Dave Brandon And Other Athletic Director Bits

Submitted by Brian on October 27th, 2009 at 3:42 PM

Hello Dave Brandon?


In the initial post on the topic, I lumped Dave Brandon in with a few folks who had been mentioned for the job but weren't likely to be strong candidates for one reason or another. Brandon's reason: his political aspirations. If the guy is going to run for governor or the Senate or something, he can't be Michigan's AD.

Since then I've acquired the following pieces of information from a source close to the situation, as they say:

  • His political aspirations are real but have been put on the backburner because the state GOP doesn't want him to run for governor.
  • Assuming politics are out of the equation—not 100%, but likely—Brandon would jump at the job.
  • Brandon worked very closely with both Martin and Coleman on the stadium renovations and during the football coaching search. He's a known quantity in the AD and a guy the people at the top of the pyramid are comfortable with.
  • The tinfoil-hat wing of the internet that's suggested Brandon is a part of the shadowy anti-RR cabal hypothetically headed by Lloyd Carr could not be more wrong. Brandon was a key supporter of Rodriguez's candidacy. He and RR have dinner regularly. 3-9 engenders some frustration, but one of the items cited was Rodriguez getting "too friendly with the media".

    This is not someone who has anything but the program's best interests in mind. Brandon would represent an RR faction* win.

If Brandon wants the job I'm betting he's the front-runner. While the two BCS ADs have more direct experience running a department, Brandon is more familiar with the main folks at Michigan. He's been a regent and a CEO of a major corporation; he's worked with Martin on important projects within the department. And he was a walk-on at Michigan. Contrary to the previous post, I think Brandon is the most likely choice until I hear specific contradictory information.

PRE-CLARIFICATION: None of this information comes from the Michigan side of things; I don't know what they're thinking. I'm thinking I know what they're thinking.

*(Assuming that there is any actual anti-RR faction within the athletic department.)

On De Carolis And Long

So there are some complicating factors with the guy who seems like an easy #1 choice. A couple tipsters indicated that his departure from the Michigan athletic department was less than amicable. A former Daily writer explains:

I had a chance to interview Don Canham in 1991 when I was on the staff at the Michigan Daily.  He was quite pissed with Bob DeCarolis then about quotes DeCarolis had given which showed up in a book by Murray Sperber on college athletics about how Canham put the athletic department in the red in having the Canham Natatorium built.  DeCarolis thought it was a money-wasting project to feed Canham's ego.  Doubt that would be held against him given that he stayed in the athletic department until 1996 and it wasn't like he pissed on Bo's grave as Harbaugh essentially did when he said he was steered into Mickey Mouse classes while playing football at Michigan.  But, from what I just read in The Wolverine that feud with Canham is certainly not a distant memory.

Same guy also had some interaction with Jeff Long:

I think Jeff Long was probably the athletic department's first "Director of Football Operations." (akin to the position Scott Draper has today).  Probably the job was essentially created after Long's GA tenure expired but he was liked by Bo and his staff to keep him around.  He obviously made the most of the opportunity given where he is today.  As student managers, our orders and assignments mainly came from Jeff Long and Jon Falk.  Overall, Long was a decent, hard-working, straightforward guy back then who was easy to deal with and didn't have any hidden agendas.

If folks are over the Sperber incident from almost 20 years ago and De Carolis gets offered the job, he'll likely take the job. He's frustrated with Oregon State's inability to fill its 45k stadium:

"There's still uncertainty," De Carolis said Wednesday, expressing frustration in particular over attendance at football games, "no doubt about it. The free fall has stopped but I think it's going to be a challenge."

De Carolis did not intend to call out Oregon State fans, but he came very close when discussing the school's inability to fill 45,674-seat Reser Stadium.

"I've never seen a state like this, where it's one or the other, you're a Duck or you're a Beaver," De Carolis said. "Well, if (OSU alumni) are so proud of that, why is it so hard to keep this thing going? We have a hell of a football product -- a hell of a football product -- and we can't sell out the stadium?"

"Where are all the Beaver fans?"

The same Oregon-based  reader who sent that link also mentions that local sports talk radio has discussed the possibility and they think an offer means De Carolis is gone.

On MAC Folk

At this point I'm pretty sure the two guys in the MAC are going to have to wait.


Tim Waymen

October 27th, 2009 at 3:55 PM ^

If Dave Brandon becomes the next AD then you can kiss any hopes of ever getting an abortion at Schembechler Hall good-bye.

(not an endorsement of any political beliefs)

Linda in Grand Blanc

October 27th, 2009 at 3:55 PM ^

I fully intend to reserve judgment on the search until I've had a chance to compare their sandwiches. But, you'd think a sandwich company would naturally make better sandwiches than a pizzeria. But, I've been surprised before, which is a story for another time.

