David Brandon: "I Suggest You Find A New Team"

Submitted by Brian on October 28th, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Ace Anbender contributed to this report.

A few weeks ago, one of our users posted a fuzzy picture of an email purporting to be from one David Brandon:

10615422_294725647389729_3736298342185053254_n[1]

We were already trying to confirm or dis-confirm the authenticity of this when Keith Olbermann's show presented it as a fact we're reporting. At that point we had to either confirm it or repudiate it. We've done our best to do so.

We are now reporting this is authentic.

This kind of thing is of course forgeable, but I let it stand because it felt like something Brandon would do. I know this because over the past few years about two dozen people have forwarded me conversations with Brandon ranging from polite enough to the above. 

While the message board thread had a number of details off due to the hand-me-down nature of the information, Ace tracked down the original source of the emails, confirmed his identity over the phone and on Facebook, and got the original. I believe this to be real.

fine-without-you-1

I asked the hivemind for help with confirming that the email was genuine. What followed was a primer on spoofing that led to one inescapable conclusion: nothing is 100% guaranteed. However, you can look at email headers and GMail histories and rule out all but extremely sophisticated forgeries.

This is where a second emailer comes in. Around the same time Brandon is alleged to have fired off the email above, he shot off another after receiving a short rant about how Al Borges was bad and should feel bad:

have-a-happy-life-2

This woman's husband forwarded a much longer exchange with Brandon he had afterward. This ended with the assertion that "you may need more luck than our football team" to deal with his wife.

It also provided a larger body of information to evaluate. I ran it by a couple people intimately familiar with not just email in general but GMail specifically. The results:

The short of it is that the headers check out but there's no way to be 100% sure unless you know for sure the assumptions below are true. The smoking gun is indeed the back and forth GMail thread, that's just not possible unless fabricated by the recipient which we don't think it is (details on why below).

Assumptions

  • Dave Brandon uses a GMail/Google Apps web client (versus say, a desktop client)
  • [email protected] was not hacked and being accessed by an unauthorized third party
  • Neither a 3rd party or the recipients know the specific Google Apps servers for umich.edu's domain
  • The document with the thread between Dave Brandon and the sender was not fabricated

Details

  • The sender's headers appear consistent and indicate authenticity—however, a single email header is insufficient to prove authenticity
  • GMail automatically detects spoofed Gmails and Google Apps addresses—user(s) would have received a warning
  • Replies to spoofed email addresses will go to the real email address—the sender's emails were getting to [email protected] and being responded to.
  • GMail uses signatures in headers to group threads together. Spoofed emails with the same subject aren't put into threads—the back and forth thread is the strongest proof that the emails are authentic. 
  • The back-and-forth thread does not appear to be a forgery—the spacing, elements, and little details (such as "mgoblog.com" being in purple because it's a previously visited address for the user) all seem to check out. 

The longer thread looks authentic beyond reasonable doubt.

    Since the original email is discussed repeatedly in the longer thread, that seems certainly true.
    A second opinion from a professional in the field links the two emails together:

    We have two separate emails that claim to be sent from DB with the same mail server in the header and the same SMTP address. I'm wholly convinced that neither are forged if these are indeed from 2 different people that couldn't have colluded.

    The independent reports I've gotten over the last two years rules out a hack. Dave Brandon has on many, many occasions sent out emails of this nature in his tenure. People have forwarded me nice notes and not-nice notes; it is beyond a reasonable doubt these are authentic.

    Here are more interactions between fans and Dave Brandon provided to me.

"Quit Drinking And Go To Bed"

Another exchange around the time of Brandon's blog in support of Brady Hoke, featuring "quit drinking," class assertions, more ticket threatening.

Dave,

We are sick of all the talk, excuses, and most importantly the losses. You throwing Coach Rodriguez under the bus like you have this week was an embarrassment to the University and more importantly a big cheap shot on all of the players from his classes. Would you classify the game today as "big-boy football?" Would you consider Urban Meyer's offense "big-boy football?" Was that poor excuse of a defense today playing "big-boy football?" Not only was this season an embarrassment to this University, but your conduct over this past week puts a further black eye on this season and has no place at Michigan.  Michigan is now truly a middle of the road Big Ten team and we have you (not Rich Rodriguez) to thank for that.

