to play football, not to play trumpet
John Niyo has a front page, above-the-fold ARTICLE on the Flint regents meeting and the general discontent with Brandon. It's a well-balanced piece, but with little that would constitute news to the board. That's not the point.
The point is that this remains an above-the-fold article on discontent with Brandon. This is how what is obvious (and old hat) to frequenters of MGoBlog becomes well-known in the mainstream. Including putting the issues in front of those who vote for regents, consequently increasing pressure on the regents to foment change and girding their loins (iccchhh) for a fight.
So thank you Detroit News and John Niyo. Keep spreading the word!
The U-M athletic department will announce the new student ticket prices next week.— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) October 17, 2014
Statement from U-M AD Dave Brandon pic.twitter.com/hl9zF4W2j1— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) October 17, 2014
UPDATE: As announced on MGoBlue:
CSG President Bobby Dishell made a presentation to the Regents regarding the findings from a CSG survey about the student experience at football games and the student body's relationship with the athletic department. He outlined the following agreements between Michigan Athletics and CSG that will take effect immediately:
- Athletics will work to design a new plan for next season that will include a significant price decrease for football student season tickets. Athletics will announce student season-ticket prices for the 2015 football season next week.
- Rental fees for athletic facilities will be eliminated for student groups with a charitable focus.
- The department has committed to work with the Big Ten to create a blackout weekend where Crisler Center will be available for MUSIC Matters in 2016.
- Monthly meetings with students will be held with Athletic Director Dave Brandon to address topics relating to all 31 teams and Michigan Athletics.
- Dishell and Brandon will have regular standing meetings.
- The athletic department will create a student advisory board comprised of student-athletes, non-athletes, season-ticket holders and non-ticket holders.
When people anxiously follow twitter accounts of Regent meetings, hoping for any sign that the current Athletic Director will be thrown to the wolves, it seems clear that his days are numbered.
If and when the (proverbial, people, let's not get carried away) guillotine falls, we hope for a competent and passionate replacement. I look forward to an introduction at a basketball halftime, where, like arch-nemesis Jim Tressel, the new AD announces: "You will be proud of your team--in the Stadium (which will have no advertising and lower ticket prices), in their uniforms (which are awesome exactly the way they are and will be the same for every game), and especially next November, on the field, led by new coach Jim Harbaugh."
Ok, maybe not exactly. But I hope for some walkbacks of the recent "innovations" shepherded into the program by DB.
However, not every "innovation" is necessarily bad. There have been good developments in the past few years that we tend not to associate with Brandon precisely because we don't associate him with good things; yet some of his decisions, like retaining John Beilein and choosing to pay football assistant coaches market prices, are unquestionably good.
DB has made night games a thing. The lights installed in the Stadium for that purpose are classy and effective. He has also worked, successfully, to bring other major events (The Winter Classic, the soccer game, etc) to the Big House. These seem to be popular moves.
We all want ticket prices to go down and stupid stunts like skywriting to stop; however, not everything has been bad. What DB-era innovations do you want to see continue?
Title says it all. Didn't see this posted but I am sure it's in one of the threads. Looks who's trying to make the PR move of PR moves the day he knows his fate will be determined.
For those of you who regularly come here looking for an unhinged diatribe against the powers that be, let me first apologize and recommend a different column. Thankfully, there isn’t really any of that here this week (ok maybe a sentence or two). I’ll preface by saying that I was away at an engineering convention last weekend and missed the second half of the Rutgers game, so perhaps my program ire/ennui wasn’t quite to the levels that many others here had attained. Either way, I found Saturday to be a welcome relief, not only that we won, but also from a general fan experience perspective. And this is compared to last year in particular, where the night game atmosphere mixed with general admission to produce one of the worst fan experiences I’ve had in the Big House (admittedly only until the opening kickoff).
Pregame: From the Football Student Advisory Council
The football student advisory council (or football SAC as some of their members call it) is a new initiative this year to get more student fan input on the program, the games, the department, etc. I have a few friends who are serving on it and so occasionally have the luxury of getting a feel for things yet to come (and occasionally can put that into print). After this week’s meeting, one of them commented that
“Anything and everything is on the table to fix this.”
“Where this means everything,” I replied.
