"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Hello. I badgered John Bacon for an advance copy of his new book BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS , and John said to me "that is not the title of the book," and I said back to him "yes it is," to which he said "no it is not," and so forth and so on.
Several hours later he agreed to provide me one if I would, just once, say that the book's title is in fact "Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football." The previous sentence has discharged that obligation.
Anyway, I tore through BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS in a couple days. Bacon asked me what he should cut, and I said nothing, and then he said seriously, and I told him to restore various things that had already been cut. I am extremely unhelpful.
I asked Bacon if we could run an excerpt. He said yes, but we had to wait for the people who pay money to have their window of exclusivity. I said well what else can we run, then, and we settled on a Gimmicky Top Five list of book revelations. This is that list. Bacon's got the text between the dashes.
1. Dave Brandon was highly controversial as an AD candidate.
Michigan had the luxury of choosing among three candidates who were experienced, successful Division I athletic directors with deep ties to Michigan. But President Coleman asked the committee to interview a fourth, less conventional candidate: Dave Brandon.
Because Coleman made it clear she wanted Brandon to be the next AD, one Regent asked why she didn’t just appoint him, but she insisted on having a search committee. The committee had trouble deciding who the most qualified candidate was, but not the least: Dave Brandon. More than one member of the search committee told more than one Regent that Brandon was the least impressive candidate on the list. Despite pushing back several times, the committee members finally acquiesced to Coleman’s wishes and picked Dave Brandon.
2. The 2011 pursuit of Jim Harbaugh was half-hearted at best.
Among insiders, it’s debated even now if Brandon really wanted Harbaugh to become Michigan’s next head coach in 2011. “I do believe Dave wanted Harbaugh,” one member of Brandon’s leadership team told me, “but he wanted Jim on his terms.”
Brandon waited six weeks after the Ohio State game to fire Rich Rodriguez, even though it would have benefitted almost everyone to make the decision sooner; he rarely contacted Harbaugh, and declined to visit Harbaugh in person—sending not Michigan’s highly paid search consultant Jed Hughes, either, but Hughes’s subordinate, a young man named Philip Murphy.
After Harbaugh signed with the 49ers, his friend Todd Anson asked Harbaugh if he really had been interested in the Michigan job. Harbaugh paused, then replied, “ I just wasn’t feelin’ the love.”
Hackett and others would take the opposite approach in 2014, to bring Michigan’s prodigal son home.
3. Will Hagerup and various other student athletes will vouch for Brandon forever.
Endzone starts following punter Will Hagerup from his official visit, when he decided minutes before driving back to Wisconsin to go back to Schembechler Hall and commit to Michigan. “I wanted to be there so badly, that I knew I was never going to leave.” He proved it by refusing to transfer even after three violations of the team’s drug test, which entailed working a brutal summer job in a steel mill to help pay for a semester of school himself. He straightened himself out, and persuaded Brandon to give him a fourth chance.
At the 2014 Bust, he told the audience, “I want to thank Dave Brandon, a guy who has my lifelong respect and allegiance. He stuck his neck out for me multiple times and believed in me.”
A majority of the football players and other student athletes supported Brandon, too, right to the end, not to mention top coaches like Red Berenson, Carol Hutchins and Bev Plocki.
4. The student government leadership drove circles around Hunter Lochmann.
One day after they won the election in 2013, student government leaders Michael Proppe and Bobby Dishell started taking on the department’s General Admission seating policy for students. They put their education in statistics and public policy to good use, while pulling endless all-nighters, to prove empirically that General Admission was not only deeply unpopular, it didn’t achieve Brandon’s stated goals of getting students to the games, and on time. In fact, their surveys and analysis were more thorough and incisive than anyone else’s – including the department’s – and they handled themselves with more professional aplomb than most of the department officials in this story.
“Look, I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a jerk,” Proppe told me, “but Hunter [Lochmann] and his group were not as sophisticated as we were about analyzing data. When I looked at this data for ten minutes on an Excel spreadsheet, I could figure out what the data really meant.”
During two dramatic public meetings, the idealistic duo convinced the faculty and Regents their conclusions had far more merit than the department’s, which cost Brandon crucial support.
5. Brandon sowed the seeds of his own destruction from day one.
Over his four-year tenure, Brandon removed the safeguards protecting Michigan from a public relations disaster, one by one—usually by letting experience staffers go, from equipment managers to sports information directors—until Michigan was finally exposed during the 2014 Minnesota game. ENDZONE explains what really happened before, during and after the hit on Shane Morris – including a marathon meeting that stretched from 8 a.m. Monday to 1 a.m. Tuesday. The outcome created a national embarrassment – one that was far more a PR problem than a medical one.
