Athletic Director For A Day Comment Count

Brian May 8th, 2012 at 2:07 PM

A few weeks back, Ira from WTKA sent me an If I Was King article from a Penn State blog. Naturally, this got me thinking about what I would do if I woke up tomorrow and someone told me that due to a quantum something or other I was athletic director.

There are of course many things. I would let that hashtag guy go since he's supposed to be a public relations person but talks like a robot instead of a person, etc. But no one would see these changes. They may hear a deep rumbling basso laugh of evil. See it in their gameday experience they won't. So here are my top five-ish things I'd do in this alternate universe.

1. Start taking attendance, for both stick and carrot

Student Section[1]

three minutes to kickoff, check the packed endzone next to the students

One thing Dave Brandon and I are of one mind on is how gross it is for the student section to be half-empty at kickoff on certain gamedays. Since they're now scanning tickets they know who's coming early and who's coming late. They should start using this trove of data to reward behaviors they like and discourage ones they don't.

All season ticket holders, student or not, should start having an attendance score tracked. Max points are scored by being in the stadium 20 minutes prior to kickoff—bands—and something like 90% are scored by being there at kickoff, with a steep dropoff afterwards. For the first couple years Michigan does nothing with these except inform everyone of their score and their percentile range within their group (each different PSL level is a group w/ students separate) and within the entire fanbase.

Once they have a handle on the numbers they start making some use of this data with the students. Seating priority and away ticket and bowl lotteries are based on the score instead of straight seniority. Figure out the bottom 10% and set a threshold below which you can buy tickets but only at a full-cost rate. Take some of your pots of money and reward the most dedicated fans with reduced prices and special bonuses. What we're building is a religion, not a company.

For the folks paying full price there's not much Michigan can do. They're stretching everybody to the maximum dollar and at some point getting snooty about who you want on the list is going to result in no one showing up when you call out "next." But at the very least these scores should start adding to Victors point levels in some way, so that the guy who sat through the Ellerbe era at Crisler gets some credit for it.

Theme: Michigan's too focused on money as the end result of everything; they should make an effort to make the experience of being at a game better for everyone involved.

2. Stop playing the Penn State alma mater at every game

ignore the content of the song, project as 15 second clip

That would be "Seven Nation Army." I stole that joke from twitter.

Anyway. If Special K is going to run our lives for four hours every fall Saturday, the least he can do is not play the same six stadium anthems every other arena on the planet does. It is possible to both play music and build tradition if you pick something that you make yours.

Michigan accidentally did this when they picked a funky instrumental from a blaxploitation movie to lead Michigan Replay for 30 years. That worked because it was weird and ours and now I can't imagine our podcast without it; losing Across 110th Street was a traumatic experience that killed most of my interest in watching the Michigan Replay replacement (that and the internet making it a quaint relic). Special K should play that.

That should also serve as a lesson for any other in-game stuff. Make it weird, make it yours, stop playing "Sweet Caroline." Dump the overplayed Seven Nation Army and replace it with any of a dozen other White Stripes songs that would be equally or better suited. Make people think "Michigan" when they hear a song.

Michigan may have already tried this with "In The Big House," but the lesson there is never let a middle-aged white dude make a decision about music. Everrrrr. For it to be a beloved tradition people can't largely loathe it:


if anything this is kind since MGoReadership skews very young

Anyway. Figure out some stuff other people don't play that doesn't suck, play it at specific times so people get familiar with it, wait, and down the road you have a tradition.

Theme: By being different you can be loved.

3. Ask season ticket holders what they would like the schedule to look like, and ask them to pay for it

A corollary to this whole Alabama money debate is this: if it's going to cost extra to schedule a real opponent in a home and home, fine. When season ticket renewals are processed ask the people signing up if they would approve a surcharge for X games in X years against a BCS-level opponent in a home and home. Again, don't do anything with this information for a couple years as you gauge where you're at, then if you have a strong base of support for a more interesting schedule in those ND/OSU away years, announce that you're playing Team X and there will be a surcharge Y—or just price the ticket appropriately—for that year only.

