This Week's Obsession: A Moment in Endzone

This Week's Obsession: A Moment in Endzone

Submitted by Seth on September 23rd, 2015 at 12:03 PM

The Question:

Now that we have all read it, what for you was the most jaw-dropping moment of Brandon's Lasting Lessons?

The Warning:

We're going to spoiler this. If you haven't read it yet you should go do that.

The Responses:

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]

President Schlissel Announces Dave Brandon's Resignation; Jim Hackett Named Interim AD

President Schlissel Announces Dave Brandon's Resignation; Jim Hackett Named Interim AD

Submitted by Ace on October 31st, 2014 at 2:34 PM

Interim AD Jim Hackett speaks as President Mark Schlissel looks on. [Anbender/MGoBlog]

"This morning I accepted the resignation of athletic director David Brandon."

Adam will have the full—and lengthy—transcript of today's press conference up later, but U-M President Mark Schlissel's opening statement obviously contained the most important part. Brandon met with Schlissel on Wednesday to discuss his resignation, saying he thought it would be best for the student-athletes and the university if he stepped down; Schlissel agreed, saying it was best for the department to continue "without daily distractions."

Jim Hackett, incidentally a former M teammate of Brandon's, will take over as the interim athletic director effective immediately. Hackett served as the CEO of Steelcase from 1994 until February of this year; he currently sits on the Board of Advisors for both the School of Public Policy and the Life Sciences Institute.

The search for a permanent replacement will begin immediately; in the meantime, Schlissel made it clear that Hackett has the power to run the athletic department as he sees fit, including evaluating the football coaches, especially if a replacement isn't in place at the end of the season. Hackett mentioned Bo Schembechler and Gerald Ford as personal heroes of his, saying "both would be quite certain the future of Michigan is not in doubt."

When asked if he would be looking for a candidate with Michigan connections to permanently replace Brandon, Schlissel said that he simply wants "the best man for the job," adding that he'll take as long as necessary to find the right person. "I have excellence in mind," he said.

Terms of Brandon's resignation will be released later today, according to Schlissel. 

UPDATE: The terms of Brandon's resignation have been released. Full PDF file is here; the short version:

  • Brandon will receive $3 million over the next four years.
  • Michigan has the right to reduce his compensation should he take another job.
  • The University will pay the cost of COBRA for Brandon and his dependents' health benefits through June 30, 2015.
  • Brandon will retain two "Regents Emeritus" seats for football, men's basketball, and hockey.
  • Brandon retains the use of two company cars through the end of the year.

The rest is mostly legalese; here's the fun part of said legalese:


Brandon Out Soon?

Brandon Out Soon?

Submitted by Brian on October 31st, 2014 at 11:06 AM


[Eric Upchurch]

It might be happening, and soon. Chatter has picked up after the most recent last straw. Today I've gotten two reports that Brandon is resigning in… a couple hours(!). One comes second-hand from within the department, the other second-hand from the regents*. Premium sites seem to have the same chatter.

Prior to what seems like a major shift today but after the most recent last straw I had heard that the next bye week (ie, after Northwestern) was a point at which something might happen, with another independent report from within the department asserting that knives were being sharpened, and a report from one of the events being held in the run up to the regents' election that he was done in a couple weeks.

The the emails supposedly blunted a lot of pushback Brandon's supporters were trying to muster. While you should keep in mind that someone who would relate this to me might be inclined to believe such a thing, John Borton is… uh… not so inclined, and he asserted that white flags are being waved($) inside the department. Sorry if that sounds like self-tootin'. Nobody likes a self-tooter.

*[Note: I endorsed Mike Behm. I should clarify that none of this comes from him or his camp.]

UPDATE: itshappening.gif



Ross Changes His Tune

Ross Changes His Tune

Submitted by Brian on October 27th, 2014 at 2:18 PM


The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Ross batphone rang again today:

On Monday, Ross said that he still thinks Brandon can do the job. But he also has promised school president Mark Schlissel that he won’t interfere or oppose a decision to fire Brandon.

“I don’t think alumni should control universities,” Ross said. “We have a great president and he is running the university and not me.”

Ross said Schlissel has “been talking to a lot of people” about Brandon and “has not come to a hasty conclusion.” If he has made a decision, Ross said, “he has not told anyone.”


On Harbaugh, Brandon, And Other Such Things

On Harbaugh, Brandon, And Other Such Things

Submitted by Brian on October 21st, 2014 at 11:50 AM

ALL RIGHT, PEOPLE. We are probably embarking on a coaching search in the near future and also probably embarking on an AD search in the near future. When these things happen I get buckets of insider information from provenances both dubious and legit, and at some point they cross the threshold where I think they're useful to relate.