About twelve hours into the meeting, they called in former sports information director Dave Ablauf to the room. “I will not forget his answer,” one person in the meeting told me. “ ‘At this point, it doesn’t matter. You guys put a coach out there at noon, and you told him to keep telling them you were going to have a statement from Michigan officials as soon as he was done. That was seven hours ago.
“’We’re going to get roasted on this. But given all that, you might as well tell the truth. Not that it will help much.’”
Bacon says that "[BRANDON'S LASTING LESSONS] tells the story of how the University of Michigan’s fundamental values were tested during the Brandon Era, and how the students, lettermen, alumni and campus leaders started a grass-roots effort to restore them – and succeeded, against long odds." That's true. After 300 pages of facepalm the last bits of the book are actually quite inspiring, as the Michigan community comes together and vows not to screw it up this time.
BONUS: Bacon has events coming up:
August 29th, Chicago, 12 PM: Bacon talks Endzone and takes questions at the Diag Bar & Grill.
Following Bacon's appearance a panel of lettermen will do a Q&A.
September 1st, Ann Arbor, 7 PM: Bacon has as presentation and Q&A at Rackham auditorium on Michigan's campus.
He's also got a half-dozen dates set up through the fall around the midwest. Someone's let him into a cathedral for one of them.
I'll be at the Rackham one as a spectator. Say hi.
[EDIT: The lettermen panel is taking place on August 27th at Rockit Bar in Chicago. The book event at the Diag Bar & Grill is set for August 29th.]
HTTV on Kindle! We have a Kindle edition of the book. We had to drop a lot of the pictures and formatting because of Kindle restrictions and we don't have to print it, so it's a bit cheaper than the book itself at $9.
If you are a Kickstarter backer who would like the Kindle version in addition to the DRM-free digital copy provided to all backers, please give us a little time to figure out how to give it to you. We'll send out an update when we've figured it out.
Books themselves are being lovingly folded right now and should start shipping soon. Because of the way this works there will be a sizeable spread in delivery times (they get mailed out in batches as they're finished), but we are going to hit our mid-July goal.
More Battle. Apparently this is serious:
Would be more surprised if Tyus Battle doesn't commit to Syracuse by weekend's end than if he does commit.
— Jerry Meyer (@jerrymeyer247) June 19, 2015
It is difficult to imagine that Syracuse is suddenly the choice since they have a coach who's already announced he's retiring and are stung by NCAA sanctions, but that's basketball recruiting for you. If Battle does indeed defect and this head-fake costs Michigan Josh Langford I'm going to be pretty pretty annoyed.
Sounds like work. Kirk Ferentz is the first—only?—Big Ten coach to come out against satellite camps.
“What it really gets down to is just how you want to use your time. Me personally, I’m hopeful — and the NCAA will probably react — my personal preference is I’d like to see camps probably be limited to campus. On top of that, I would support not allowing any outsiders coming to work your camp.”
Iowa has actually done two or three of them already, but…
"We did three this year, and I don’t think we made the news for any of them. We don’t really broadcast it."
The noise you are hearing is an Iowa fan snapping a pencil with his mind.
Cost of attendance calculations. The NCAA's "Power 5" conferences adopted legislation to extend scholarship benefits to cover the full cost of attendance. What does that mean? There is a number that schools maintain called "cost of attendance" that has nothing to do with sports. It's for calculating financial aid, that sort of thing. Now that it's been dragged into a realm it doesn't really belong, people are noticing that the numbers vary a lot—and not very sensibly. Massive rent areas like Palo Alto or Ann Arbor often have nearby universities with low COA numbers; meanwhile Auburn has one of the highest numbers in the country.
How did they come to that conclusion? A lengthy Montgomery Advertiser article explains why. It has essentially been indexed to inflation from a large number determined a long time ago:
Reynolds, who has worked for Auburn for 16 years, said he inherited a cost of attendance figure when he began working for the university and has routinely increased the tuition, board, and personal figures in accordance with the Consumer Price Index, as calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with transportation being increased in accordance with the CPI inflation rate, and room being the average cost of all available on-campus housing, currently 4,539 beds.
"This is a financial aid budget," he said. "This isn't an athletic scholarship budget."
The $5,586 in Auburn's cost of attendance is divided into $2,728 for personal expenses and $2,858 for transportation, according to the budget Reynolds provided to theAdvertiser, and remains unchanged from a year ago.
At some point the Power 5 is going to have to come together and figure this out, because there's no way they're going to let a four-year gap of up to ten thousand dollars stand.