We'll see, I guess.

Undefeated dre…

October 27th, 2009 at 4:18 PM ^

The GOP governor nomination is huge, because politically speaking there's a good chance a Repub. would win. Assume the GOP already believes Cox, Bouchard, Snyder, and Hoekstra have enough groundwork laid? And if a Republican does win, then Brandon can't legitimately get a gubernatorial GOP nomination until 2018 (unless the 2010 winner gets busted for something).

What about the Senate? Levin has his Senate seat until 2014, and it likely will be his as long as he wants it. Stabenow, though, is up in 2012, and may be vulnerable. Would Brandon want a Senate seat? If he's an executive, he may find that a poor fit.

No matter my political stripe, one thing I NOT WANT is for Michigan's sitting AD to be angling/campaigning for another job -- whether it's in politics or anything else. So if Brandon were to come to Michigan, I hope he can put any political aspirations on hold until 2018...

Undefeated dre…

October 27th, 2009 at 4:37 PM ^

Ambitious, sure, great. Just please don't do that angling on the U-M Athletic Department's time. Realistically, if Brandon wanted to run in 2018 he'd need to sever ties with the department in 2016, maybe 2017. That's still a decent run as an AD, and one I'd gladly accept for a well-qualified candidate. Though De Carolis has what looks like a great resume.


October 27th, 2009 at 7:17 PM ^

is voting for or against a candidate for Governor or Senate based on whether the basketball team made the Final Four. Motivation is good, motivation to leave and using the A.D. job as a resume-builder would be disastrous. Also - Brandon doesn't really need to grow his profile or his resume - the guy's the CEO of Domino's pizza and rides the airwaves 24/7 in the above-type commercials.

Wolverine In Exile

October 28th, 2009 at 8:50 AM ^

but see Nebraska, Oklahoma for states that give Congressional seats to successful athletes/coaches with little political experience. Worked good for JC Watts, not so good for Tom Osborn.

I'm not a huge money donor, but friends of mine in Repub power circles still in Michigan say that Brandon would be an outside shot candidate at this point what with Cox, Bouchard, and Hoekstra declared in and with cosiderable ground structure established. Sounds like GOP governator nomination will come down to who wins the Metro Detroit support between Cox & Bouchard vs. Hoekstra's west Michigan / possible upstate support base.

If Brandon wants to go big time in Repub politics, his best chance may be to become AD, do a good job, then go after Stabenow's senate seat or the gov-ship in 2014 if a Dem wins 2010 election. The AD position would give him the additional name recognition with voting publics who don't read Fortune magazine.


October 27th, 2009 at 4:32 PM ^

Haven't we already heard DEFINITIVELY from the guy at the country club that Lloyd is the next AD?

(Sorry, MichStudent -- but, who knows, maybe you'll have the last laugh!)

turbo cool

October 27th, 2009 at 5:06 PM ^

DeCarolis is an asshole. I don't want the guy who publicly criticized Canham like that. Canham is a legend. I agree with Brian on how that may still hold some weight in the AD. Though it's been a while, a lot of the same faces are still around.

I'd take DB anyday over him.


October 27th, 2009 at 5:43 PM ^

he is quite blunt but him calling out canham for putting the AD into the red by building a natatorium (in canham's honor no less) doesn't necessarily make him an asshole. especially since it appears he was correct in thinking that building it at the time was a waste of funds.


October 27th, 2009 at 6:04 PM ^

but he did a lot of things that were wrong. Where shall I start. Almost every coaching hire was done on the cheap. He let Johnny Orr go because he would only pay him peanuts, didn't even try to keep him. The hockey program went off the cliff for several years until he finally hired Red, who was loyal enough and rich enough to work for way below market value. The baseball program went on probation and never really recovered until Maloney came years later. All women's sports were treated as a joke under Canham. He slow played title 9 in every way he could. Now we're consistently strong in many women's sports. He made almost no improvements to any facilities in any sport except Canham Natorium which was done on the cheap and had to be largely gutted within 10 years of its being built. His crown jewel was hiring Bo, and his entire reputation is built on that one hire. Bo had more to do with filling the stadium than Canham ever did, but I give him some of the credit as well.


October 27th, 2009 at 7:16 PM ^

...but, Canham's biggest achievement is that he was the first Athletic Director to truly market the school and in particular the sports teams. Prior to Canham there was not the revenue stream from licensed products that there is today. Athletic Departments previously relied on ticket revenue alone. There wasn't a product he wouldn't try and slap a Michigan logo on.

