Mailbag: I Continue To Get Many Emails About A Certain Topic

Submitted by Brian on October 2nd, 2014 at 1:59 PM


Where was this last year?

I'd like to ask the question, why has this incident concerning Shane Morris, framed (quite appropriately) around player safety, been treated so much more seriously than say Devin Gardner having played against OSU with a broken foot?

it's an honest question, wondering your perspective, do you think it's because of the poor play on the field now as compared to then (although we are pretty awful no matter when you look at it), but then let's not kid ourselves and exploit the situation anymore than is warranted by the poor leadership failures, or is it people are treating a head injury as much more serious than a foot injury?  I think that's true, but foot injury can also harm the student-athlete.

There are two layers of outrage/disgust here that should be separated.

1) There is disgust leveled at Brady Hoke and his program for being disorganized enough to send Morris onto the field. Much of the meta-backlash has focused on this aspect of the problems; they say that if Michigan was 5-0 this wouldn't be a problem, or compare the vastly greater level of attention to this incident than those that followed the Will Gholston a couple years ago and assert this is unfair.

The people in the Michigan community who are angry about this are not determining the media reaction. They are reacting to it. So the Gholston thing is not relevant unless you're asking Good Morning America*. By the time anyone on campus did anything that got on the news this had already blown up into a huge story, and the thing they didn't do is demand Brady Hoke's firing.

The 5-0 thing is also invalid. The shambolic state of the program now seems like the cause of an alarming incident instead of a punt return touchdown. If this happens at Alabama, are people as mad? No. But that is not just because Alabama is successful. It is also because if it happens at Alabama it seems like an aberration instead of a logical conclusion to the things we've seen before. When this happened the initial thought wasn't "I can't believe this happened"; it was "of course this would happen to this program."

And then there's the Brady Hoke Isn't Evil defense, which is an enormous strawman. I haven't seen anyone writing on this suggest that Hoke doesn't care about his players. Literally not one person outside of a message board post from a lunatic or two. It doesn't matter if Hoke is a great dude or not if he can't stay within 16 points of anybody in year four, concussion incident or not.

2) There is outrage leveled at the athletic department for their handling of the PR crisis. This went national quickly. Michigan's response was dishonest and insufficient, then laughably uninformed, then infuriating. Michigan's refusal to forthrightly admit error and lay out how they would set to fixing matters turned a one-day story into a week long debacle. It was only yesterday at 6 PM that an adult stepped in and gave the kind of statement that should have been issued on Saturday night.

The Brand was compromised, and not just the football team. The entire university's image has been through a ringer the past few days. This was unnecessary, and exacerbated by the incompetent handling of the situation by the athletic director.

This, too, is a pattern. Michigan used the same playbook for the Gibbons story last year for a weeks-long period of press tension. They learned nothing from that incident, in which simply being honest about why when and how Gibbons was removed from the team turns that into a story about Gibbons and the university disciplinary process instead of the athletic department.

The used the same playbook after the skywriting incident, and were embarrassed when the company sold 'em out; caught red-handed in a lie they waved their hands, and the story went away because only Michigan fans care.

This was utterly predictable to anyone who had been paying attention. This is what they do. It will happen again if Michigan is unfortunate enough to have to handle another story like this. Meanwhile, no big time coach is going to want to sign on to an athletic department that just hung its coach out to dry spectacularly. So the AD has to go.


All of the stuff in bin 2 is not relevant to the above question. The stuff in bin 1 is, and to be clear: this is just another strike for Hoke. If it was strike one, people would cluck and move on. If it was strike three it would be a big deal. Since it's strike 486, it's almost moot.

But anyway: feet heal. Gardner was of sound mind and capable of making decisions about whether to continue or not. Brains, we are rapidly learning, do not heal completely, and immediately after a trauma is an extremely dangerous time.

As a culture we are pretty okay with a guy who walks with a limp. It sucks; it's not a life-ending disaster. We are not okay with Junior Seau. We are not okay with a thing that may cause you to point a shotgun at your chest and pull the trigger not being handled carefully and professionally. I feel this is too obvious to explain but there have been a ton of comments to this effect of late so I explained it.

*[And the Gholston thing at least had the semblance of competence. He was removed. He did not re-enter immediately. The nation did not see him stumble around after a helmet-to-helmet hit and then take a snap. The doctors had time to give him a legitimate examination. It wasn't as visceral.

