Failure Follow-Up Comment Count

Brian February 19th, 2015 at 4:36 PM


a more pleasant item to lead the blog

When I write a thing of that length that I figure will stand as one of the things people think about when they think about MGoBlog, I like to talk about the aftermath.

WHY. A number of protests were lodged about why I wouldn't just leave the past in the past and move on. There are multiple reasons that post needed to happen.

  • I needed an elucidation of the argument I couldn't quite make when I was on with Dan Dakich in the aftermath of the email article. The way in which Brandon screwed up so hard with Morris was a natural result of the way he approached every petty problem he met previously, an indication that he was a terrible leader for reasons both private and public.
  • This is a space that tries to document what happens to Michigan. I got the same complaints about my Rich Rodriguez obit. We mostly look backwards here, talking about what has happened. Not having a summary of the Brandon era would have been a glaring omission. I do these for players annually, usually in the magazine. Hoke will get a (much less incendiary) recap as well.
  • Never forget. For this to not happen again we must identify the problem and remain vigilant against its recurrence. Those who forget history, etc.

Now that I've said my piece we can move on. Harbaugh excelsior.

WHY NOW. A variant on the previous bullet:

Brian's post has no new information or even new feelings or analysis of information he compiled.  It doesn't even have information or ideas new to his own previous posts on this blog.  Why did he do this?  I'm genuinely curious.  It's like a political post mortem in The New Republic or Investor's Business Daily against a vanquished foe, but an untimely one.  Has the piece been on his desktop for the last several months awaiting completion?  Was he waiting for additional DB shoes to drop that would need inclusion?  Was it an incredible stream-of-consciouness thing that just kinda poured out of him over a few very intense hours?  I don't know, but I'd like to.  Brian? 

I will say that it is very clearly grave dancing, but it's Baryshnikov or Shakira cutting the rug, or dirt or whatever (apologies to dance fans if these examples are crap, but you get the picture).

Brandon was canned during football season, when time for a 5k word piece was not available. Then we had the coaching search, which sucked up all available oxygen—I barely thought about this piece until Harbaugh was in the boat. After that was the recruiting sprint to Signing Day. All of these things took precedence; now that we're past all that it was time.

FWIW, the piece was assembled in bursts, with a slim majority of it coming together in the last couple days.

On calling someone a piece of shit human being. Some protests about that phrasing. This seems like different borders for a term. Complaints about it tended to invoke physical violence against innocents, ISIS, Boko Haram, assertions verging on Godwin and occasionally directly invoking it. I would file such things under "evil," "monstrous," etc. Being a shitty person doesn't rise to that level.

I did get a very long, well-argued email from a walk-on who had been around for a portion of the Brandon era asking me to separate out my critiques of the man from critiques of the athletic director. It cited a number of positive personal interactions with Brandon, and it's true that the one group of people universally in his corner are student-athletes. John U Bacon invited me to present a guest lecture to one of his classes this fall; as fate would have it that date landed about ten days after the Morris incident. Bacon's class was split about down the middle between athletes and regular students, and when I expressed my opinion about Brandon bluntly I got equally blunt pushback from a couple of the athletes.

I appreciate that point of view. I reject it all the same. Brandon was clearly not an asshole to all people. That does not excuse the careers he shattered for little or no reason or the condescension to people trying to talk to him politely. I still can't get over the guy taking shots at some emailer's marriage when he was being painfully polite whilst trying to explain why Brandon had caused him an issue by telling his wife to find a new team. It doesn't excuse the relentless strip-mining of Michigan's primary asset, fan goodwill, in order to make the spreadsheet numbers go in the right direction. It doesn't excuse the constant litany of untruths culminating in a five-day firestorm based on the fact that Brandon's first reaction to any crisis was to lie.

I believe his interactions with the student-athletes were genuine and positive. I don't judge people based on how they treat their most favored class of person. Nixon had a dog, after all.

On giving money to Mott. There's a parable about this.

On cancer kid. It's easy to be nice to kids with cancer, especially when you trumpet it from the mountain. It's standard practice to be open to Make-a-Wish; not doing so results in major backlash and Brandon's not a literal psychopath. When these arguments are made I always think of the Chris Rock bit about how you're not SUPPOSED to go to jail, you low-expectations-havin' mofo.

On the civility of the previous bullet point. Not very civil, I agree. I did weigh that, but I felt that pulling punches in any way here was 1) not going to be credible and 2) did a disservice to the lesson learned. I often write swears in first drafts that get edited out later, sometimes to my regret. There is something about the well-placed expletive that gets a point across in a way I cannot seem to replicate with less naughty language, and this was a full-auto post.

On the shittiness of those emails. From user Evenyoubrutus:

What convinced me of how clueless he really was was his email that said "I suggest you find a new team to support."  This was clear proof that he was still trying to sell pizzas instead of honoring the tradition of Michigan Football.  Yes, if you don't like Domino's, try Pizza Hut.  But I don't have over two decades of memories of sitting down at Domino's with my dad since I was a fucking CHILD eating the pizza, and memorobilia of Domino's items and memories in my house, and I don't dream of sharing the same experiences eating Domino's with my young boys, or memories of watching Domino's win championships and feeling some of the happiest moments of my life because Domino's! "Find a new team to support" Okay. Ass.