A nation of Joe Tillers. Back in the day, (probably) Joe Tiller used to bomb his colleagues behind their backs in entertainingly catty anonymous Athlon articles. It hasn't been the same since he retired to wherever walruses fade away, but the re-emergence of Jim Harbaugh in college has revitalized the genre. ESPN's Travis Haney interviewed a dozen or so coaches, offering anonymity in exchange for salt($). He got some. Bret Bielema asked to be identified and said Harbaugh was rad:
“I have had great respect for Coach Harbaugh for what he built at Stanford and as a man who isn’t afraid to speak his mind,” said Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who specifically asked to be identified on the record. “Too many people in today’s world love to voice opinions and beliefs when convenient. Few represent who they are and what they believe daily.”
And… I developed respect for Bret Bielema? Odd day.
Others did not think Harbaugh was rad:
“I think he’s nuts. He loves to stir the pot. He’ll have a very short shelf life – but he’s a very good football guy. I will be interested to see how he does there,” a Pac-12 coach said. “[Former 49ers and current Bills offensive coordinator] Greg Roman has always been the brains behind the operation. [Harbaugh] has been at private schools before so I’m interested to see how he does at a public school. There’s a huge difference in how things are handled.”
Greg Roman, Brains Behind The Operation. No offense to Greg Roman but all you have to do to dispel that is look at Harbaugh's coaching tree, which is already more impressive than most.
Others refer to Harbaugh as "Rain Man-ish," which… okay, accurate. Whole thing is insider but worth it.
Speaking of Rain Man-ish. Former 49ers tight end Delanie Walker:
"He dressed up in full gear and practiced the whole practice – pads, helmets, everything on. He had the whole uniform on,'' Walker said of Harbaugh. "We came out and said, "Who is that dude out there? And it was Jim Harbaugh. He had some old high top cleats on.
"He did pretty good. He just couldn't throw the deep, deep pass."
Walker thinks Greg Roman is not the brains behind the operation:
"I think he is going to be great (at Michigan),'' Walker said. "People buy into his philosophy. Every team he has ever been on has been good, right? So you tell me what he is going to do. Young kids love to have a coach who is crazy."
Just like Domino's clap clap clapclapclap. The Michigan athletic department's annual budget shows a shortfall for the first time since Tom Goss was athletic director:
Michigan's athletic department had a deficit of nearly $8 million this year, marking the first time in about a decade it operated with a loss, according to interim athletic director Jim Hackett, but he assured the budget for 2016 will be balanced.
Since Goss was working without PSLs or the Big Ten Network, that is truly impressive. Hackett explained why there was such a big shortfall:
"The result of football ticket sales being down (and) added compensation for settlements this past year caused us to have a deficit of about $7.9 million. We covered that with operating reserves, but we've got a balanced budget proposed for next year."
Michigan had to give away almost 20,000 tickets for the Maryland game, then pay Brady Hoke after they fired him, then continue paying Brandon his 100% guaranteed contract, then gather up every nickel in a five-state radius to present to Jim Harbaugh. The first three are Dave Brandon's fault. The last is a pretty good idea:
"We can tell you today, season ticket sales, which are just a portion of the stadium, will probably hit an eight-year high. We just started selling our packets, with combined games (Wednesday) online, (and) we've had almost 18,000 tickets that were sold for some of the single games. We're very optimistic about our fall and what promises there."
Michigan should get out of paying much or all of what it owed Brandon, as well. That dude somehow scoring a CEO job that should pay him more than he was getting as AD means that Michigan won't have to compensate him unless he gets fired from that gig too.
He's worse! /checks coaching hires… He's not good! Chip Brown lays the wood to Texas athletic director Steve Patterson in a 5,000 word piece with startling revelations like:
Steve Hank, chief revenue officer of Texas athletics, told HornsDigest.com the 6 percent average increase (actually 5.7 percent, he said, but it was rounded up) was based on a formula that involved the value of each seat “spread across” the entire, 100,119-seat capacity of Royal-Memorial Stadium.
But when comparing exactly what football season ticket holders paid in 2014, including their contribution to the Longhorn Foundation to retain those tickets, to what they are paying in 2015, season tickets were increased an average of 21.5 percent.
Sources said football coach Charlie Strong, who saw his and his coaching staff’s personal ticket allotment cut from eight to four last year, fought to increase the salaries of his eight quality control coaches from $24,000 to $50,000 after last season.
Texas has the lowest salaries in the Big 12 for its quality control coaches – even behind last-place football finisher Kansas ($45,000).
Strong’s request was denied by Patterson, and six of Texas’ eight quality control coaches who had built relationships with the rest of the staff, left to find better paying jobs, the sources said.
But he did hire Charlie Strong and Shaka Smart. Despite being quite evidently an idiot. People in charge of things are just in charge of them.
Decent turnout in Indy [Mike Spath]
All the Harbaugh. We haven't had any, you know, games yet but so far the Harbaugh era has absolutely lived up to its promise.
