a terrible blight on our fine country
Now that we have all read it, what for you was the most jaw-dropping moment of Brandon's Lasting Lessons?
We're going to spoiler this. If you haven't read it yet you should go do that.
Brian: There are many jaw-dropping things. The whole book is cause to walk around Ann Arbor drooling, from Lochdogg's inability to parse data to Brandon cutting down the nets to all of the infinite firings. But I was most stunned by this:
Also the ellipsis.
That's the welcome plaque outside Brandon's house. It is quite something, and then you get to "the Brandon's." WHO DOESN'T CHECK A PLAQUE THAT IS GOING ON THEIR HOUSE CALLED "HAPPILY EVER AFTER"?! Even leaving aside the crazy rich person vibe the whole thing gives off, this is one metal object that Brandon clearly intends for generations to come and marvel at, and it isn't even proofread. Says somethin' about somethin', that.
Seth: It has to be "Firing Fridays," and the massive turnover inside the athletic department. Throw a football down Granger and chances are it will be caught by someone sitting on the porch of a modest home with an "M" flag. That person probably had many opportunities through the years to take a job somewhere else that would afford a far larger and newer home, probably with a big yard and PVC pipes. So many of these people were pushed out, scared off, or straight-up let go that I even know a few of them.
In some cases, e.g. football coach, directing a money cannon at a proven professional is warranted. But Brandon took this to an extreme, bringing in two six-figure outsiders to replace every longtime $45k family member, then firing the family on the flimsiest of pretenses—often just voicing disagreement with Brandon—at such a rate that "Firing Fridays" was a thing. In a few short years those remnants from the Canham-Schembechler-Martin department were surrounded by a certain archetype of in-it-for-the-money young professional who knows nobody in town, owes everything to Dave Brandon, and knows little about college athletics except not to disagree with the boss.
Reading the quotes from former marketing and event presentation director Ryan Duey was the point when I got so angry at Brandon that even after getting up and stomping around the house for 20 minutes I had to get up and stomp around again like one sentence later. My page 297 is smudged and stained and has water wrinkles because it took me a day and multiple rooms to get through without throwing a tantrum in front of the kid.
The damage from that is irreparable. The people Brandon brought in are hardly worthless—they earned that payday by being excellent at what they do—but it will take 30 or 50 years for the kind of community and institutional knowledge Michigan used to have to grow back. Even talking about it now—three times in writing this response I've had to put down the keyboard and take a stomping tour around the living room. In fact here comes the fourth.
[After the jump: you may want to make sure there's nothing throwable in reach]
Since Brian is in the story, it (again) fell to me to write this site's official review of John U. Bacon's latest book, Endzone: The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football.
We'll get the Amazonian recommendation bit out of the way first: You should read it. If you are a Michigan fan, you should read it. If you are a rival fan, you should read it. If you are part of any organization that has customers and/or employees, you should read it. If you are a fan of a college football team you should read it, then try to get your athletic director to read it. If you're a fan of Texas you should just throw copies of it at Steve Patterson. Except this hardcover is over 450 pages, so that might hurt him. Do not throw copies of this book at Steve Patterson. Read it.
Since you are reading MGoBlog right this minute, either you already own the book, are going to follow this link to buy the book (hardcover/kindle) right this second, or else you're just here because you heard we are a purveyor of Blake O'Neill photographs (here you go). If you're not done with the book yet, you are invited to leave this tab open and come back when you are, since this review is going to spoiler the hell out of it. I will give you the same bit of advice that Brian did when he handed it to me:
"This book is going to blow your mind."
[After the jump: We with the broken bits of brain matter and skull on the floor try to piece that back together long enough to find a theme. (Spoiler alert) Michigan contracts a disease, but its immune system wins]
Rudock versus M. I missed this in April when it was posted; let me repair that omission now. Wolverine Devotee put together an every snap video of Jake Rudock playing Michigan in 2013:
Rudock threw three interceptions, but only one of those was really his fault. On the other two he got obliterated as he threw; one of them deflected to Brennen Beyer for a Rather Fit Guy Touchdown and the other required Raymon Taylor to make a great play to dig out a play that was otherwise open. The third was real bad, a Blake Countess bait and switch job that went directly to him.
