from how they [were] Big Ten champions and how they’ve played. We’ve got a lot of work to do to go up there, and we will be prepared and we’ll be ready to play on Saturday.”
How much of this game is about matching their physicality and bringing the fight to them, and have you done that do you think in the past three years?
“Well, I think we played physical. At times not as much as we’d like, but I think in any football game if you’re a team and you’re a competitor there’s got to be a physicalness to it. Obviously there’s more emotion driven when you’re playing a rivalry game and playing an in-state rival who’s an hour and ten minutes up the road. I think more of that comes out.”
I think the stat on this game is 41 of the last 44 were won by the team that rushed for more yards. There’s probably stats like that for most games, but is there something specific about this game that makes it even more important?
“I don’t know. I think, like you said, I think being able to run the ball because it sets up so much of your offense is an important part of it. I don’t think that’s too much different than what this is. Every year I think we’ve talked about rushing yards by one team and so when you look at it, yeah, there’s probably something to it a little bit.”
Jourdan Lewis: five games in you guys put him in the starting lineup and he has your two secondary picks. What did you see as a sophomore to put that much trust in him?
“Yeah, I think consistency. Consistency and technique. His competitiveness out on the field and in practice with whoever he’s trying to defend. Obviously he’s got the athleticism and he’s got some length to him. He’s not the tallest guy but he’s long-armed and has a real knack for the football. The consistency that he’s shown week to week is really what’s kept him in the lineup.”
Was there a play or something in practice where you guys were kind of sold?
“No. No. I think coming out of the spring we were excited about his development and what Roy [Manning] had done with those guys. I think that started it. Getting into fall camp we had some veteran guys, some more veteran guys I guess, that he competed with and he’s been the guy.”
[After THE JUMP: identity vs. tendency, physicalness, rivalryness]
Jake Ryan, Jack Miller, Devin Gardner
Devin, as an in-state guy and your last shot at these guys, how much does this one mean to you?
DG: “It means a lot to me, but it means a lot to me every year so I’m just excited to get to the game.”
For Devin again, last year it was safe to say you got beat up pretty badly in the MSU game. Is there a mental hurdle that you have to clear yourself to get yourself prepared for this one?
For Jake: they have a pretty decent running game right now. Good wide receivers. How much have you and the defense talked about limiting the big plays [and] not allowing Langford to do what he does?
JR: “Yeah, that’s what our defense needs to do. Stopping the run’s been huge for us this year and we’ve got to keep on doing it. Lippett’s been a good receiver and we’ve got to shut him down.”
Devin, we were talking to coach Nussmeier and he said that he felt you made the biggest strides in understanding defenses this year. Talk about how that’s come about and the benefit of that for you.
DG: “I think it’s been really big for me, just being able to see what I need to see out there and it helps when you know where you want to go with the ball. You have to have an idea where you want to go with the ball, and he brought a lot of different coverages that we didn’t really know about and we didn’t really understand how they were played but we feel like we’re doing a good job of understanding now.”
Has that helped you a lot with pre-snap reads?
DG: “Yeah, definitely.”
[More after THE JUMP]
Two strong defenses here. I guess just looking at what Pat Narduzzi’s doing in East Lansing compared to what you want to do, what this team is capable of, how would you size up the two defenses and as a coordinator are you excited to see maybe those two units be the difference makers on Saturday?
“Well, the first question, how do you size up the two defenses; I mean, I don’t think you ever judge a defense until the season is over. I know you go game-to-game. I know we have goals each game that [are] how we want to play, the level we always want to have our kids play at. How do you judge a defense? Is it stats? Is it points? Is it points that your defense gave up? Is it points that the special teams gave up? Is it points that somebody else…I don’t think you judge it that way. I think you judge a defense by what they do game-to-game, do they do what they have to do to win the game, and how they finish a season, what they do at the end of the year, what it all looks like at the end of the year.
“As far as playing against…you know, I never play against a person. We’re playing- this is Michigan football playing their next game against an in-state rival and I’m excited about it and that’s really how I look at it.”
Michigan State’s been known for their defense in the past but the offense seems to have made great strides this year, putting up big numbers. How much better are they this year and how big of a challenge are they for your defense?
“Well, they’re a very good offense. They’ve done a great job first and foremost running the football. They’ve got some playmakers at wide receiver. They’ve got a very, very good tight end. They’ve got a good offensive line. They’ve done a good job, and it’s going to be a very, very good offense to go against and I think they’ve done a very good job on offense.”
Where have you seen Connor Cook improve?
“Well, Connor, he’s a very good quarterback. I think the biggest place you’ve seen him improve is he doesn’t get sacked. He seems like he gets the ball out quick. He seems like he knows where to go with it, and I think his maturity, his year-to-year, I think he’s a better quarterback. I think he’s a very, very good quarterback.”
[After THE JUMP: Mattison watches some football, makes fun of some things, and scouts the Spartans]