You get permission to charge more in exchange for an exciting opponent; you bridge that gap between what a season ticket costs and what it's worth to scalpers.

Theme: Fans are more than teats to milk. We all participate in the decisions, and thereby become more invested.

4. Ask the Old Hat guys to do historical stuff for breaks

The one unqualified success in the modernization of the stadium experience has been the introductory videos produced by Old Hat Creative. Instead of filling dead air with Special K stuff it would be nice if Old Hat was tasked with producing 1-3 minute videos on Michigan history: Anthony Carter, the Virginia Kickoff Classic, Braylonfest, Tom Harmon, etc.

Basically MVictors: The Movie: The Short.  The goal here is to do a little bit more than the occasional old highlight they've put on the board. Think little five-minute mini-documentaries about, say, the 1997 OSU game and what have you. You could play them in the nothing at the end of half time or split them across a couple commercial breaks.

Bonus: These can also be repurposed for Inside Michigan Football.


5. Think Carl Grapentine

This is more of a long-term feel than a specifically actionable thing one can do. If you don't know, Carl Grapentine is the PA guy at Michigan Stadium. If you've been to road games (or Michigan basketball ever) you know that he's a rare bird. Even Notre Dame's announcer burst out with something about how a rainbow had just appeared over the stadium—which was at least true—when Cam Gordon got torched for that billion-yard touchdown at the end of Denard's coming-out party a couple years ago.

Grapentine ain't havin' that. He's a just the facts ma'am kind of guy who brings boatloads of gravitas. He would easily win a presidential election contested between PA announcers. The Wings' Bud Lynch is another in that mold.

Many people have joked about The Brand The Brand The Brand in the past couple years as Brandon does whatever the hell he's doing with it. Mostly he's making it clear why we can't be Oregon. Say what you want about the Ducks' outlandishness, but damn if they don't communicate OREGON:



Even if the uniforms are incoherent, that is a coherent brand, one that supplanted a history of suck with success. Michigan has the opposite situation but they're just wobblin' around out there, claiming to be the home of tradition and coming out in no fewer than five different uniforms over the course of a season. That's not The Brand. That's the sad spectacle of a man going through a mid-life crisis getting "clunk" at da club.

Grapentine's the brand. Hoke is the brand. Refocus on that.

Theme: know who you are, instead of who the Knicks are.



May 8th, 2012 at 2:58 PM ^

I actually use that entrance a lot of times because it does seem to be the less popular one compared to the main street and hoover/keech street entrances. The section entrances are really the problem though and it's totally a crap shoot since some will have no lines and some have lines that go all the way to the outside fence and double back.


May 9th, 2012 at 1:25 PM ^

I'm in 18, and show up early, and there's still always a line. And if I'm running a little late (meaning coming just before the band hits the field) there's a lot of line. But at the same time, on the same curve, with basically the same demographic make-up of fans, there's no line at 17 or 19.  It's so strange. Since I'm just about on the end of one section, I can't count the times I'll just confidently walk into one of the other tunnels and just cut across the section. (It probably helps that not being on the 50 they're not really too worried about people sneaking in for a corner endzone seat). I don't see much difference in ushers or anything over the years it just boggles me.


May 8th, 2012 at 2:56 PM ^

So is it someone else's fault that you are routinely unable to make it into your seat on time?


You're choosing to be late so that you can drink one more beer in the parking lot?


You're making a political statement against the post 9/11 increase in security by being late?

I know for me, approximately, 100% of the fun of seeing a football game is, you know, seeing a football game.


May 8th, 2012 at 3:22 PM ^

Tailgating may not matter to you but it does to a lot of people, especially people that come from out of town for a couple times a year to see old college friends. For the money they bring in for a home game, there's no reason they can't have more people working the gates, especially the section gates. There's no reason they can't train people or develop a system to be more efficient at filtering people to the right section than what they have now (which seems to be one old guy who can't make out the numbers on a ticket spending 30 secs per person trying to figure out if they're in the right spot). It's not too much to expect and Michigan Stadium is way behind other venues in that regard.