When I do this I want things to be supported by multiple people, or people I've heard from before and were accurate. I've learned over the years that when you get in these situations a lot of people stridently believe things that turn out to be wrong, so keep that in mind; I strive to be precise with my language to give people the right impression of how strongly these opinions are held.



ON JIM HARBAUGH. There are plenty of media reports suggesting that Harbaugh won't be with the 49ers next year; I've heard similar things. I've also heard that people within the 49ers organization think that maybe Harbaugh isn't an NFL guy, long term, and that Harbaugh is also coming to this realization as the guys in his locker room start getting more and more ornery. Michigan is not a far-fetched destination according to them.

ON DAVE BRANDON. I mentioned this on twitter and should clarify. There is the Big Ballers Meeting and then a Meeting With A Lot Of Big Ballers And Some Smaller Ballers And Some People Who Do Nice Stuff For The University. I got a report from the latter, in which Schlissel sat down for a Q&A session that was moderated by Stephen Ross. Nothing said was definitive, but almost all of the side chatter centered on how Brandon wasn't going to make it and Ross didn't seem like he was going to throw a hissy fit if a change was made. Even in this context away from the madding crowd the first issue addressed was the AD; Schlissel reiterated his point about a culture change; there seemed to be big baller chatter about who might be next.

Now: these people are not universally omniscient. There was chatter that things might go down last Tuesday. Obviously they did not. Don't take that as gospel.

ON THE COMBINATION OF HARBAUGH AND BRANDON. Never say never but I've heard from guys who know Harbaugh who say that Jim working for Dave is highly unlikely to happen. I do not have signed affidavits, but… yeah. As chatter goes this drumbeat is intense.

ON HOKE SURVIVING. This is likely to become moot this weekend, but serious people are asserting that he's not dead yet and could get by with a 7-5 record that includes a win over MSU or OSU, or even that 6-6 might be enough.

I don't think this is the case, as the powers that be know that season tickets are on a knife edge now and bringing Hoke back could see significant drops. It's impossible to know anything about Hoke's status given the uncertainty about the top of the department; the information being discussed is going to point strongly to a change no matter who is in charge.


ON AD CANDIDATES. Amongst the obvious Michigan Man candidates I would peg the pecking order as

  1. Jeff Long (Arkansas)
  2. Brad Bates (BC)
  3. Warde Manuel (UConn)
  4. Joe Parker (Texas Tech's associate AD)

There's a bigger gap between 2 and 3 than between 1 and 2 or 3 and 4. Michigan may go off the board, of course, but Long in particular seems to have the respect of the AD community—he's the CoFoPoff chair—and made a stunning hire of Bret Bielema after the Petrino situation blew up in his face.

Also worth noting that he handled the PR of that disaster as well as can be expected. Bates and Manuel have not had to face similar crises yet.

ON JABRILL PEPPERS. This is not certain otherwise Michigan would have announced it but I've gotten several seemingly independent sources asserting that Peppers isn't going to play again this year. Michigan just threw him on top of the depth chart at nickel and punt return, so I don't know… I just wouldn't be surprised if he didn't play this weekend.

ON LLOYD CARR. Lloyd Carr is a civilian. He is neither involved nor wants to be involved in the day-to-day of the athletic department, and if you have a conspiracy theory involving him it is ridiculous and you should just drop it.

Unverified Voracity Can't Find Darrell

Unverified Voracity Can't Find Darrell

Submitted by Brian on October 20th, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Oh no. This is is getting passed around various message boards:


This isn't Brady Hoke's luggage combination (we know what that is). It's the number of points Michigan has scored against MSU over the last decade. It goes in one direction.


I see.

Coachbot is malfunctioning. Someone give him a whack.

Purdue coaches all look alike. Jerry Kill doesn't know what Darrell Hazell looks like.

So Michigan has lost to the Ebola coach and goofy Minnesota uncle this year.

Also in Minnesota, I would pay to see Jerry Kill do this:

The status (please don't be the status). Sam Webb laid out his opinion of the way things are going to go on the Scout message board in an extensive post. In brief: his guess at the moment is that Brandon is relieved sometime after the season and this delay may end up buying Hoke another year.

I find it implausible that Michigan would risk that. The fanbase is right on the edge of dropping out in droves—a recent Free Press story touting the fact that Michigan only lost about 700 season ticket holders ignores the fact that Michigan has now completely burned through its once-legendary waitlist. Hoke's return threatens to create a serious dent, and once you break the habit it's hard to get people back in it.

Recruiting shouldn't override common sense here. Even if Michigan goes with another Process that sees them hire a coach in the middle of January the recruiting impact won't be enormous because this class is so small. If Michigan hangs onto 8-10 guys they could add a few fliers and be fine. The guys they hang onto are actually touted recruits instead of the mess that was Rodriguez's last class.

