a terrible blight on our fine country
After a game where just so incredibly many things went wrong, it is a bit of a tall order to sit down and write something coherent about the student experience. The student experience, after all, isn’t so fundamentally different than the experience of most of the rest of the stadium, except perhaps that the viewing angle is increased ever so slightly. Oh and louder, definitely louder. The articles and write-ups note the students growing increasingly upset and starting to chant “Fire Brandon” (not “Brady” as some have noted; at least not from the student section) in the third quarter. This misses something markedly different from this game. In the previous games the students, like the rest of the fans, held their fire until some opportune moment. Last week it was attendance numbers that no one believed. The first notable “boos” came after timeout and clock mismanagement. This week, the students didn’t waste any time. Before the game even started, before anything had actually gone wrong, before we ran out of tires to throw on what little remains of the dumpster/tire hybrid fire, the students started chanting to fire Brandon. It reminds me of the scene from “Network”:
The students, the current
20,000 12,000 member block, and future 89,901 75,000 member block of the stadium are as mad as hell and they’re not going to take this anymore. With the “Fire Brandon” chants audible over TV, never mind to everyone in attendance at the game, and, by the third quarter, continuing every time the band stopped playing, it seemed hard to see how this once proud, once great, and once principled program could sink any deeper. But then it did.
For the last two weeks the student section has had the perspective to see the more frightening aspects of the game. Last week, many in my row were convinced we had just watched Utah’s starting quarterback die, or at least become paralyzed, about 20 yards in front of us. It was so shocking that the students immediately stopped celebrating the stop and became deathly silent, at least those close enough to see clearly what had happened. This week we again were witness to one of the more frightening, more horrifying, moments of the game. The students could see immediately after the leg injury that Shane was in no position to continue. We watched, aghast, as he nevertheless did. Then came the late hit and we watched Shane stumble into a lineman, and we watched in horror as a clearly concussed Morris remained on the field. We yelled; we booed; we screamed for him to come out, trying desperately to get someone to hear us and make the only sensible decision. It didn’t work. To leave Shane in like that was reprehensible, irresponsible, and showed such wanton disregard for player safety that it left many of the students angry, confused, and sickened. Whether or not Hoke was being honest when he said that he did not know that Shane looked wobbly is entirely irrelevant. As the head coach, it is his responsibility to know. If he doesn’t or if he can’t, it’s time to move on. Michigan has always been about the players, developing them into young men of class and character, and, if we’re lucky, perhaps some noteworthy football talent as well. What happened today was inexcusable for any team, let alone one that prides itself on what it does for the players.
The game then wound down. The anger and frustration of the last 10 minutes still palpable, but no longer being viscerally screamed at anyone on the field who might hear. Gardner’s solid playing in his time in the game, while helping reduce the ire at the outcome, did nothing to change the conviction that had been burned into those watching. To make matters worse, toward the end of the game two things happened on the sidelines near the student section:
- A dramatic increase in police and event staff presence.
- A rope being held along the sideline and end zone, presumably to prevent a field rush (??).
Did either of these things directly impact my, or really any other students’ lives? Not really. Nevertheless, the symbolism remains. One needs look little further than this to get a good grasp on why the students are so upset with the athletic department. Is the department so distrustful of the students that they want to keep them in line by show of force? Are they so delusional to think that the students would rush the field after a loss? After even a win over Minnesota? over Utah? over literally any home game this season? They’ve taken our water bottles so that they can sell water for $5; they’ve prohibited numerous innocuous items from entering the stadium; three separate event staff members tried to tell me I wouldn’t be allowed to bring a cowbell into the stadium; you can’t bring bags; you can’t bring food. And yet after all of this, they expect us to keep paying such exorbitant prices for tickets? To keep showing up? Don’t get me wrong, I love Michigan Football, I love the Michigan Stadium experience; it’s just that, under Dave Brandon I have yet to really experience either at the Big House.
Well, for those of us wondering how Stephen Ross feels about Dave Brandon and the AD, I think we have our answer, though it's not what most of us hoped for:
"He's probably the most qualified athletic director in the country. I think he's terrific," said billionaire real estate developer Stephen Ross, a UM alumnus who has given the university $310 million in recent years. "I wouldn't have given my gift to the athletic department if I didn't believe in Dave."
Another interesting takeaway from this article that seems to contradict what other recent reports have suggested:
A source within the university, who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, said concerns about Brandon and UM athletics are a talking point, but little else at this point.
"There's no movement to push Brandon out," the source said, who noted that any change would go through the university president, to whom the athletic director reports, and would be a long-term process rather than a sudden dismissal.
Here's the full article
Gregg Henson has published a new article on his website alleging that more than 450 former football players signed a petition and presented it to the Regents to have Dave Brandon removed.
Among other things, there's an alleged email exceprt from a "former football captain" that lists all the things the players can't stand about Brandon. If you like juicy info and potentional conspiracy theories, this piece is chock-full.
If any or all of this is true, look out, fireworks may actually start happening around the Big House.
In another thread, I offered to post an e-mail exchange that I had with Dave Brandon about a year ago at the beginning of last season. I should probably explain that when it first happened I was too mad to think about posting it, and we were in the midst of a season, then prompty forgot about it during the off-season, when I should have posted it. But now Dave has pissed us off again, and with any luck we will be bidding him adieu soon, so it now seems relevant again.