CFB Twitter's hottest weekend topics: Fri.: Harbaugh shirtless Sat.: Harbaugh recruiting material Sun.: Harbaugh camp helps charity
— Jerry Hinnen (@JerryHinnen) June 8, 2015
As Ace has documented in cripplingly long recruiting roundups, the Summer Swarm tour is piquing the interest of dozens of high level recruits in this class and the next three. Michigan's nailed down a number of commitments already; there's a wave of guys naming Michigan their leader and/or plugged in gents making Crystal Ball predictions for Michigan.
While it's been a lot of under the radar types to date, 1) Harbaugh's first two recruiting classes at Stanford were generic three stars and Andrew Luck and 2) the wave of guys Michigan is thought to lead for has a lot of big timers in it.
Doesn't that mean… yes, it does. Michigan currently has 14 or 15 spots in its recruiting class. There are a few guys who will have fifth year options but don't project to be contributors; that still leaves Michigan at around 18 spots for a class that it feels like will hit 25. There is going to be some attrition before February.
If a couple of these medical hardships that are poorly kept secrets finally get announced in the near future that number looks pretty reasonable; I don't think we're ever going to see the near zero attrition Michigan had under Brady Hoke. Harbaugh drives people too hard for that.
Headlines. The Montgomery Advertiser:
That's today, three days after Michigan's Alabama stop. The last time I took a screenshot of a media organization days after something happened it was Sports Illustrated bombing Michigan dang near a week after the Shane Morris incident. Harbaugh has changed the script a little bit here.
Eliminating satellite camps? That makes a recruit's life harder. It would make a kid like Jovan Swann, a big-time defensive tackle recruit from Center Grove High, drive almost 300 miles to attend the Michigan football camp in Ann Arbor. Swann, whose brother Mario is a defensive back at Indiana, is interested in the Wolverines. He has a scholarship offer from Michigan State (and Indiana and Iowa and more), but not from Michigan.
"As a parent, I decided I'm going to take (Jovan) to any school that he has an interest in," said his father, Mario Swann Sr. "I would have taken him to Michigan this summer, but now I don't have to."
And this is wrong? This is not wrong.
The spectacle of millionaires complaining about their vacation days is not winning over hearts and minds here. Harbaugh, shirtless, weird Jim Harbaugh, is.
That charity camp BTW. Details:
Harbaugh said he found somebody to follow on Sunday.
"I got a new one. I got Lauren Loose now. I'm going to follow her," Harbaugh said. "I'm going to follow her example. Fighter, courageous, happy, spiritual. She's got what I'm looking for. I'm going to follow her. Find somebody. Find somebody every day. You know who's doing right. Go be a good follower. Learn how to do that."
Loose is the daughter of former Lafayette defensive coordinator and current Army defensive coach John Loose. She is a pediatric brain tumor survivor and the one who the football camp is named for. The event raises funds for brain tumor research and cancer services through the Lauren's First and Goal Foundation.
Sunday's event raised $101,800 and the total for the year is $132,787.
Michigan is keeping this on the up-and-up—they're travelling with a compliance person to make sure they don't rack up minor violations—and they're doing a lot of good for the kids who come out, the causes they're helping out, and themselves. You'd have to be a sociopath to be against such a thing, but we are talking about football coaches.
Also. Detroit will get an extended version of the satellite camps:
Harbaugh, his Michigan coaching staff and the team's sophomore football players will work with the United States Marine Corps to "teach life skills, football, language arts and STEM-based curriculum" to 100 Detroit-area boys from grades 6-8 from July 6-18.
Former NFL player Riki Ellison founded the program nine years ago, and runs similar efforts at Stanford, Northwestern and West Point. He'll assist Michigan with its own version of the program.
People were concerned when Michigan canceled its fantasy camps. They've more than made up for that karmic loss.
There will be no apology. You know me: I approve of anything short of a stabbing that makes a college football game spicier. Harbaugh is amping up damn near everybody, whether it's Saban in Alabama or a bit closer to home:
OSU's WR coach took this about as well as perpetually aggrieved DJ Byrnes takes a harmless tweet from a teenager, throwing a twitter shit fit that has since been deleted. Michigan has not scheduled a contrite press conference in the aftermath. Hail Hackett.
Speaking of the man. Random old This Is Sportscenter commercial featuring Harbs:
"This Is Sportscenter" has been around forever.
Just a rando with a story. Take it with a grain of salt:
Source: midway thru 2014, York walked into meeting Harbaugh was holding w/ players, & Harbaugh told Jed that the meeting was for "men only"
— Kyle McLorg (@Kyle_McLorgBASG) June 8, 2015
This is probably not a good move if you would like to continue your employment no matter how accurate it may be. Again, just some rando with SOURCES on twitter.
UNC details. Local paper with some excerpts from internal UNC emails:
“Occasionally when we have a number of people with special issues we can put them together in a special section but we never ever put an athlete into a special section alone – just too many red flags and we have a little bit of academic credibility to try to uphold,” Crowder wrote back. “All of that being said, talk to me and we’ll see if there are any creative options.”