Maybe I shouldn't worry. A lot of these projections come with disclaimers like "if Michigan splits with MSU and OSU". MSU opened a 15.5 point favorite—the most MSU has ever been favored in the series—and that was quickly bumped up to 17. That gives Michigan a less than ten percent chance to win. OSU just bombed Rutgers 56-10; that spread is likely to be in the same range.

/stares blankly at wall. So this happened:

Tony Gibson, the first-year West Virginia defensive coordinator, had an interesting dilemma midway through the second quarter facing the dynamic Baylor offense. The Bears had arrived in Morgantown averaging an FBS-leading 623 yards per game and 67 points in their past two meetings with the Mountaineers. Baylor had just retaken the lead, 20-14, on a 63-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Antwan Goodley.

On the play, WVU's Terrell Chestnut took a vicious block from Corey Coleman to spring Goodley. The WVU cornerback was down on the field for minutes and done for the game due to a concussion. The Mountaineers also had lost their other standout corner, Daryl Worley, for the game at the start of the second quarter after he injured his ribs on a punt return.

WVU blitzed 46 times, Petty got discombobulated, and WVU ran away with a win over #4 Baylor after holding the Bears to just 315 yards—their lowest total in four years. Without both starting corners. With Tony Gibson their defensive coordinator.

Good one, universe. Just when I think I can't feel your steel-toed boot you find the last possible nerve that feels anything.

Join us in our misery. Iowa, come on down!

On the one hand, Iowa is 5-2. On the other, Iowa isn't any good and can't get a new coach. We might be able to get a new coach. I think I'd rather be us? Yeah.

Texas A&M, come on down!


That was halftime.

Florida, come on down!

I hope this has made everyone feel momentarily better before we go into the dark this weekend.

Etc.: Indiana is a 3:30 kick, so you have to wonder if you'll ever get to see most of a college football weekend again. Hooray Denard rushing for 129 yards in his first start. Canadian junior hockey facing a lawsuit for violating minimum wage laws. If you're not familiar with the hypocrisy of the CHL, imagine the NCAA without the education. Women's soccer is rounding into a real program. These numbers are beyond ugly.

What do you do when you're getting a ton of quarters coverage? Go deep in the slot. Roy Roundtree knows what's up.

Unverified Voracity In A Dry Forest

Unverified Voracity In A Dry Forest

Submitted by Brian on October 17th, 2014 at 12:35 PM

Complying with the Norfleet Atomic Dog Act of 2560. What's better than Dennis Norfleet? Dennis Norfleet holding bread!


Regents meeting stuff. Not a whole lot happened other than a couple of students bombing Brandon hard; they did so more professionally than Brandon handled the Shane Morris incident.

Schissel reiterated his disappointment with the way the Shane Morris incident was handled; Andrea Newman publicly supported Brandon (the earliest we can terminate her status as regent is 2018, unfortunately); Mark Bernstein was the guy who sounded like he was talking the most sense:

“The Shane Morris incident, the poor performance of the football team, that’s like a spark in a very, very dry forest. And there’s not a lot of water around right now," Bernstein said. "I think the actions of the athletic department, I believe (some) generally agree, have drained whatever reservoir of goodwill there is with Michigan football in particular. So it makes navigating this issue far more difficult.

“Therefore, it makes this moment much more complex. Is that the fault of the athletic director? Partially. But at the same time, we all care deeply about this university. We care about the student-athletes who are working hard every day at the game they love. We care about our students, our fans, our alums. We want to get this right. And that’s why it’s essential that the board support the president’s deliberative, methodical approach to this to figure out the best course of action.”

He offered a no comment when asked whether he supports Brandon, which is as close as you'll get to a "hell no" in this situation.

Yes, it is incredibly frustrating that the wheels are turning so slowly here—this is a situation in which Michigan is likely to be searching for the most important employee in the department in six weeks, with an ideal candidate probably available. If Michigan can't take its shot at Harbaugh because Brandon's not quite on the cart you'll hear the million-strong facepalm across the state. 

The impression the meeting left was still bad for the AD. Baumgardner:

There's no hiding it any longer. Thursday's meeting was standing-room only. Every major media outlet in the state was represented, most brought more than one person. And most left with one clear thought in their mind.

Brandon's future at Michigan appears to be in real jeopardy.

Thursday's meeting was a public, formal airing of grievances about the environment that's been created around Michigan's athletic department, and it left no stone unturned.

This wasn't just about the handling of the Shane Morris injury, or the athletic department's public relations debacle that soon followed. It wasn't just about the variety of stunts -- from skywriters to fireworks to ticket prices -- pulled by this department. It wasn't just about the lack of communication internally and externally. And it wasn't just about the fact that the sense of community -- and culture -- surrounding Michigan athletics appears to be on life support.