BRANDON: Quit drinking and go to bed.

Thanks for the classy response. You may have just lost another season ticket holder.

BRANDON: Getting advice from you on what constitutes a classy email is really a joke.

Good luck!

Dave

Dave,

With all due respect, please explain to me what was wrong with my original email? Did I say anything that offended you or that wasn't true?  All I did was reference points that you used in your media tour last week.  When you go out into the public like you did, do you not expect some backlash? To accuse me of drinking is laughable coming from someone in your position. As I have been reading from various writers, I hope you have extreme concern that the 100,000 attendance streak is in real jeopardy. We just want to win and us fans don't necessarily appreciate seeing you on tv and in the newspapers every other day.

BRANDON: I don't believe you know what "due respect" is....

You sent a snarky, negative article at 11:58 PM the night of a very disappointing loss....telling me what "we" are sick of!  I didn't know you had been elected to represent anyone. I don't know who you are....and I really don't care about your views based on "what you read."  And, I don't accept you as a representative of anyone other than yourself.

For you to point out that "we just want to win" is really profound.  Do you think our kids and coaches don't want to win?  Do you think I don't want to win?  Really????

I don't know what you do for a living...but if you want to be an athletic director....go for it.  If you want to be a coach...go for it. 

As it relates to seeing me on TV or in newspapers....I have no idea what you are talking about.  I don't know or care about that stuff....apparently, you do.  You really should get a different hobby!

I will let the ticket office know of your decision to give up your seats.  I am sure we can use your email address to locate your file.  I am sure you will be much happier....because clearly your anger and frustration over our disappointing season has gotten the best of you.

It's too bad...if you got to know our kids and coaches, you would likely enjoy supporting them even when times are tough.  They are quality people who care a lot about Michigan.  Their efforts, sacrifices and commitment goes beyond putting go blue in their email address and pretending to be a loyal fan - they stay positive and continue to fight even when people like you attack them and the outcome of their efforts.

I wish you well....and I hope you find a team to support that wins every game and every season is a complete success.   

Dave

"I Am Sorry You Are 'Upset'"

This was posted as a diary in September by the emailer himself over a year after he'd emailed me and asked me to keep the exchange private. This is the key section and is verbatim from the email he provided me in 2013:

[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!!
Dave

His 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!

Brandon:

Thanks for your very helpful input!!

Much appreciated!!

Dave

"Thank you so very much… incredible insight"

In response to a guy advocating against Les Miles for breaking oversigning rules, eating grass, and clapping annoyingly, ending with

Mr. Brandon likes to refer to Michigan football as a "brand." Though I would strongly suggest he stop using this term immediately (academia is not Corporate America, nor is UM football a pizza that tastes like cardboard), I'd also implore him to compare Les Miles' behavior with the "brand" he's trying to protect.

Brandon's response:

Mr. Smith,

As you are helping define the difference between academia and Corporate America for President Coleman and me (thank you so very much….incredible insight!) you inaccurately stated my reference to branding at the University.  I have never referred to Michigan Football is a “brand”….because it is not.  I have referred to the “Block M” as a brand….because it is!

Michigan Football is one of the many ways we build our brand at Michigan…as do the rest of our athletic programs, our health system, our academic units, and just about everything else we do at the University.

If this troubles you….I am sorry.  However, it won’t change the fact that our Block M is one of the most recognized global brands in higher education…and I would think anyone with an email address of “UM Alum” would understand the power of that!

Go Blue!  And, thanks for providing your deep research on Coach Miles.

Dave

What about FOIA?

I have been informed that Michigan erases Brandon's email regularly to prevent responsive requests by a person who worked in the athletic department for three years.

A FOIA request for an email sent or received by Dave Brandon would end up going to his secretary. If the date of the email is given, his secretary would not even need to look to see if the email exists. All of Dave Brandon's emails are manually deleted from his university email once they are about one month old. They have been since he started. Since it is done manually, sometimes it's actually a little later, sometimes it is a little sooner, especially if the email is something that may be FOIAed.