There are hundreds of these emails, many of them heavily redacted. It's clear that the athletic department specialized in keeping kids eligible with non-classes. If anything will rouse the sleeping bear that is NCAA enforcement, this is it.
I suppose. A dozen people sent this to me and more yelled at me on twitter about it, so yes there was an embarrassing fluff piece on Dave Brandon in the Detroit News. It reads more like a People profile of Eva Longoria—"the couple intends to experience daily life in the Big Apple", etc—than something written by a person with self-respect. It thus says everything you need to know about its author, Daniel Howes, without me chipping in.
Just one thing:
Brandon sounds like a man pleased to be back on the familiar ground of corporate America. There he'll be tackling marketing and operational challenges, building (or repairing) a brand buffeted by changing technology and changing consumer tastes. (All of which, by the way, applied at Michigan, as much as the die-hards refuse to acknowledge it.)
Brandon's most important single act as athletic director was hiring Brady Hoke, a man whose main qualification was having been an assistant at Michigan during the 90s. Hoke was dead set against the changing technology of college football; his hire was anything but "innovating the space." All other gestures towards modernity are frippery around a fusty core.
Anyone who still believes Brandon is some sort of visionary after years of ham-handed missteps followed by lies probably contributed to the $607 United Passions brought in at the box office this weekend. But someone's got to believe the Emperor's new clothes are amazing.
Etc.: Michigan MLB draft primer from user Raoul. Summer Swarm tweet recap. Northwestern's "#funbad" game of the year is so obvious you don't need to click through. "#funbad" is such a Northwestern concept, and I mean that affectionately.
Can you describe the incident from your point of view?
I was aware I was not aware of a situation that may or may not have developed near the Legos.
There was a small child in the aisle who was playing with a sample set of your newest product.
FunShards. Could you describe FunShards?
It's a agglomerated unit of lego fragments or "Fraggers™" deployed for maximum funization. Our current retail activation is just $19.99 for a FunPile™!
It sounds like this is just a pile of sharp plastic fragments.
Parents have always had to worry about whether their child will break their toys moments after they open them. Not at Toys R Us, where our motto is "we break the unbroken."
Does it bother you that that kind of motto is something that the Nazis definitely would have used if they had any MBAs?
Great question, Drew. Great question.
If we can get back to the incident. The child was in the aisle, playing with a sample of your jagged shards of plastic…
"Jaggies™" were given an award by the Underwriters Laboratory.
I thought they were Fraggers?
Oh no, Fraggers are totally different. Fraggers are agglomerated units of lego fragments.
What was this award for?
It was in fact for "Least Good Idea Ever."
That doesn't seem to be a question.
The child was in the aisle, playing with some Jaggies, when your new mascot appeared and… let me just get the police report out… "unrolled his three-foot-long, pestilential tongue while its pus-filled eyes popped out of its sockets."
ScareBear™ is a revolutionary innovation in the mascot field.
The child naturally bolted, except he was standing on bits of broken lego. He fell to the ground. When he got back up he was… "bleeding profusely and covered in plastic shrapnel," says this uncommonly evocative police report. What was your reaction to this sight?
He seemed fine.
He passed out in a pile of plastic and his own vomit.
I guess we'll get the backup kid out here.
This police report says you told them the kid was completely uninjured and totally fine.
In my experience over the last four years, most children are covered in shards of lego, bleeding, and unconscious.
Do you remember anything before the last four years?
Please… please kill me.
It's all in the statement.
You seemed to have a moment of lucidity in which you asked us to murder you.
It's all in the statement.
We haven't received a statement.
Just use the one from the last time this happened.
We haven't received that one either.
JUST USE ANY OF THEM FROM ANY OF THE INCIDENTS THAT HAVE HAPPENED IN THE PAST
IS THIS HELL WHAT DID I DO I JUST SIGNED UP FOR A CRAPPY MINIMUM WAGE JOB AND NOW EVERY DAY IS BLEEDING VOMIT CHILD FOLLOWED BY BLEEDING VOMIT CHILD PRESS CONFERENCE
I MUST BE IN HELL THIS IS WHY I CAN'T DIE NO MATTER HOW HARD I TRY
On the bright side, at least you've been immortalized in Toys R Us's latest product?
Drew. Drew, come here. Drew, you've called me a Nazi at a bleeding vomit child press conference every day for the last four years. Drew, I am a Nazi. I do not have any arms or opposable hooves or anything with which I can self-harm. Drew, I need you to strangle me to death. We've been through so much together.
Don't tell him. Drew, don't tell him.
Don't tell me what?
Geoffery, I strangled you to death yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that.
So this is hell.