EDIT: I wish I could edit my original post, but I didn't mean to criticize the "security" aspect in particular as the general logistics of getting people in their seats.


May 9th, 2012 at 3:30 AM ^

I've never had to wait in a line for the student sections, but for basically every other section there is a huge line. I get that students don't really care about sitting in their exact seat and other people do, but is necessary to have such a big difference? I agree with you 100%. This needs to be sped up. I dread the day that I miss kickoff despite getting in the stadium 30 minutes early because of those lines. 


May 8th, 2012 at 2:37 PM ^

I agree with everything AD Brian has to say, except I would throw Special K out of the press box window.

When it comes to unique Michigan songs, UofM has one of the largest collections of any college. Just ask anyone in the Glee Club. Though, I don't know if everyone would like to hear "The Bum Army" at a football game.


May 8th, 2012 at 2:39 PM ^

Agree with most but not on two fronts:

1. Seven Nation Army is a Michigan song.  It was written by a Michigan band.  If anything, Penn State should step off.  When I hear Eminem anthems at Detroit sports games I feel like they're ours.  I wouldn't be about giving these native Michigan band anthems up just to be different.

2. Being different is all well and good, until you're the musical equivalent of a Goth, where, by trying so hard to be different, you're just your own terrible form of conformity.


May 8th, 2012 at 2:49 PM ^

"Zombie Nation", not "Seven Nation Army", is the song that gets waaaay overplayed at Penn State.  I think that Brian missed the boat on this one.  Of course, EVERY school plays "Seven Nation Army" so I understand the confusion.

I agree with you that Michigan should embrace Detroit music (except Ted Nugent, he's just a jackass). 




May 8th, 2012 at 4:09 PM ^

Ted would be unbelievable - just turn off the mike when he's done.  Hearing that the Chilli Peepers are big fans and even played Hail to the Victors on tour a couple of years ago in Ohio.  Also - need a little Iggy Pop to shake up the day - could play "5' 1" when certain smallish dudes score.


May 8th, 2012 at 2:58 PM ^

but is "can't turn you loose" aka "the blues brothers song" ours? it feels like ours, there is a dumb dance and i have never heard anyone else play it. i would go for more Otis and less akroyd, but that song is pretty solid.

i could also get behind "gimme some lovin'" from winwood/blues brothers - duh duh duhduh duh dah


May 8th, 2012 at 7:00 PM ^

My first game was Indiana in '79 (i was a few months from 6). Our seats were from my grandmother's return to UM for a BFA, and they were in the row directly behind the band. Yes, i was a very lucky kid.

The Blues Brothers came out in 1980. I don't remember when the MMB picked it up, but it was in those years of season seats. Given that what Jake and Elwood were doing was still relatively cool music at the time and that was one of the only musicals to ever be built around good music and musicians, my assumption was that the band members latched on to it. I know i saw half time shows built around the movie. And that's good music for a marching band arrangement. The MMB band made it ours.

My point being that traditions can start from anything, but they don't generally start from played out, everybody's already doing it beginnings. I like tradition. Maybe it's because i got to be right there for a Michigan tradition's beginning as a kid who didn't know it was a beginningthat  i can now look back and see it clearly. If all the old codgers had ranted until the MMB stopped playing that new-fangled R&B, we might not have a cool tradition.

In any case, In the Big House still sucks. Not because i'm old, but because it just sucks.


May 8th, 2012 at 3:07 PM ^

I like the idea about the mini-documentaries. I can remember growing up in Cincinnati and going to Reds games in Riverfront Stadium. It seemed like they always had little montages before the game (and during the game, even) about significant events in the Reds' history. They were really interesting, and they gave me a sense of pride in rooting for the Reds.


May 8th, 2012 at 3:08 PM ^

The field used to look like this..

If you look closely, it alternates shades of green every 5 yards. I think that is a subtle way to make the field look 10x better.

When they changed the turf, they made it all one shade, which looks fine, but not as nice as the older alternating shade look.