On things I missed. Inevitably there were going to be issues and problems with the Brandon era I missed, even in a post pushing 5k words. A selection:

  • BursleyHall82 reminds us that it was only a sustained campaign from MVictors that finally got Brandon to relent and allow Willis Ward to be honored and his story told.
  • I did not mention "The Process" via which Rodriguez was fired. That two-day dog and pony show was a quintessential example of doing something ostentatious to look impressive instead of just getting it over with quickly. Hackett fired Hoke and announced it in about 10 minutes, because he is not concerned with looking impressive. (Hackett occasionally dresses like Seinfeld's dad because he gets things done instead of picking out clothes.)
  • JeepinBen points out I didn't mention the press blitz after the Morris incident or the infamous "my personality is to the best of my ability and I have to fix that" statement. That was triply odious: Brandon hired a PR firm only after he'd burned the house down and then spent Michigan's money trying to prop himself up instead of repairing the damage he'd done. Add in the content of said blitz and you've got a triple. Oh, and he invoked his family as a shield. Home run.
  • I missed the giant Brandontron next to the stadium.
  • And of course whenever I bring it up more people add their stories to the list, including this gentleman who was dismayed because the athletic department tried to charge the hospital a licensing fee for sick babies in winged helmets.
  • There are many, many stories of people in the department being treated shabbily from Jon Falk on down. I didn't mention most of them because I hear most of them indirectly. Bacon's upcoming book on all this should shed a lot of light in this department; he reports that he has never seen people more eager to talk to him.

On revenues as a measuring stick. A common defense of Brandon is to point at the budget. I've repeatedly stated why I don't buy that argument but I've never stated it as eloquently as Blue Durham did in a comment on the post:

Increased revenues from sources like the Big Ten Channel can't be attributed to anything that he had done, and others, like Brian refers to, like the sale of water or the hoped-for rental of seat cushions(!), bring in little but have a great, negative impact in PR. So where is Brandon's biggest contribution in increasing revenues?

As far as I can tell, it was by increasing ticket prices. But all that did was to sell off an asset built up by preceding ADs, the waiting list and goodwill of fans, alumni, and students. When I was an undergraduate and graduate student at UM in the 1980's, everyone knew that the AD could have easily charged more for tickets.

But I think this was part of a policy to try to treat current students as future donors, and for the alumni, as a way to stay connected to the University in order to have more generous donors. Obviously this worked given all of the alumni events that occur every fall that revolve around a home football game.

All Brandon did was sell this asset off, to the University's detriment. This is akin to a kid selling is father's car and taking credit for all of the money he made doing it without taking into account the value of the car.

The damage he wrought in that department will be felt for years, or at least until HARBAUGH

On solutions. User Njia protests that the post was an unconstructive bombing. Guilty as charged. I'll put together something about the direction to go in an effort to rebuild ground zero.

The unedited post is available as an e-book for 50 bucks. To buy one, just go to this video of Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up."

And now let's never talk about… that again.



February 19th, 2015 at 11:40 PM ^

I thought the piece was great.  As for those complaining about Brian, he is the person who created the blog in the first place.  He has the right to create it in a way that is true to his beliefs and feelings about the program.  

I mean, c'mon: we get to read the best college sports blog in the genre free of charge and people want to complain about Brian writing a heartfelt piece about the biggest douchebag to ever stain Schembechler Hall?

Maybe a bit of perspective is in order.


February 19th, 2015 at 4:51 PM ^

Serious question: in regards to the negative feedback on this brilliant essay by Brian, why do some people think it's their mission in life to complain about every fucking thing that other people do or say?

Yostbound and Down

February 19th, 2015 at 5:08 PM ^

I chuckled/shook my head at the timing questions in the original piece. Why does it matter when the story is posted?

If you can't bear to rehash the Brandon era, don't bother reading. It wasn't "fun" to read until the last few paragraphs but it was helpful to succinctly justify why the entire fanbase was mad at the guy and why he was fired.

And if you still want to defend him and aren't an athlete or pal of his, good luck I guess... he was awful at his job and got shitcanned and we're better without him.

Yostbound and Down

February 19th, 2015 at 5:29 PM ^

Exactly. I'm as geeked as anybody for any scrap of information, tweets or general Harbaughness that will come out of spring practice and will definitely be at the spring game, but besides that, there's not much else of significance going on now before tournament time for the winter sports.

For Brian this is probably the earliest he could reasonably close the chapter on the Brandon era, per his timeline. Bacon's book, by the nature of his medium, will be a few months away and then I guess it's fair to say it might be overkill for some people to revisit this. I initially complained about that when the release date came out, but that was a mistake: it will be good to get Bacon's perspective and additional detail on the litany of scandals/mistakes that Brian laid out here. 


February 19th, 2015 at 5:05 PM ^

Or maybe a guy like Brandon took credit for giving the athletes all the stuff they would have gotten as Michigan athletes no matter who the athletic director was. 

