Dave Brandon and Me

Dave Brandon and Me

Submitted by dnak438 on September 23rd, 2014 at 11:14 AM

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-advertisement-blocks-big-house-view-29) that the Athletic Department is apparently planning to allow Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to advertise inside the grounds of Michigan Stadium.

One 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!
Go Blue!!

My response:

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!!

 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!

My response:
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!
Brian Townsend:

Thanks [my first name].  We appreciate your compliment!
Go Blue!

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:

  1. This guy is an idiot.
  2. 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.