May 9th, 2012 at 1:21 PM ^

But with the new fieldturf it's usually cheaper, and even if not it's easier to maintain (particularly in a place like Michigan Stadium where the waterbase screwed with the turf after lowering the field). And compared to the old Astroturf, which was like playing on cement covered with sandpaper, this stuff has a lot of injury preventing cushion. It's probably safer than a hard field (if perfectly kept grass).  So while the elements always makes the game better, I don't see too many people going back to it.


May 8th, 2012 at 3:17 PM ^

would fit the atmosphere perfectly in Michigan Stadium, no one else plays them, it embraces the White Stripes as inherently Michigan, and would absolutely kill.



May 8th, 2012 at 3:19 PM ^

When Brandon came in, he proclaimed that he would preserve traditions but "update" them.  You may consider "updated tradition" to be an oxymoron, but Brian shows that it's possible to pull off (for instance, historical documentaries on a huge video board).

Brandon's mission was the right one, but the execution has been cheesy and generic.



May 8th, 2012 at 3:24 PM ^

Be careful with this idea.  It's kind of self reinforcing.  I don't care how big of a fan you are, if you have tickets in the 95th row sometimes you'd just rather watch a crappy weather EMU game on TV.  I personally don't think you should punish someone for that.  But if you're in row 5, you're probably more likely to show up on time for it anyway.

(Yes I know - at least I think - that's not the type of late/no show most of you are angry about, but if they each counted against me the same in a points system, that's not the fairest way to go about it IMO.)

Also you'd be incentivizing the kids who really are too drunk to be there to show up anyway.  I would not be surprised to see a bunch of people show up and leave at half time, or send a batch of tickets with one person to get them all scanned. 

Also what about scalping tickets?  If I pay to get my ticket validated and sell it for a huge markup to a crazy OSU fan who is there an hour before kickoff, is that good/behavior to be rewarded?

At least the part about tracking the data for a few years before implementing a system is very logical, so plus one for that.

- undergrad class of 2010



May 8th, 2012 at 4:33 PM ^

The scalping tickets issue is an interesting catch you make.  It could definitely penalize the ticketholder.  But, then again, maybe they should be penalized for selling to the visitor fans (kidding, but not really).

On the other hand, tickets should NEVER go unused.  There is always someone out there that wants to go to the game.  If anything, the tickets can be donated to the local Boys/Girls Club to kids who will truly appreciate them.



May 8th, 2012 at 6:25 PM ^

I'd be interested to know how many non-student season ticket holders personally attend all 8 home games.  Anecdotally from personal experience I think they are sold/given/shared a lot.  Probably easier to get there on time if you're not going to your 3rd or 4th cupcake of the year and know that somebody better is next weekend.

I think it's actually much harder to scalp student tickets because (1) for meh games the $40 validation cost to sell it to a non-student may be above market value for the ticket (2) "you can't put them on stubhub" (not sure how true that is, never tried).  

This is obviously by design because if you're a student, Brandon doesn't want you using your option for cheap student seats just to net a scalping profit for the whole year, so barriers are put up to make them harder to scalp.  He'd rather sell an additional ticket to a grad for much more.

Another part of the dynamic is the bundling of a whole season and leaving prices WAY closer together than market value. I personally saw UTL tickets going for $350-400, and back in undergrad EMU/Toledo/Delaware State tickets that you couldn't get $20 for.

The real solution (IMO) is just make all the games good ones and people will show up.  The big 5 conferences should cut the fat and play zero cupcake games.  This necessitates an overhaul of the post-season so that non-conference losses don't hurt your chances or requires a system that coordinates your entire conference's non-conference schedule eliminating individual scheduling freedom.  But in the end this would raise the week-in/week-out quality of regular season play.  (Cue that devalues regular season/every game counts objection here.)  But I would rather play a meaningless game against Alabama than a game that wrecks our chances if we lose against (insert MAC school).