That includes lower student ticket prices, allowing bringing water into the stadium, etc. So despite the chaos of the last few weeks, it seems that the athletic department is listening. Whether, and how much, they’ll act on it obviously remains to be seen, but it seems reasonable to be at least guardedly optimistic. Hunter Lochmann, the AD’s Chief Marketing Officer observed that he has never seen Brandon like this—that he’s hurt, and that he wants to fix things. Will he be able to? I don’t know. But if *if* he does change course, if he does
- back away from the relentless commercialization of the football experience,
- lower ticket prices,
- fix the “little things” like allowing people to bring water bottles in,
- work to change the culture from a client-provider model to a more family/community model,
- back off from allegedly micromanaging aspects of the football program,
- stop screwing around with seating policies, gimmicks, and promotions,
- apologize for the way concussion-gate was handled and commit to being more forthcoming, and less legalese-y in the future, and in short
- work to bring back the fan experience that made the Big House what it was for decades;
then I won’t be crushed if he stays. Do I think he’ll be able to, or even willing? Not yet. But I’m not out for blood, I’m not a mean, vindictive blogger. I’m just a flawed, frustrated human being—as, I imagine, is Dave Brandon. And I’m not above forgiving someone who screwed up majorly, as long as they acknowledge the shortcoming and work to correct it moving forward. I can’t, and won’t, take my name off the petition; but for me this is about the issues, not the person. And if the issues get fixed, then the person can stay.
I was explaining the above thought process to a friend as we walked to the MGoTailgate, which was a great tailgate experience and well worth the encouraged donation. He asked if I thought that allowing the purchase of beer in the stadium (as had been done for the Winter Classic and soccer match) would go over well with the students. My honest answer was (and remains) “no”. In the absence of fixing the real issues, I think that students would (possibly rightly) view it as pandering, and many would balk at the implication that students will be happy as long as they have enough to drink, actually issues be damned. This line of thinking was reasonably confirmed when I got to the stadium, which brings us to
The Stadium: Night Game Edition
Walking in the first thing I observed was that the event staff seemed to have a different air about them. Rather than getting hassled about the cowbell (which, mea culpa mea culpa, is likely still in the stadium) they seemed to be encouraging it. Further, they seemed genuinely interested in the signed photo I had with me because I had no place to put it prior to the game starting, and at least one was aware of the tailgate and expressed his desire to have been there.
The next thing was easily the most shocking. They were giving out free water bottles to students entering the stadium. Yes. Free. So maybe I can start crossing items off that list above already. Here’s hoping. Many students, however, were less enthused than I. Once in the student section, the pre-game featured (by my count) one “Fire Brandon” cheer and many students criticizing Brandon’s attempts to “buy them off” with “two dollar water” after paying as much as they did for season tickets. So yes, I think that many small steps may be viewed as pandering at least initially. That doesn’t mean that the department should give up on these small steps. There’s just a lot of damage to heal, which will take some time and a continued effort.
I’m reminded of the department’s response to the chaos of the night game last year: they handed out seat tickets when you checked into the stadium so that there wouldn’t be a mad rush to the seats. The problem: they did this for the Akron game, saw it wasn’t necessary (for the Akron game) and abandoned it going forward (where it may have been beneficial). I’m worried that we may repeat that with things like the water, which in isolation was very much appreciated. By itself or one-time-only, however, it won’t do much to fix all the damage that has been done.
Apart from that, the only thing worth mentioning was the occasional drunk student trying to get a “Fire Brandon” cheer started when we had the opportunity to force a safety (no, not that safety), who claimed that his 5 years here (everyone together now “get off my lawn”) made him the expert on the damage Brandon has done. But yeah, Zazu is right—there is one in every family, including the Michigan family. And there’s not a whole lot to be done except perhaps…
[Author’s Note: No, I’m not actually encouraging that. MGoBlog isn’t encouraging that. Nobody is encouraging that.]
Overall, from a fan experience standpoint, this was one of the more enjoyable games I’ve had here (though I have to admit, Norfleet was a huge part of that). Are the underlying problems gone? No. But it’s still a welcome relief to know that I can still go and support the players without enduring something that makes me wonder if it’s worth it. And at this point, that’s really all I ask.
[EDIT:4pm 13 Oct.] In my haste to get this out I overlooked one great occurence.
Before kickoff we were doing our usual "get the attention of any borderline famous person that happened to walk by" routine. One of these people was Regent Bernstein, who not only acknowledged our yelling at him but stopped to talk to us and was incredibly personable. After a bit of chatting we jokingly said that he should come join us in the student section. He replied "There's plenty of room" so quickly that we didn't immediately get the insinuation that had been made, but yes I do believe that the Regents (or at least Regent Bernstein) get it.
Read and share if desired.
And as always, GO BLUE!