I can kind of sort of picture a world in which he'd be the kind of guy to take credit for shit he didn't really have anything to do with.  Then if the kids think he's the reason they are getting cool stuff, they'll not surprisingly defend him if he's attacked.


February 19th, 2015 at 8:38 PM ^

when Michigan used to be cheap with everything until Dave Brandon came along. Yes, Bill Martin got the ball rolling with facilities upgrades, but the previous administrations refused to upgrade anything by thinking Michigan name is good enough. Michigan used to have the worst facilities in the country.

I'm not so sure if they would've gotten that kind of stuff no matter who the AD is.


February 19th, 2015 at 10:20 PM ^

Another observation:  the product on the field has gotten worse.  Now, I'm not flat out claiming there is any correlation, but as several have noted, the team seemed quite a bit more soft than in times past.  I'm thinking something along the lines of perhaps all the goodies without good leadership...?

Some caller said it on WTKA about the basketball team, too.  That they aren't playing with that edge.  And counter to what Sam answered back to that, I don't think any of Beilein's teams have been what one would consider 'tough.'

Is it possible that they threw too much luxury at the players too fast, and the athletic culture, the leadership and staff, hadn't caught up to it yet, either?

Sac Fly

February 20th, 2015 at 4:05 AM ^

Dave Brandon was a lot of bad things, but he was an outstanding fundraiser. It was the only thing he did well, but he was so good at it that it's probably what saved his job through the dozen PR nightmares.

Once the mega donors said they weren't going to pay anymore, right in the middle of a huge fundraising campaign, he was gone almost instantly.


February 21st, 2015 at 11:05 AM ^

I'm not even sure it's fair to call him an outstanding fundraiser when his strategy was apparently to agree to every money-making scheme that came his way. Part of being an effective manager is to know how to edit, to grow your product without completely diluting what makes it unique to the marketplace. Saying "yes" to every profit-generating idea without seemingly any regard to how it would impact the feel of the Michigan experience is the idiots version of managing.

Old Lax Wolve

February 20th, 2015 at 12:13 PM ^

I have just one reason to give Brandon credit despite the overwhelming evidence of his sociopathic (lie-first-then-double-down-on-the-lie-with-another-lie) tendencies -- he took lacrosse to Division 1. Men's and Women's both simultaneously. In my world/family that is something that we've been dreaming of for 50 years, and he gave it the go ahead. Head Coach JP (and others) had a lot to do with selling it to him and building a culture of success at the club level, but it needed a yes from Brandon to happen. I will forever give him credit for that.


February 19th, 2015 at 5:41 PM ^

If you're referring to my comment from yesterday, my criticism was about Brian's choice of words in one sentence out of his entire piece, and wondered about the nature of the emotions behind it. Not exactly "every fucking thing."

Do you think that strongly worded opinions on a blog on any topic won't ever generate negative views? Seems to me that goes with the territory of blogging. Brian wrote something, I expressed a counter opinion about a portion of it, and that's the end of it. It doesn't bother me in the slightest that Brian or other MGoBloggers strongly disagreed with me. I agree it's largely a question of semantics.

I think David Brandon was a shithead during his tenure as AD. To me, that's different from saying he's a piece of shit human being, but I recognize that might be a rather ridiculous distinction without a difference to many people. So be it.

And I don't get the criticism by others that it's time to forget all this stuff. I agree with Brian wholeheartedly: never forget.


February 19th, 2015 at 10:11 PM ^

But some people who hold both views (piece of shit AD and human being) don't regard these two as mutually exclusive.

Hard to tell if you're giving him the benefit of the doubt on the latter, but if so, I appreciate that. Every person deserves their day in court. I withheld judgment on him as a person too, initially--thinking it was a witch hunt. But I changed my mind after the Morris incident, the reports of his shabby treatment of many, many loyal employees, and evidence of his contemptuous email responses to honest inquiries offered simply in good faith.

So IMO he's both, and I'm glad President Schlissel told him to clean out his desk: I don't want someone like that representing Michigan.


February 20th, 2015 at 1:02 AM ^


The thought process that brought us Brandon hasn't been examined, but someone had to have thought that hiring him in the first place was a good idea.

So don't forget to be thankful for Schlissel.


February 19th, 2015 at 4:59 PM ^

Nixon had a dog! politics!

seriously though, it is what it is. Brian has an opinion, sometimes that opinion makes people (read: me) think he's an asshole. that doesn't make his opinion right or wrong.


February 19th, 2015 at 5:00 PM ^

I don't think we've complained about the Brandontron (great name!) enough yet. That giant horror is an eyesore, and hurt the university's relationship with the city of Ann Arbor. I hate that thing.


February 19th, 2015 at 5:19 PM ^

I like it, it gives me a chance to check out deals in the non-revenue sports and is in an effective marketing area for the university. It doesn't seem to ruin any sight lines or project into anyone's windows.


February 19th, 2015 at 5:04 PM ^

Please write a book. It can be a book about anything. While not intended to be a tallest midget statement, you are one hell of a writer for a computer engineer. The last two days have been golden.