So, to set the stage: it is the Friday before the 2013 season opener. Michigan had a big stupid Kraft noodle in Michigan stadium. The natives were restless, even MGoShoe. The noodle itself didn't upset me, but rather the slow creep of advertising into the stadium. So although I didn't think that my opinion meant all that much, I figured that I would let the Athletic Department know how I felt. I wasn't expecting a response at all, and I figured that if I did get a response, it would be some boilerplate like, "Dear X, thanks for your feedback and for your continued support of Michigan football! Go blue!" Instead I got snark.
I sent the same e-mail to Dave Brandon and to Brian Townsend:
Dear Mr. Brandon/Mr. Townsend,
As an alumnus and supporter of the University, I was upset to see in the Michigan Daily (http://www.michigandaily.com/
blog/game/football/8-new-) that the Athletic Department is apparently planning to allow Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to advertise inside the grounds of Michigan Stadium. advertisement-blocks-big- house-view-29One of the attractions and important traditions of the stadium experience, in my view, is the lack of advertising. Please do not allow this trend to continue. I would rather pay higher ticket prices than to be subjected to large orange plastic noodles and other such nonsense that significantly detract from my experience.Many thanks in advance and Go Blue!Yours sincerely,[my name]Associate Professor, [my department in the humanities, my university, which is in the AAU]
Dave's response (or perhaps someone in his office?):
[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.Go Blue!
Thanks for your very helpful input!!Much appreciated!!Dave
Brian Townsend's response:
[My first name],
Thanks for your feedback. Your message was heard.
We are looking forward to another exciting weekend in Michigan Stadium. Go Blue!
Dear Brian,Thank you! I was at the Notre Dame game (UTL II) and it was magnificent. I was very impressed with all the work that the Athletics Department does to make the games so enjoyable and seemingly effortless. I know that they are not effortless, and I want to let you know how appreciative I am of all your hard work!Go Blue!
Thanks [my first name]. We appreciate your compliment!
I was upset about Brandon's response. It made me feel more alienated from the University that I love, actually. But here's the thing: it's just really, really stupid of him. He can think one of two things:
- This guy is an idiot.
- This guy is a reasonable person with strongly-held feelings about the University.
If (1), then the best thing is not to reply at all or to send some canned response: "Thanks for your passion! Go blue!" If (2), then the same, or something conciliatory: "Thanks for letting us know you feel, the opinions of fans and alumni are important to us" blah blah blah. I would have been satisfied with that. The only other time I e-mailed the AD about an issue, I received a very conciliatory note saying something like, "Thanks, we are already talking about this internally and we appreciate your input."
What does Dave Brandon gain from picking a fight with an alumnus?
I also think that his response was disingenuous, however. The fact of the matter is that the Kraft noodle was in Michigan Stadium for a promotial event, sure. But that promotional event -- cleverly called "W.O.W. Friday" -- is actually all about football (here's the official description of it). So it's not any old promotional event, but actually one directly tied to the football team and program. And despite the promotional tie-in, they charged $10 a person for access to the stadium! It wasn't even free!
It sounds like other people have had similar experiences to mine, perhaps even worse ones? I'd be interested to hear what other people have to contribute.
Seeing as we just had the annual heights and weights delivered to our doorstep with nary an emotion beyond “these large men either got slightly larger or slightly smaller, and that is good”, there really isn’t much else going on until the season starts. Sure, there was the BBQ and a couple of commitments, but I’d be surprised if much else happened until a couple of days before The Horror II – Horror-ier comes into our lives at the end of August. So yeah, figured I’d dust off this diary and expound a bit on the UM sports landscape, the upcoming football season, college sports in general, and a couple of other topics.
Best: Are You Ready for Some Football!
So it’s been over 8 months since UM last played a down of football (and, frankly, many more months since those downs felt meaningful). I know a great deal has gone on both locally and nationally to put a dour tone on the upcoming season, but I’m just excited for the sport to return and for my fall weekends to have a bit more entertainment. Living in NY but being a Lions fan, I’m forced to watch the Jets and Giants try to out-dryhump doorknobs for 3 hours most weeks, and can usually only catch games with teams I care about on postage stamp-sized feeds from random “sports” sites hosted in countries Russia hasn’t realized they might want to take back yet. But basically every Saturday from August until November I know that I can turn on the television and find some channel with Michigan on it, and for a couple of hours I can be unabashedly zealous over something pretty inconsequential but still incredibly endearing to my heart. That’s why I love the fall, and why I love having Michigan football back in my life.
[After the JUMP: lots more things that are either the best or the worst.]
There has been much debate around our AD and his success (or lack-there-of) in fulfilling his job duties. Many strong, passionate sentiments have come forth on the board. While I love a good “back-and-forth” as much as the next person, there does seem to be a large amount of apples vs. oranges, non sequiturs, straw men, and other nonsensical musings. In an effort to add some clarity to things I created the following Venn diagram. As this very lively discussion continues perhaps you will find this tool useful to better organize your thoughts and make your arguments.
A1 - A place everyone agrees does not exist
A2 - Miami (YTM) circa 1984
A3 - A place fans fear more than death itself
A4 - Brian’s own personal Hell; why $5 is what you will receive from a scalper in exchange for taking his Horror Part II tickets.
B1 - Boise State
B2 - Exists only in Dave Brandon’s Mind; The reason he hired Lochmann
B3 - Slippery Rock at the Big House
B4 - “I am proud to introduce the next director of athletics for Eastern Michigan University, Mr. Hunter Lochmann”
C1 - Oregon
C2 - Alabama
C3 - Duke vs. Arizona Basketball! Prime-time!! For the championship!!! Of the Preseason NIT