This is hell.
I discover this every day.
You discover this every day.
Who could have devised such a diabolical punishment for a simple giraffe who only wanted to eat acacia trees?
He goes by many names.
Mark the date: September 1, 2015. Two days before the Harbaugh era officially kicks off, John U. Bacon's latest book—Endzone: The Rise, Fall, and Return of Michigan Football—hits the shelves, and it's available for pre-order today on Amazon. In anticipation of the release, Brian asked Bacon a few questions about the book, and his answers should pique the interest of those reading this fine site.
BRIAN: So you have a new book coming out. What is it about? Is it about anything that may be of interest to the readership of say, this blog?
JOHN U. BACON: Funny you should ask. We think it might well be of interest to Michigan fans in general, and MGoBlog readers in particular, because they seem to care a lot about Michigan football, and this book happens to be about Michigan football. In fact, MGoBlog’s vaunted leader – you – will make more than a few appearances therein, plus Ace, and even a few of your readers.
More specifically, this is why I think the readership of MGoBlog might be interested in Endzone, from the first draft of the jacket copy:
Endzone: The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football tells the story of how college football’s most successful, richest and respected program almost lost all three in less than a decade – and entirely of its own doing. It is a story of hubris, greed, and betrayal – a tale more suited to Wall Street than the world’s top public university.
Endzone takes you inside the offices, the board rooms and the locker rooms to see what happened, and why – with countless eye-opening, head-shaking scenes of conflict and conquest.
But Endzone is also an inspiring story of redemption and revival. When those who love Michigan football the most recognized it was being attacked from within, they rallied to reclaim the values that have made it great for over a century -- values that go deeper than dollars. The list of heroes includes players, students, lettermen, fans and faculty – and the leaders who had the courage to listen to them.
Their unprecedented uprising produced a new athletic director, and a new coach – the hottest in the land – who vindicated the fans’ faith when he turned down more money and fame to return to the place he loved most: Michigan.
If you love a good story, you’ll want to dive into Endzone: The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football.
So, there it is. And that’s why I think your readers might be interested.
So is this a follow-up to your previous books? In what way?
Short answer: Yes, it picks up where Fourth and Long left off.
Long answer: it gives the reader a deeper understanding of how Michigan football got to where it is today – the bad and the good. Also, Endzone focuses more on the leadership of the athletic department and the university itself than on the team, though we have plenty of interesting stuff from former players, too.
Because this book focuses entirely on Michigan – unlike Fourth and Long – I have the space to write a better biography of Dave Brandon, to shed more light on how the University administration works with athletics, and to include the eye-witness accounts of the decision-making the past four years, including the hiring of Harbaugh – which is an amazing story in itself.
You were of course embedded in the locker room for the first book. For the second you were exiled to St. Helena, with nobody in the AD willing to give you any quotes. How difficult has it been to get inside the department this time around?
I love this blog – and UM fans generally – because when you reference St. Helena, you don’t have to explain it, and your readers don’t have to look it up. That, to me, is the Michigan Difference – or at least one of them.
Although I obviously wasn’t inside the department during the past four years, it hasn’t been hard getting inside the story, because so many people at all levels of the equation have been willing to speak, many even eager. I’ve sent out fewer emails for interviews than I’ve received.
My strong sense, from these many conversations, is that they’re not calling to grind their axe but to explain where Michigan went wrong, and what Michigan could easily avoid in the future. I’ve already transcribed over 90,000 words of interviews – the entire “Bo’s Lasting Lessons” was shorter, by comparison – and not one of them wants Michigan to fail. To a person, they love Michigan, they were heartbroken watching the ship start to sink – and they’re relieved to see it back on the rise.
One simple lesson I’ve already learned: You should not confuse the general with the soldiers. They didn’t always agree, but the soldiers often felt they couldn’t speak up. Now they can.
Have any stories you might be comfortable relating right now to whet appetites?
Well, my publisher would kill me if I did that. But what the heck!
By now most fans know the public narrative – and if they didn’t, your rundown last week hit the main events very efficiently – but it’s the stories behind the stories that Endzone will provide, from Brandon’s experience at Domino’s to how he got hired as Michigan’s AD, to his relationship with President Coleman, to how he fired Rodriguez and hired Hoke, to why he didn’t get Harbaugh or Miles, and how he and his staff faced the growing displeasure with his tenure last fall. (Perhaps you’ve read something about this?)
More specifically, we’ll explore how the Notre Dame rivalry crumbled (not suddenly, as we’ve been told); we’ll explain how the students got the administration’s attention to affect real change; we’ll get to the bottom of the Shane Morris situation; and we’ll spell out how many people worked to get Harbaugh back – from old friends to Regents to Hackett himself, not to mention Jim’s wife Sarah – and how they did it.