The nation absolutely should have come down on Dantonio like a ton of bricks for his statement that Gholston "had the wind knocked out of him," but even a couple years ago concussions seemed like much less of a big deal.

In any case, the failure there is not with the response to this incident but the response to the Gholston one, for which MSU should have taken a lot more heat.]

[After THE JUMP: Good stuff Brandon did, Regents basics, a little game theory.]

The good bits?

As frustrated as I am, I always try to see both sides of an issue, just to make sure I'm being fair.  Many of us have a laundry list of issues with David Brandon, so what I was wondering is this.  Can we name five things that we've liked about his tenure that we'd want to see continued, or appreciate that happened, just so we can make sure we're seeing the full picture before we reignite the torches and sharpen the pitchforks?


The difficult thing here is separating out Brandon's performance from the performance of a hypothetical non-Brandon in charge of the department these last four years. It doesn't seem like Brandon increased revenues at an appreciably greater rate than peer schools, and spending money you have because your TV contract blew up is not much of an accomplishment. Meanwhile the incremental revenue increases are offset by how crappy they are to the fans.

I was going to include how killer the new Crisler is but when I looked into it I discovered it was almost entirely a Bill Martin gig, down to the PDC design. I thought Martin did some of that and then the final-phase PDC was under Brandon, but nope.

1. Re-introducing the legends numbers was good, especially when they slapped 98 on the QB. Weird is good. Weird makes tradition; weird is tradition. I'm not a fan of the frequent changes; once that's toned down that's a quality addition.

2. Brandon capably took charge of the stretchgate allegations, providing a serious response to the NCAA and absorbing media attention like the athletic director should in a crisis.

3. Michigan added lacrosse as a varsity sport after years of club domination.

4. I guess he got some big donations? I'm not sure if a different athletic director would have been appreciably worse at it.

5. … I asked various people about this and they didn't have anything either.

He renovated Yost, but the changes seem to have taken a lot of the oomph out of the building; he redid Schembechler, which I guess is good but again what's the differential there between Brandon and someone else with millions of dollars burning a hole in his pocket?

Other than that, he's hired a number of non-revenue coaches who haven't had time to pan out or not yet. Michigan's Director's Cup performance has faded in his tenure. Michigan finished in the top five from 1999 to 2009 and had never finished outside the top ten since the award's inception in 1994. Since Brandon took over they have only two top ten years since: #10 in 2012 and #4 in 2013. (He only took over in January of 2010 so that decline started under Martin; still, no evidence he's done anything to improve non-revenue performance.)

Regent stuff.

Hey Brian,

You've mentioned that you are going to run for Regents in the next election.  There are also rumors running wild about the Regents and the "politics at play" as related to Hoke/Brandon's tenure's at the University of Michigan.

As an alumnus, I feel dumb for needing to ask this, but what are the Regents?  What do they really do? What power do they have? What power do they not have?   How would you run for a position? Who votes for the Regents?

A quick google search helped me identify the individuals who make up the Regents, and allowed me to see their meeting schedule and agendas, but I don't exactly understand what their purpose is.  There is no "about us" section on the website :)

Thanks -- I imagine this would be a helpful primer for other readers as well.


PS.  Would you be able to keep writing the blog if you were elected?

There are eight regents. Each is elected in a statewide vote to an eight-year term, with two terms coming up every even year. There are currently six Democrats and two Republicans on the board; they vote on budget items approximately monthly, and other things(?). They appear to be able to say yes or no to spending lots of money on stuff, at the very least.

I am not quite sure yet what powers they do and don't have because for as long as I can remember the regents have been an organization that flees from publicity, going so far that the Free Press threw a lawsuit their way out of sheer frustration earlier this year. In a year-long period they discussed just 12 of 116 proposals and fielded a total of eight no votes. The North Korean Senate is impressed by how lockstep the Michigan Board of Regents is.

I'm setting out to figure these things out, starting with the regents' candidate forum at Weill Hall on October 8th, at 4 PM. I'm also hoping to meet with the current regents in an effort to get some idea why they operate in the cloistered way they do… to just get some explanation at all about anything other than fireworks.

I would keep writing the blog, as I have no direct business relationship with the university and would never accept one as a regent. My wife is an adjunct, however. In the event that adjunct salaries get bumped up as the result of something the regents do, we will donate the difference back to the university to prevent any appearance of a conflict of interest—assuming she's still with the U down the road.

I guess people just want to talk about something else?