But it was explained to me that the whole point is to avoid responding to a FOIA request (like this one). I've been following this email/FOIA issue, and after I spoke with one of my friends in the athletic department, we agreed that we would be shocked if that email still existed in his email, even if it did exist at one time.

This is why a specific request filed by an MGoBlog member turned up nothing. I have two FOIAs in with the department currently, one for six days of mail to and from two email addresses, the other for [email protected] and [email protected] dating back to January 1st of 2013. The department wants to charge me $385 for the first request and $1215 for the second—if those are at all proportional than there's approximately three weeks of email sitting there.

Is this legal? Our local law-talker BISB weighs in:

--------------------------------

If a state employee (such as, for random example, a University Athletic Director) deleted email exchanges, he was probably in violation of Michigan's FOIA law. Emails sent by an employee in the course of his official function are considered public records. The University of Michigan, and its employees, have an affirmative obligation to maintain public records:

MCL 15.233(3): "A public body shall protect public records from loss, unauthorized alteration, mutilation, or destruction."

That duty extends to the individual employees. Intentionally deleting emails as a means of preventing them from being FOIAed would be a violation of MCL 15.240(7):

"If the circuit court determines... that the public body has arbitrarily and capriciously violated this Act by refusal or delay in disclosing or providing copies of a public record, the court shall award, in addition to any actual or compensatory damages, punitive damages in the amount of $500.00 to the person seeking the right to inspect or receive a copy of a public record."

"Capricious and arbitrary" essentially means without cause and in an abuse of power. The University of Michigan is the one subject to the penalty, but the employee is the one who committed the violation.

-----------------------------------

Since the punishment is so paltry, Michigan doesn't seem to care.

Documents

The recipients of these emails are private citizens who would like to remain such so I've blacked out their email addresses. All else is as received. There are links to the originals in every section; here they are in a group.

"We will be fine without you"

"Have A Happy Life"

Longer exchange 1

Longer exchange 2

Longer exchange 3

Quit Drinking 1

Quit Drinking 2

Quit Drinking 3

Les Miles

I'm sorry you are 'upset'

Comments

SAMgO

October 28th, 2014 at 12:02 PM ^

Wow

This is some top level investigation/compilation analysis here. Thanks for all this. Finally we have some authenticated confirmation that Brandon is, in fact, just a big of an ass (bigger actually) as he comes across as in every recorded conversation with him ever. This guy NEEDS to be priority number one when it comes to getting people out of the program. Don't let the door hit you on the way, DB.

543Church

October 28th, 2014 at 12:09 PM ^

You'd think a guy who has worked at a high level in business as long as he has would know better than to reply in any manner that would inflame the customer unless he had total contempt for said customer and viewed him or her as a commodity that can be easily replaced. 

I think we all know what he thinks of us based on these emails.   Nothing but interchangeable dollar signs.

 

 

The Geek

October 28th, 2014 at 12:14 PM ^

For me, the language in DB's email seemed too sophomoric to come from such a 'titan of business.' I felt it was a hoax simply based on his terse and immature tone.

Apparently Dave really enjoys pissing on people's pant legs. I knew he was a toolshed, but GD, I really didn't expect DB to be this BIG of a toolshed.

Great work Brian, Ace and BiSB. Brian, I applaud your decision-making through this entire process, and WD, you can come back now. 

James Burrill Angell

October 28th, 2014 at 2:19 PM ^

Seriously. What executive level person thinks this is ok. Never in a million years would anyone with half a brain think this is ok.

At this point, the finger is pointed at you President Schlissel. The longer this drags out, the longer it looks like you're condoning this baffoon. Yeah this is a mess and I'm sure President Schlissel would rather not deal with it during his first four months in the chair but tough crap! The problem is here and the failure to address it is going to start to blow back at the President soon. FIRE DAVE BRANDON ALREADY!