May 8th, 2012 at 7:29 PM ^

Eight of us had bought our seats together and as seniors our seats started at about the 45 maybe a quarter of the way up. It was a very very hard choice, but as a block those tickets were gold, and I had tuition to pay. We'd all promised each other that we'd sell the OSU tickets as a block. We sold the eight tickets for $2400 to a bunch of alums. To put that in perspective $2400 was more than a semester of upper class instate tuition. I regretted it when I did it, and regret it to this day, but sometime you have to face fiscal reality. Otherwise, while I was a student, I attended every home game. I'm still sad about selling it. 


May 9th, 2012 at 1:34 AM ^

All eight home games and a couple of away games every year. I know it's not easy for everyone to get to every game (family obligations, etc.) but it's only 8 Saturdays a year and you know a year in advance which days they are. I plan my vacations around these games. Yes, the cupcake games wear us down a little but it's still a Michigan Football game that we all should feel very fortunate to attend.


May 9th, 2012 at 11:24 AM ^

Are you kidding? Student tickets are so easy to sell.  There are always people looking for a ticket for their friend that is visiting Ann Arbor for the weekend.

Sure you have to start selling that EMU ticket early if you want any money for it, but there are always people looking to buy.

Facebook makes it so easy, but really all you have to do is ask around your group of friends who has an out-of-towner coming in and if they need a ticket.  Let them borrow your MCard or someone elses and you're good to go.


May 8th, 2012 at 3:25 PM ^

We really just need to go full Blues Brothers..."I Can't Turn You Loose", "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love", "Gimme Some Lovin'", "Soul Man", "Sweet Home Ch...OK, the first four.

Failing that, Motown.  Motown.  People love Motown.  We have the actual Detroit connection plus the Big Chill connection.  Even young people like Motown.

And for goodness sakes, YES on "Across 110th Street."  Across 110th Street today, tomorrow, and forever.



May 8th, 2012 at 3:27 PM ^

...Brian. My only quibble is with your take on 7NA. I agree that it would be better if Michigan were to co-opt a different WS song, but the fact is that even if PSU popularized it for CFB, the song is used by multiple teams/fan bases across the world. They don't own it and nor should they. The truth of the matter is that the song is unusually suited for stadium use.


May 8th, 2012 at 3:30 PM ^

Ticket-points system: Great idea, but please make it for football only. I know a student at LSU who missed out on the student ticket lottery for the BCS championship game this year because he didn't have enough points--which had to be accumulated by going to other sports as well as football games. As he said, if he had gone to one more volleyball game at 11:30 on a Sunday morning, he would have made the cut.


May 9th, 2012 at 11:27 AM ^

On the other hand, why not reward the fan who does go to that volleyball game? Both students love the football team just as much (well, maybe the guy who went to the vball game did so for football, and in that case, reward him for putting in the effort) and one is supporting other student athletes.


May 8th, 2012 at 3:30 PM ^

6. Settle the mascot debate by hiring Kate Upton as the Official Michigan Mascot(tm).  We've all seen her as the Easter Bunny... imagine her as a similarly clad Wolverine.  And of course, the U could then market The Michigan Wolverine Barbie Doll (tm) to satisfy the greed angle of the whole mascot idea.

THEME: Improve recruiting.


May 8th, 2012 at 3:34 PM ^

Moneyquote: What we're building is a religion, not a company. Religions make plenty of money, yo. More than most companies. Apple's success is derivative of both its good products but also its legions of zealots. So, which came first?

Alas, Michigan already has legions of zealots and those will never ever be alienated to the point where its a problem. Regardless, all of these suggestions are reasonable, practical, and would not hurt the real brand Brandon is trying to build. Some of these other experiments we've seen? Yeah, I think they do...just not enough to be a problem


May 8th, 2012 at 3:34 PM ^

Love the idea of points for being there early.

I always got to game 30 minutes or more early as a student- always loved it when the stadium was quieter and you could wander everywhere and feel the excitement build!

Always hated how the back half of the student section was practically empty for much of the first quarter or half- especially for weaker opponents.  The more time that students are in the Big House the better the excitement builds!