Hola Brian,

I really enjoyed your answer about two point conversions. I agree with your stance when down 23 (go for two), but I think there's a problem with one of your assumptions, that having more information about how many scores you need is always beneficial in a football game theory context. I can think of a scenario where not knowing how many scores you need is beneficial.

If a team is down 15 and scores with very little time left, they might be better off going for a 1 point conversion because of how it affects the opponent's playcalling. Here's my logic:

  1. Going for 1 means you will be down by 8 points.
  2. Going for 2 means you will be down by 7 or 9 points.
  3. Opponents will treat an 8 point game like an 7 point game to be cautious
  4. No matter if you go for 1 or 2, the opponent will treat it like a one-score game if you convert.
  5. If you go for 2 and fail, the opponent will treat it like a two-score game.
  6. Opponents have more conservative playcalling when they're up one score than two scores.
  7. If the opponent has more conservative playcalling, you're more likely to get the ball back.

Sorry if I missed a few links in that logic chain. What I would argue is that if you only have time for one more drive to begin with and need a defensive stop, you might be better off exploiting the opponent's caution in a one-score game than risking a two-score game. There are all kinds of assumptions in this, though.


I see what you're saying but I don't think it moves the needle very much. The opponent's strategy in either case is going to be biased towards running the clock at the expense of yards.

If there is a difference, I'd argue that you've got your assumption in 6 backwards. A team up two scores is perfectly happy to run run run punt; a team up one is going to be leerier of the possibility of giving you the ball back and more likely to operate with a first down as a priority.

This is necessarily feelingsball, of course, and I get your point that waiting on the two point conversion also gives incomplete information to the opponent; I think that the trailing team is hurt a lot more by that.

And of course it's not that important in the overall scheme of things. The permutations of trying to come back from multiple scores down just mean you're doing very badly in a game; the Romer stuff about going for it on fourth down is way more relevant.

Cumong man

I understand that all anybody wants to talk about is Brandon, Brady, and how quickly they can be fired, but let's stop for a moment and address the important questions first. Were you born in that hockey sweater? Or maybe your wife to be mentioned you looked good in maize early in your courtship so you bought out the MDen that night and have yet to run through them all? I don't know, maybe it's just a coincidence but I feel like every picture and video of you that I've seen look to have been taken on the same day.

I just like hockey okay



October 2nd, 2014 at 2:01 PM ^

“Every coach, every executive, every leader: They all know right from wrong. Even those Enron guys. When someone uncovers a scandal in their company, I don't think they can say, "I didn't know that was going on." They're just saying they're too dumb to do their job! And if they really are too dumb, then why are they getting paid millions of dollars to do it? They know what's going on.”

Not my words.....venture a guess at who said this?


October 2nd, 2014 at 3:52 PM ^

Just to be clear, there isn't a site rule about having similar names unless it's just set up to troll someone, which obviously isn't the case here.

If anyone wants to change their name, though, you click "my account" on the top left of the page, then "edit" at the top of that page, then enter a new name in and click "save". If one of you got an avatar there probably wouldn't be much confusion, but obviously do what you want.


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:27 PM ^

I have been fortunate to work with a number of CEOs and other C-suite executives. There's not one of them who wasn't well-versed in the details of what happens in their companies. I have been genuinely surprised at the depths of their understanding.

So for some of these folks in the AD to claim blissful unawareness of what's happening within the department: sorry, I'm not buying.


October 3rd, 2014 at 8:44 AM ^

I recall the Enron meltdown and subsequent trials, which I followed as I lost my investment along with many others.  The CEO, Jeff Skillings, while ttestifying what he knew or didnt know stated that he had no knowledge of the complicated book cooking scheme that ultimately led to Enron's rise and then demise.  He was convicted because the jury couldnt buy the fact that someone so knowledgeable about the intricate pyrimid that the Enron energy business was built on simply didn't know that the profit statements didnt add up.  On the stand he exuded the intelligence that you would expect from a CEO of the 5th largest company in the world however the jury saw through his lies.  He was too smart for his own good really and yes he knew what was going on.  Its kind of mind blowing that people that you know are highly capable end up reacting in such stupid ways.   

steve sharik

October 2nd, 2014 at 2:09 PM ^

I would keep writing the blog...

If you're a regent and writing this blog simultaneously, I'll eat a lemon, because somehow I doubt that the powers that be would let you get to a point where you're on the ballot unless you promise to stop blogging about the a strongly opinionated (and sometimes raging) way--which I'm fine with but I don't think the university community will want that.