KBLOW

October 28th, 2014 at 12:39 PM ^

I see DB's emails as pefect distillations of current corporate/business culture rather than a guy who should know better.  The arrogance, dismissiveness, defensiveness are all typical of the politcal and corporate elite (regardless of party affiliation) and are, sadly, a better glimpse into the mind of a Michigan Man ™ than anything else we've seen.

mjv

October 28th, 2014 at 12:44 PM ^

These emails are in extremely poor taste, but to lump them in as corporate culture isn't accurate.  No corporate culture would allow an employee to treat the customer like that.  A bland, non-statement form letter is corporate culture.  Putting the dollar signs first could be interpreted as a sign of myopic corporate culture.  

DB's emails are the sign of a tyrant or bully who is so full of the power vested in him that he doesn't care what anyone thinks of him.  He's is just a thug in a position of relative power over those he is interacting with.

BlueLikeJazz

October 28th, 2014 at 1:21 PM ^

This has nothing to do with corporate culture.  This is a mean spirited, selfish asshole.  One who happens to be a first-level dumbass for thinking that 1) This kind of interaction is appropriate and 2) It would never be discovered.

I mean, any idiot could have a form letter his assistant sends out to all of these emails, but he's responding to them late at night like a spurned boyfriend.

Time to go, Dave.

KBLOW

October 28th, 2014 at 6:38 PM ^

I agree that no employee would be allowed to talk to a customer like that, but the corporate and political elite in our country do think and act like this.  I believe that your description of the emails as a sign of a bully who is "so full of power vested in him that he doesn't care what anyone thinks of him", is pretty apt for men and women in similar positions across this country.  And yes, I do think that the internal culture of corporations does encourage that frame of mind.

Rabbit21

October 28th, 2014 at 1:44 PM ^

Not sure what corporation you work for, but I would be fired in a hot second if I did this and any of the partners at my firm would certainly face consequences as they would be seen to be intentionally damaging client relationships.  Now, if you're talking about circling the wagons against internal criticism or upward feedback, you might have a point, but I can't see any exec getting away with doing this(thinking this, absoutely, but who doesn't think customers or clients can be whiny from time to time).  If Brandon really did write these replies(and I almost can't believe anyone who gets where he has could be so dumb) then this is a very special moment indeed.

Steve in PA

October 28th, 2014 at 3:35 PM ^

I've had "conversations" with my supervisor over terse emails that were much less inflammatory.  Those emails were sent within the company not externally.  Anything even remotely near these or external email negative to customers I would be immediately terminated, my desk cleaned out, and I'd be escorted out by security.

I know these to be true because my last discussion was documented.

KRK

October 28th, 2014 at 1:58 PM ^

I work for a decent sized community bank (1.5 billion in assets) and we are very lax on discipline in our email protocol and we would be fired immediately for this.  Anyone else I know in the industry or any other corporate industry would be as well.  99% of the emails I get from people at another corporation are more professional than my own bank's and like I said, we would get fired for the above.

You can say that some people running corporations are a-holes but don't think that we're all just unprofessional morons who shoot of juvenile emails as part of our indoctrinated culture.

Farnn

October 28th, 2014 at 12:45 PM ^

There's a reason DJ Byrnes has earned the moniker "perpetually agrieved". The dude seems to take offense at anything Michigan related and turn it into an issue.  Nothing wrong with a long time executive assistant making that amount of money, as they can be worth their weight in gold if they are great at their job. Anyway, just the number of snarky emails she has to delete justifies that salary.

Mr. Yost

October 28th, 2014 at 1:27 PM ^

This WILL be the final straw...no matter how much it may or not matter in the grade scheme of things.

ESPN will be all over this.

I guarantee it's full crisis mode right now. 100% without question.

This is just the kind of story that's gained steam in this TMZ Sportz era that we're in.

Pick your favorite popcorn .gif, because this should be good. Relatively speaking.

rob f

October 28th, 2014 at 10:54 PM ^

is that, 11+ hours later, Brandon still has his job.   I hope the only reasons (for any further delay in parting ways with DB) he's not yet gone are legal ones.