It was about all of it.


For the record, any buyout of Brandon's guaranteed contract likely will cost $3 million or so, not including the refreshments or confetti. But any concerns about backlash from major donors might have been assuaged by last weekend's alumni gatherings surrounding the Penn State game.

Brandon was noticeably absent as Stephen Ross, the real-estate magnate whose $200-million donation to the university last fall included $100 million earmarked for a new athletic campus, took part in a question-and-answer session with university president Mark Schlissel, who reiterated his "disappointment" in the way the Morris situation was handled.

I got a report from this meeting in which it felt like Brandon was not going to make it, FWIW.

After the regent's meeting, Brandon released a statement about how he looked forward to "repairing" his relationship with the students and announced a significant cut in ticket prices.

He also said the was looking forward to going for a walk and felt "happy."

Stitt happened. I did not live tweet the Colorado School of Mines game because I don't get CBS Sports. /shakes fist at UVerse.

bPL4Exy[1]But it went well, as Bob Stitt kind of hilariously took on a team coached by John L Smith:

Mines played Fort Lewis, John L. Smith's team. Smith's Skyhawks had just ended Colorado State-Pueblo's 42-game regular season winning streak, but they had no answers whatsoever for the Mines attack. The Orediggers gained 662 yards, scored touchdowns on each of the first four possessions, and cruised to a 56-14 win. Fort Lewis probably should have scheduled Homecoming for last week.

The Orediggers are 7-0, and oh my I have to sit down

"I treat fourth-down conversions as a turnover," Stitt told me in 2012. "We were 58 percent on fourth down [in 2012], went for 36 of them. Our opponents went for 18. We’re a lot higher percentage than 58 when it’s fourth-and-5 or less. I’ll even go for it on fourth-and-8 when it’s a situation where we’re on the 50 or their 40.

"That’s a turnover! If you get it, it’s like the defense just got you the ball on their 50-yard line. We’ve got to be able to have confidence as an offense that -– hey, when we get around the 50, Coach is gonna go for it – and the defense has to have it in their head that, hey, they’re gonna go for it, and if they don’t get it, we have to get excited and make sure the opponent doesn’t get points out of it."

Once you get past the Harbaugh/Mullen tier it gets very thin very quickly this year and a lot of the guys you'd take a poke at afterwards seem like they would be hard to get—lot of dudes with good job security at their alma mater. So… yeah. Bob Stitt.

(Yes, that is Kevin Sumlin.)

Chance of any chance. Hoke's return by the numerical projections:


In other words


(Although this is pessimistic now that Indiana is apparently starting a Pokemon named Zander Diamont at QB.)

That's not actually good. One of the good things about Brandon cited in an ESPN article:

The football troubles outweighed the building upgrades that Hamilton oversaw while taking Tennessee's athletic department from a $750,000 deficit to a $9 million surplus in his time at its helm. They outweigh the two top-10 finishes in the Directors' Cup, which measures a school's success in all varsity sports.

Michigan also has been in the Directors' Cup top 10 twice under Brandon and made a trip to the men's Final Four

Michigan finished in the top five every year from 1999 to 2009.

All you need to know about the last couple of years in hockey. I mean:

Everyone finishes the lift, heads to the ice through a locker room, one with a complete makeover from the last season. Gone is the sign that said, “Win the next game.” It’s been replaced with key words such as “Unity” and “Respect.”

I'm not a big chemistry guy when looking for explanations as to why things go wrong, but I make an exception in this case.

That would be nice. Hockey megaprospect Auston Matthews is "50/50" between college and the OHL:

Don Granato, the U18s' head coach, says he's "leaning" to college, FWIW.

Mathews, like Zach Werenski, Jack Eichel, and Noah Hanifin, would have to accelerate an entire year of school to arrive on campus next fall. Like BU super-recruit Eichel, Matthews is playing with the U18s despite his young age.

Interesting dynamic here: the NCAA's new autonomy push should give the Big Ten schools an edge against smaller conferences and the OHL. A couple weeks ago the league announced a raft of benefits including full cost of attendance scholarships and a "lifetime educational commitment" that stands in stark contrast to the OHL's current policy, in which playing pro hockey on any level for more than a year makes your scholarship package evaporate.

Meanwhile a school like BU is big time in hockey but in conferences that are not going to follow suit; the OHL will also have to step up its game to maintain its level of attractiveness.

HELLO ANN ARBOR. Ennui levels reaching critical.

Etc.: Brian Phillips on Landon Donovan is an auto-link. Bye week means it's Ufer time. Michigan has a very pretty story on Willis Ward. The plight of the long snapper.