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:17 PM ^

The Regents ARE the powers that be. They are accountable only to the voters (and the voters are statewide). I'm not sure what the impeachment / recall procedures are, but in general no one at the University has the authority to force you to shut up.


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:37 PM ^

I think you're misunderstanding what he's saying. "I doubt that the powers that be would let you get to a point where you're on the ballot" sounds more about getting a party endorsement than anything affecting a sitting regent.

I don't think Brian getting the nod from either major party is particularly likely though, and as an independent the only people he'd be answering to are voters.

Feat of Clay

October 2nd, 2014 at 2:42 PM ^

They couldn't force him to shut up, no.


But I'm guessing his role would change, and he would have to spell out what he will and won't wrote about and what he will and won't talk about with his staff.

Imagine there is some juicy topic at Michigan and Brian, due to his position, has information about it that is not to be made public yet.  Meanwhile, people speculate.  And maybe Ace writes about it speculatively.  The minute it hits the internet, people will be all, wait, is Ace making a good guess?  Does Ace know something because Brian told him?  Is Ace's "source" a Regent?  What if Ace is proven right a week later.  Does that "prove" that Brian tells him things, or was it just a lucky guess, or a legit other source?  Consider a new coaching search discussion.  A coaching candidate could read it and take himself out of the running because he thinks a Regent has puts hints out there that the University wants someone else, even if it's just one of the MGoBlog staff noodling about it, in the way that we have come to love.

It's not good to have those kinds of questions rolling around, so I'm guessing that Regent Brian would have to lay out ahead of time his principles of good blogging practice.

The other thing to think about:  We balk now at the idea that the AD watches film with the coach.  Well, what if you have a Regent breaking down film play by play on the internet?  He might intend for that to be solely for entertainment and edification of fans, but who is to say a coaching staff isn't going to feel like there is some kind of message there, some kind of advice to be heeded?  What if the coach knows a big new proposal for a practice facility is going before the Regents in a few months.  Does he want to be the guy who DIDN'T change the hockey lineup despite weeks of Brian the Blogger calling for it, knowing that Brian the Regent is going to be scrutinizing the proposal?  

There are all kinds of ways that people will mix up the two roles and assume that one position influences/bleeds into the other. Brian may have no conflict keeping the two straight, but that doesn't mean other people will do so well, or that their actions or beliefs won't be influenced in ways Brian would not want or intend. 

Feat of Clay

October 2nd, 2014 at 3:59 PM ^

They do.  It's an unpaid, very much part-time gig, being a Regent.

You're not wrong.  Conflict of interest is a possibility with any job.  However, I think the concern is greater when that job, like Brian's, specifically involves reporting on and writing opinions about a segment of the University's operations on a regular basis. 


Feat of Clay

October 2nd, 2014 at 3:59 PM ^

They do.  It's an unpaid, very much part-time gig, being a Regent.

You're not wrong.  Conflict of interest is a possibility with any job.  However, I think the concern is greater when that job, like Brian's, specifically involves reporting on and writing opinions about a segment of the University's operations on a regular basis. 



October 2nd, 2014 at 2:20 PM ^

Maybe I'm not in the loop on the regents, but I have to imagine that since it's an elected office, the regent is really only responsible to the voters.  I.e., I don't think the public university can nix a guy because of what he writes if the people want to elect him.  If the university community doesn't want it, then they won't vote a guy like that in.  I think.  Again, just making a logical guess here.


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:56 PM ^

There is a lof of confidentiality stuff.  As a student I had the opportunity to meet with a few of the regents outside of the monthly meetings and they made it pretty clear that anything discussed was confidential, they present a unanimous front when they vote but there is always discussion going on behind the scenes.

It's like the Warren supreme court regarding busing issues post brown v. board.  There was tons of infighting among the justices but they all agreed that no matter what they had to present a united front or the ruling would not be followed so even though the justices split 5-4 on busing issues when they voted it was a 9-0 decision.  Creating a united front is important to the regents but a lot of confidential discussion happen away from the meetings, they just don't involve all the regents in one place or all talking to each other to avoid breaking the laws.

TL;DR If Brian actually were to be elected regent he would only ever be able to post on very football specific things and nothing regarding the coaches or administrators or the goings on between the AD and the rest of the university.