TBH, I think President Schlissel has already come to the conclusion that Brandon must go.  With this being Homecoming weekend, I doubt it happens in the next few days, but the very fact this it will be a Homecoming weekend of discontent among alumni--- many of whom will make this their only trip to Ann Arbor this year--- should also work against Brandon.   

My best guess is that Schlissel pulls the plug next week, well before the trip to Chicago vs. Northwestern and the bye week that follows.

 

Mr. Yost

October 29th, 2014 at 5:56 AM ^

Yesterday when Brian dropped his bombshell I said that I give it a week. Would not be surprised if this is done Friday.

Brandon is done at Michigan, no question. It's just a matter of when. Can he survive the football season and limit the media storm?

Ideally, you'd play the OSU game, fire Brandon. Have your search and hire someone within 2-3 weeks. Have that person come in and fire Hoke sometime around Dec. 27th. Hire a new coach the first week of Jan. immediately after bowl season and after the NFL regular season. Ideally, Monday, Jan 5th.

This could expedite the AD timeline as there is no real reason not to fire Brandon now. Hoke, yes...because you need to stall on hiring a new coach and you can't go over 2 months without a head coach. That's ridiculous on so many levels. And AD can certainly go now. The new AD would just get stuck saying "we'll evaluate all coaching performances, including that of Coach Hoke, until after the season." Which basically means "I need more time."

However, that excuse doesn't work in the beginning of Decemeber, in which he's just a lame duck coach. You'd HAVE to fire him after the OSU game. And you don't want to go over a month without a coach either.

THIS is why you try like hell to keep Brandon until after the OSU game, it holds your timeline. But like everything else, Brandon is doing his best to fuck up our plans.

KyleMac

October 28th, 2014 at 3:37 PM ^

Just an FYI, the legal analysis regarding FOIA doesn't look like it came from someone who deals with FOIA on a day to day basis and is familiar with the large body of case law on the subject.  If UofM has a policy that it deletes emails older than one month, then courts will generally find that the record was not disposed of "arbitrarily," but rather pursuant to an established policy.  Its all about creating a procedure and sticking to that procedure.

Gitback

October 28th, 2014 at 4:50 PM ^

But the burden would be on the department to demonstrate that this policy was implemented as a basic matter of practice, for a legitimate reason, and not to circumvent FOIA (including potential future requests).  Depending upon the judge, that could be a tough hill to climb.  What are they going to argue?  They were running out of server room?  

I've seen judges who do not accept that argument because the defendant was unable to demonstrate that the policy was related to any practical purpose, other than to establish plausible deniability.  Especially when the practice of when to destroy emails differs from the practice of when to destroy, say, inter-office memoranda.  

I mean, you're right, there's more to it... but at the same time, "its our policy" doesn't get anyone off the hook without a serious, plausible reason for the policy; especially in circumstances where "the policy" also, conveniently, happens to allow the entity to deny FOIA requests.

Mr. Yost

October 29th, 2014 at 6:05 AM ^

How would files that are required, by law, to be kept a minimum of seven years fall into this?

Because I know for a fact that every athletics department in the country (under the NCAA) is mandated to keep certain records for certain periods of times. Usually that's transcripts, medical records, etc. - not general e-mail.

But are you able to say we have a policy that says we delete e-mail and office material after a month, but then we keep this stuff over here for a year, but then we keep that stuff over there for 7 years?

Just curious into how that works.

freejs

October 28th, 2014 at 7:17 PM ^

I knew people should wait to pull the trigger on him with this one. 

None of the answers or sleuthing anyone had done so far fully precluded the possibility that the email was authentic. Which meant there was every chance he was telling the truth. 

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

October 28th, 2014 at 12:58 PM ^

I suspect we will all get our wish - and shortly.  I'm not one for out-there predictions when it comes to the inertia-riddled bureaucracy that we're dealing with, and even more so I try not to confuse what I want to happen with what will happen.

But this just screams the kind of PR disaster that people don't survive.  He's gone - and very, very soon.  Just count the number of mainstream media outlets this finds its way to.  And no later than this evening.

I think he's gone by Friday.  If I get home from work and he's already gone, I wouldn't bat an eyelid.