For the day Rudock was 19/30 for 8 YPA and 2 TDs and the three INTs. Of note: every pass Rudock is actually trying to complete is dead on the money except a flea flicker that hung up in a 25 MPH wind. The long Tevaun Smith touchdown was greatly facilitated by Rudock locating the pass where Smith could catch it and keep running without so much as breaking stride—something that is a consistent strength of his.
The interceptions are not much of a worry since he just went through a season in which he had five against 16 TDs. I think he's pretty good.
ENDZONE Brandon's Lasting Lessons excerpts. From Michigan Today on Hackett:
“I was retired,” Hackett recalls, “sitting at our home on Spring Lake, convalescing from my hip replacement on my right side. Already had the left one done. And the idleness hit me—and I realized something that I didn’t realize before: I don’t like to be idle. I’m wired to be busy. Serving on boards is good, but they only meet once a quarter. I have a lot of energy, and particularly like solving problems,” a central part of the CEO mindset.
Schlissel refrained from telling Hackett that Brandon had just resigned. Instead, Hackett recalls Schlissel saying, “I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I just need to know if you’re interested. And I need to know tonight.”
From ESPN on the 2011 coaching search:
And that's what it came down to. Not money. Not power. Not fame -- but love. And Michigan, under Brandon, wasn't offering it to Harbaugh.
"I will never know what Brandon's motivations were," Anson told me, "but it seems clear to me that Dave was so insecure that he needed to be the big deal and could not countenance a strong personality as Michigan's head football coach.
"The 49ers swooped in and grabbed Jim, while Michigan stood on the sidelines. In my mind, Michigan should have had Jim locked down a month before that, and could have. I can only conclude that Dave Brandon is the sole reason Jim did not become our football coach in 2010."
Now it can be told (because it's in the book) that Anson is the gentleman who bought Jim Harbaugh those ties.
Well, yeah. Beilein, nation's top offensive coach:
Beilein, entering his ninth year as Michigan head coach, was voted as the best offensive coach in the country in CBS Sport's annual "Candid Coaches" series, an anonymous polling of nearly 100 Division I basketball coaches at all levels.
Unfortunately this poll doesn't come with the set of anonymous comments it has in the past. Those were always interesting and, in the case of Beilein, highly complementary.
Hiding in the hidey-hole. OH YEAH THAT GUY
John Beilein can take a good joke every once in awhile. Chalk it up to those Irish-German roots.
That's why he cracked his familiar wry grin last week. It was suggested that, should the 62-year-old Michigan basketball coach have any skeletons in his closet, now would be the time to air them out.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"No one is paying attention, John," he was told.
"Oh man, I'm loving it," Beilein said, laughing. "I absolutely love that part of it. I have no problem with that."
John Beilein can start a world war or eliminate snakes from an island every once in a while. Chalk it up to those roots.
Not that bad. Joel Klatt visited Michigan practice and came away relatively impressed:
"They're not even in the same sentence right now in their own division with Michigan State and Ohio State, but here's the misconception," Klatt began, speaking on The Rich Eisen Show. "The misconception is that they're down talent-wise. I like Brady Hoke, but Brady Hoke underachieved to an enormous level with the talent he had. ... When I went yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to see the type of talent they had.
"I don't think nine wins is out of the question. I could see nine wins this year."
Since they only play two teams in the preseason top 25 that is certainly within the realm of possibility. Michigan's schedule has many winnable games… and many losable ones. Many outcomes are plausible.
We had a survey, 3,556 people responded to it. We learned some things about them:
1. They only get to a few games
The average was two a year but the split is more like 26% go to no games, 36% get to one, and 38% get to more than one.
2. Most don't have season tickets
Four in five (79%) responders don't. Also, when these were run against the previous question season, ticket holders averaged 5.05 games a year, while non-season ticket holders went to 1.11 per year. Season ticket holders were then asked if they would have renewed if Michigan had kept Hoke. Most (68 percent) would but even 32 percent "no" is ominous:
3. There's a clear preference for ADs
On overwhelming majority (almost 90%) of respondents gave Brandon a 1 or a 2. Conversely, Hackett cleaned up; among Michigan fans just 17 people who are impossible to please out of 3400 is some kind of magic. Brian demanded I combine these in a bar graph.
Ace: "That is beautiful."