Why didn't you take the best advice I've ever given anyone and name this book "Brandon's Lasting Lessons"?
While I greatly appreciate the best advice you’ve ever given anyone – and feel fortunate to be the sole beneficiary thereof -- if I’d named this book “Brandon’s Lasting Lessons,” it would probably come off as disrespectful to Bo, and maybe just a little sarcastic toward Brandon, too. One reader suggested I title it, “I told you so,” which I thought sort of comes off as an “I told you so.”
Plus -- I hate to tell you -- I will do my best to be as fair to Brandon as I can. I’ve already talked at length to a Regent, a player and others who love him. It’s clear that Brandon was very good on academics, for example, and very popular with many student-athletes.
That said, I get your point. If you held Bo’s Lasting Lessons in one hand and Endzone in the other, you might think the previous athletic director was consciously trying to do the opposite of Bo’s advice at every turn – and Endzone will address that, too. In fact, your suggested title is the answer to your readers who wonder why we need to know more about this saga: there are lessons to be learned here, lessons that go deeper than just the list of crises, and if Michigan doesn’t learn them, more mistakes will follow.
Another reason not to title it that: while Brandon is obviously a central figure in this book, the Harbaugh story will comprise the third and final act of Endzone. For once, I’ve got a happy ending to write.
You do realize that I'm going to call it that anyway?
Yes, you’ve made the very clear.
No matter what you do?
Yes, it is understood.
You can't stop this train, Bacon?
I don’t think that’s a question, is it?
a more pleasant item to lead the blog
When I write a thing of that length that I figure will stand as one of the things people think about when they think about MGoBlog, I like to talk about the aftermath.
WHY. A number of protests were lodged about why I wouldn't just leave the past in the past and move on. There are multiple reasons that post needed to happen.
- I needed an elucidation of the argument I couldn't quite make when I was on with Dan Dakich in the aftermath of the email article. The way in which Brandon screwed up so hard with Morris was a natural result of the way he approached every petty problem he met previously, an indication that he was a terrible leader for reasons both private and public.
- This is a space that tries to document what happens to Michigan. I got the same complaints about my Rich Rodriguez obit. We mostly look backwards here, talking about what has happened. Not having a summary of the Brandon era would have been a glaring omission. I do these for players annually, usually in the magazine. Hoke will get a (much less incendiary) recap as well.
- Never forget. For this to not happen again we must identify the problem and remain vigilant against its recurrence. Those who forget history, etc.
Now that I've said my piece we can move on. Harbaugh excelsior.
WHY NOW. A variant on the previous bullet:
Brian's post has no new information or even new feelings or analysis of information he compiled. It doesn't even have information or ideas new to his own previous posts on this blog. Why did he do this? I'm genuinely curious. It's like a political post mortem in The New Republic or Investor's Business Daily against a vanquished foe, but an untimely one. Has the piece been on his desktop for the last several months awaiting completion? Was he waiting for additional DB shoes to drop that would need inclusion? Was it an incredible stream-of-consciouness thing that just kinda poured out of him over a few very intense hours? I don't know, but I'd like to. Brian?
I will say that it is very clearly grave dancing, but it's Baryshnikov or Shakira cutting the rug, or dirt or whatever (apologies to dance fans if these examples are crap, but you get the picture).
Brandon was canned during football season, when time for a 5k word piece was not available. Then we had the coaching search, which sucked up all available oxygen—I barely thought about this piece until Harbaugh was in the boat. After that was the recruiting sprint to Signing Day. All of these things took precedence; now that we're past all that it was time.
FWIW, the piece was assembled in bursts, with a slim majority of it coming together in the last couple days.
On calling someone a piece of shit human being. Some protests about that phrasing. This seems like different borders for a term. Complaints about it tended to invoke physical violence against innocents, ISIS, Boko Haram, assertions verging on Godwin and occasionally directly invoking it. I would file such things under "evil," "monstrous," etc. Being a shitty person doesn't rise to that level.
I did get a very long, well-argued email from a walk-on who had been around for a portion of the Brandon era asking me to separate out my critiques of the man from critiques of the athletic director. It cited a number of positive personal interactions with Brandon, and it's true that the one group of people universally in his corner are student-athletes. John U Bacon invited me to present a guest lecture to one of his classes this fall; as fate would have it that date landed about ten days after the Morris incident. Bacon's class was split about down the middle between athletes and regular students, and when I expressed my opinion about Brandon bluntly I got equally blunt pushback from a couple of the athletes.
I appreciate that point of view. I reject it all the same. Brandon was clearly not an asshole to all people. That does not excuse the careers he shattered for little or no reason or the condescension to people trying to talk to him politely. I still can't get over the guy taking shots at some emailer's marriage when he was being painfully polite whilst trying to explain why Brandon had caused him an issue by telling his wife to find a new team. It doesn't excuse the relentless strip-mining of Michigan's primary asset, fan goodwill, in order to make the spreadsheet numbers go in the right direction. It doesn't excuse the constant litany of untruths culminating in a five-day firestorm based on the fact that Brandon's first reaction to any crisis was to lie.