Michigan Arrogance

October 27th, 2009 at 7:59 PM ^

except that his legacy is waaaay beyond just Bo. he brought back the ND rivalry in the 70s, filled the big house via marketing and those things affected CFB for years to come. If it was just about Bo winning, then the 100K+ streak would have started in 1970-71-72 or so after Bo started winning 9-10-11 games and B10 titles. the consistent sell out didn't come until 1975 or so.

no doubt tho... he was a cheap AD who did NOT believe in titleIX in any way. he never really tried to be successful with the womens programs

lexus larry

October 28th, 2009 at 9:40 AM ^

As Wolve96 points out below, Canham was truly ahead of his time in the marketing of football weekends, and licensing of the logos, getting the games on WJR, etc.

Don't diss him about the fall of baseball...he very bluntly points out in his book that DeCarolis was fully behind the effort to fire and SUE Bud Middaugh on revenue declines of football gameday programs (as usual, the claim was tossed in court, but the damage to Middaugh, and Michigan baseball, was done). We were the best program in the north at that point, and fell off a cliff afterward. That kind of "eating our own" mentality bites, and isn't the way to run the AD. (If the guy had truly been embezzling, whack the dude ASAMFP, and move on.)

Dunno how much Natatorium blame can be hung on Canham, as far as lousy design...unless his penny pinching ways was a cause of that.

At the end of it all, our AD's of the past 50 years have had significant strengths, and a few annoying weaknesses. (Excepting Goss!) Jack Weidenbach was a nice interim caretaker. Where Bill Martin has been a godsend for plant refurb and development, Canham was the marketing/selling/licensing guru.

We need someone who can manage the many issues out there, but have a strength that will be an asset to the entire Athletic Department. Dunno if Frrrrrreeee Pizza works. Because, yeah, Domino's is possibly the worlds worst 'za. I think even frozen tastes better.

I guess I fall into the anyone but DeCarolis camp...sorry.

Bando Calrissian

October 28th, 2009 at 2:23 AM ^

Well, he'd be right in criticizing the Natatorium, especially at the time he was quoted. It took YEARS for that thing to actually operate the right way. It was a money pit from the start. The design of the roof caused algae to grow in the pool. The air didn't circulate properly and caused problems for people with respiratory issues. There were structural issues. It needed a complete renovation within 10 years of completion to fix the constant, nagging problems inherent in the original design and construction.

It's a wonderful facility now, but it took a LOT of money beyond initial construction costs to get it that way.


October 27th, 2009 at 5:12 PM ^

Personally, I am in favor of someone who has experience running an athletic organization over a pure businessman. Not trying to compare them, but the Goss experience soured me on hiring from the business world.

One of the reasons, IMO, why Martin was successful was his combination of real estate expertise along with his tenure with the USOC. I don't see that with Brandon.


October 27th, 2009 at 5:34 PM ^

CEO's of companies like Dominos have to have some knowledge of real estate because it's an important component of company owned stores. So I think he's got that--although I'm not sure why real estate in your mind is important here.

Bando Calrissian

October 28th, 2009 at 2:31 AM ^

It is not the Athletic Director's sole responsibility (or a job requirement) to be a "staunch supporter" of any coach within the Athletic Department. Rather, it is his/her responsibility to make sure -all- of the coaches within the department are running programs up to the standards of the University of Michigan. The job is not to be the chief cheerleader of the football program, nor should it be. Yes, it's the highest profile program we have, but it's not the only one.

I know there are many who want the new AD to show up at his first conference, immediately shower praises about Rich Rodriguez, and then burn a copy of the Free Press with a cigar lighter he dug out of Bo Schembechler's desk drawer. Yeah, not gonna happen.


October 27th, 2009 at 7:14 PM ^

I worked a bit with Brandon when he was on the Board of Regents, and he's a great Michigan Man. He actually introduced me to Bo in the administration building, which was definitely a great moment for me. He's got the business acumen, experience with not only AN athletic department staff but THIS staff, a prior working relationship with President Coleman, great Michigan ties, etc.

On top of all of this, he and his wife have donated MILLIONS to the University - I add this as a plus not for nepotism, but because it means (a) he truly loves and believes in Michigan being a great place, (b) he can fundraise pretty darn credibly, and (c) he won't be doing the job for the money, meaning he'll be more likely to make the right call than the call that'll save his butt.

Consider me a big Brandon supporter for AD.


October 30th, 2009 at 10:01 PM ^

I know this guy might be a great Michigan man and that sports and politics don't need to mix but Brandon is going to eventually make a comment on an issue like abortion or gay marriage that really hurts Michigan's image. I know most U of M fans don't live in A2 but one of the great things about Michigan is the strong connection between the school and the town. The town will not support a guy like this as AD. As a resident I'd be willing to give him a chance but my neighbors have already said they don't want him here.

Any one else think this might be an issue?