Brian: "See? Bar graphs!"
Harbaugh has some catching up to do on his boss, at a still really positive approval rating of 4.27 out of 5. Then again Hackett has already reeled in a 5-star while I guess Harbaugh has yet to do so.
5. As for his predecessor
6. They'll pay more for better opponents, but not too much.
What they have now is about what the market wants to bear.
7. What they want to wear
Either the readership didn't understand that Underground Printing is our t-shirt guys and this would essentially mean MGoBlog gets to design all the uniforms, or they understood too well. Anyway UGP barely beat Under Armour, probably because they're the only company other than Nike that spells their name right.
8. Who they'd like to play
You're going to have to click this one I think:
Notre Dame is the obvious one, and the next-most popular was Harbaugh taking a shot at his old team. Stanford makes a lot of sense in fan type, location worth visiting, old history, and a team we haven't seen much of. LSU would be great too though it probably will be less fun (and less easy) once Les and Cam are out of there. The Pac and SEC were easily the most desirable conferences. A breakdown:
|ACC (no ND)||1312|
The games already scheduled weren't included, otherwise I'm sure the interest in Texas and Oklahoma would shoot the Big XII back up to at least ACC levels, while Washington and Colorado could put the Pac 12 on equal footing with the SEC.
Hello. This is an excerpt from "ENDZONE: The Rise, Fall, And Return of Michigan Football" that John Bacon allowed us to run if I would once more refer to the book by its actual name instead of "Brandon's Lasting Lessons." I have now discharged that obligation.
We pick up the story the day after the Minnesota game. Shane Morris has been hit on the head, Devin Gardner lost his helmet and Morris re-entered, and the world waits for an explanation of what's going on…
At 11 a.m. Sunday, after every football game, the medical staff completes its routine postgame interactions with the coaching staff, including Brady Hoke, to apprise them of the status of all the players—something I’ve witnessed dozens of times. In addition, head trainer Paul Schmidt talked with Hoke once on Saturday, three times on Sunday, and once on Monday, giving him the complete information Dr. Kutcher and the staff had gathered on Shane Morris’s condition at each stage.
In short, there was no lack of communication between the medical staff and the coaching staff—nor within the medical staff itself, a group I’ve seen exhibit mutual respect, personally and professionally.
The Big Ten also called Michigan Sunday morning to let the coaching staff know the referee who had told Hoke, after Devin Gardner’s helmet had popped off, that calling a time-out would not allow him to put Gardner back on the field was, in fact, incorrect, and Hoke was right. It’s not that often the Big Ten office admits it was wrong, but they told the staff, not the media, so no one outside Schembechler Hall knew about it.
Finally sensing that a national story was rising around them, the department sent out a press release from Brady Hoke Sunday evening. It said, in part, “. . . Shane Morris was removed from yesterday’s game against Minnesota after further aggravating an injury to his leg that he sustained earlier in the contest . . . The University of Michigan has a distinguished group of Certified Athletic Trainers and team physicians who are responsible for determining whether or not a player is physically able to play. Our coaches have no influence or authority to make determinations if or when an injured player returns to competition . . .”
The release addressed some important points—that Morris had been pulled for his ankle, not the hit to his helmet, and that the coaches have no authority over the medical staff—but failed to answer the most pressing question: Did Morris have a concussion or not? If he did, why did he go back in the game?
Needless to say, instead of bringing closure to the story, this half-baked attempt would only raise more questions.
To withstand these slings and arrows, Brandon needed the Michigan family to band together like never before: the students, the alumni, the fans, faculty and lettermen, not to mention his own staff. But when he looked up, he found the family had already scattered. They had resigned, they’d been fired, they’d been angered, they’d been estranged. Some had simply become fed up with the whole thing, and walked away from something they thought they would love their whole lives.
Brandon would be on his own.
When the athletic director, his leadership team, his coaches, and the players woke up Monday morning, they found a pile of bad news on their doorstep. The football team was off to a disastrous 2–3 start. The department was still getting lambasted for the Cokes-for-tickets “retail activation,” and the stadium was showing large bands of empty seats—and that was all topped by the op-ed headline in the Michigan Daily: “Brady Hoke Must Be Fired.”
[After THE JUMP: nothing good happens in a 17 hour meeting]
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.]