I believe his interactions with the student-athletes were genuine and positive. I don't judge people based on how they treat their most favored class of person. Nixon had a dog, after all.
On giving money to Mott. There's a parable about this.
On cancer kid. It's easy to be nice to kids with cancer, especially when you trumpet it from the mountain. It's standard practice to be open to Make-a-Wish; not doing so results in major backlash and Brandon's not a literal psychopath. When these arguments are made I always think of the Chris Rock bit about how you're not SUPPOSED to go to jail, you low-expectations-havin' mofo.
On the civility of the previous bullet point. Not very civil, I agree. I did weigh that, but I felt that pulling punches in any way here was 1) not going to be credible and 2) did a disservice to the lesson learned. I often write swears in first drafts that get edited out later, sometimes to my regret. There is something about the well-placed expletive that gets a point across in a way I cannot seem to replicate with less naughty language, and this was a full-auto post.
On the shittiness of those emails. From user Evenyoubrutus:
What convinced me of how clueless he really was was his email that said "I suggest you find a new team to support." This was clear proof that he was still trying to sell pizzas instead of honoring the tradition of Michigan Football. Yes, if you don't like Domino's, try Pizza Hut. But I don't have over two decades of memories of sitting down at Domino's with my dad since I was a fucking CHILD eating the pizza, and memorobilia of Domino's items and memories in my house, and I don't dream of sharing the same experiences eating Domino's with my young boys, or memories of watching Domino's win championships and feeling some of the happiest moments of my life because Domino's! "Find a new team to support" Okay. Ass.
On things I missed. Inevitably there were going to be issues and problems with the Brandon era I missed, even in a post pushing 5k words. A selection:
- BursleyHall82 reminds us that it was only a sustained campaign from MVictors that finally got Brandon to relent and allow Willis Ward to be honored and his story told.
- I did not mention "The Process" via which Rodriguez was fired. That two-day dog and pony show was a quintessential example of doing something ostentatious to look impressive instead of just getting it over with quickly. Hackett fired Hoke and announced it in about 10 minutes, because he is not concerned with looking impressive. (Hackett occasionally dresses like Seinfeld's dad because he gets things done instead of picking out clothes.)
- JeepinBen points out I didn't mention the press blitz after the Morris incident or the infamous "my personality is to the best of my ability and I have to fix that" statement. That was triply odious: Brandon hired a PR firm only after he'd burned the house down and then spent Michigan's money trying to prop himself up instead of repairing the damage he'd done. Add in the content of said blitz and you've got a triple. Oh, and he invoked his family as a shield. Home run.
- I missed the giant Brandontron next to the stadium.
- And of course whenever I bring it up more people add their stories to the list, including this gentleman who was dismayed because the athletic department tried to charge the hospital a licensing fee for sick babies in winged helmets.
- There are many, many stories of people in the department being treated shabbily from Jon Falk on down. I didn't mention most of them because I hear most of them indirectly. Bacon's upcoming book on all this should shed a lot of light in this department; he reports that he has never seen people more eager to talk to him.
On revenues as a measuring stick. A common defense of Brandon is to point at the budget. I've repeatedly stated why I don't buy that argument but I've never stated it as eloquently as Blue Durham did in a comment on the post:
Increased revenues from sources like the Big Ten Channel can't be attributed to anything that he had done, and others, like Brian refers to, like the sale of water or the hoped-for rental of seat cushions(!), bring in little but have a great, negative impact in PR. So where is Brandon's biggest contribution in increasing revenues?
As far as I can tell, it was by increasing ticket prices. But all that did was to sell off an asset built up by preceding ADs, the waiting list and goodwill of fans, alumni, and students. When I was an undergraduate and graduate student at UM in the 1980's, everyone knew that the AD could have easily charged more for tickets.
But I think this was part of a policy to try to treat current students as future donors, and for the alumni, as a way to stay connected to the University in order to have more generous donors. Obviously this worked given all of the alumni events that occur every fall that revolve around a home football game.
All Brandon did was sell this asset off, to the University's detriment. This is akin to a kid selling is father's car and taking credit for all of the money he made doing it without taking into account the value of the car.
The damage he wrought in that department will be felt for years, or at least until HARBAUGH
On solutions. User Njia protests that the post was an unconstructive bombing. Guilty as charged. I'll put together something about the direction to go in an effort to rebuild ground zero.
The unedited post is available as an e-book for 50 bucks. To buy one, just go to this video of Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up."
And now let's never talk about… that again.