October 2nd, 2014 at 3:10 PM ^

Yes, the regents probably could do with a little more sunshine. But realistically, if the other regents believed that anything they said could end up posted on MGoBlog, they would stop talking to Brian except in the formal meetings. The closed doors would just move somewhere else, and exclude Brian.

Also, Brian would probably be forced to start editing himself on MGoBlog to avoid creating legal liabilities for the University. As a regent, he would have a duty to the best interests of the University, not to us, and would have to honor things like FERPA and HIPAA, legal counsel's opinions, etc. Then we, the readers of MGoBlog, would stop trusting Brian as much because we would sense he's not telling us everything.

It's very tricky to try and be both an outside advocate and an inside policy maker. Usually, it doesn't work out very well for the person in the middle.


October 2nd, 2014 at 3:35 PM ^

As a nonpartisan candidate (I assume?) for statewide office Brian would need to file petitions signed by at least 30,000 people, including 100 registered voters in each of at least seven of the state's 14 Congressional districts. (Rule of thumb is that you want to file double the number of required signatures because it's absurdly easy for opponents to flyspeck your signatures if they feel like it.)

Once he does that, it would take something pretty significant to knock him off the ballot.

Of course, the filing deadline for this upcoming election for an independent candidate was back in July and at this point, the best he could do would be to file as a write-in by the October 24 deadline.

(Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but have been involved both as a paid consultant and a volunteer in campaigns in Michigan.)


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:12 PM ^

That opening video gave me just the laugh I needed. It's been a shitty week and not just because the AD and HC situations are a running shit show.

I really appreciate the humor, Brian. More than you know.


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:13 PM ^

I am sure our collective thousands upon thousands of visits to this site has provided him with enough income to afford something different. Different is not always better, unless of course we are talking about hiring a different Athletic Director.


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:14 PM ^

This is from the state of Michigan's Constitution about the duties of the elected board for UM, MSU, and Wayne State:
Each board shall have general supervision of its institution and the control and direction of all expenditures from the institution’s funds. Each board shall, as often as necessary, elect a president of the institution under its supervision. He shall be the principal executive officer of the institution, be ex-officio a member of the board without the right to vote and preside at meetings of the board. The board of each institution shall consist of eight members who shall hold office for terms of eight years. 
The Regents bylaws give a more detailed description of board, but I won't repost that since it appears in another thread. 


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:19 PM ^

Good question by CDB.  I think the UTL games are probably DB's biggest accomplishment.  I'm not sold on his handling of stretchgate though. 


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:26 PM ^

I think Dave Branding (sic, but I will continue to call him that because it makes me giggle) got it right with Stretchgate, because his reaction was blithely condescending dismissal which was absolutely warranted with the non-issue that Stretchgate was.

The problem is that he's continued his M.O. of blithely condescending dismissal with pretty much everything else since then.


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:21 PM ^

The Regents' responsibilities are primarily fiduciary. That's why all the renovation and new construction, including that sign board thing, have to get regents approval. They may also have some role in university -- state/local government relations (thus the fireworks vote). They also are responsible for runnning presidential searches, and likely informally sign off on high administrative appointments on the level of provost and athletic director, though those are formally the President's responsibility. They don't so far as I know, have responsibility for signing off on faculty appointments.

Generally, anytime the Regents get too involved in the actual operations of the university, it turns into a giant mess. See the recent goings on at Illinois.

Blue Durham

October 2nd, 2014 at 2:22 PM ^

One thing that came to my mind that Brandon did do is stop the stupidity of underpaying coordinators. He understood that importance to pay to get a good supporting staff for Hoke. Can you imagine this staff without Mattison?


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:33 PM ^

I wouldn't argue with you about most of the items you listed as Brandon positives, but the Legends Numbers is debatable. It raises awareness of Michigan legends that casual fans and new fans might not know about. This connection to the past is a very good thing. But when there's a Legends Number for practically every position group, will you ever get any new Legends Numbers? Can the stars of the future create their own identity, or do they always need to be Tom Harmon, Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard, Gerald Ford, etc.? If this is the standard, we're only a few years away from Peppers wearing the #2. If it's offered to him and it's considered an honor, will he turn it down in order to create his own legacy with #5? I think he'd take #2 in a heartbeat, but is this the right thing for the program? Do the other numbers mean anything anymore?


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:45 PM ^

I think the Legends numbers are a good idea badly executed.  Devin Funchess is the kind of player where we should pretty easily be able to conjure up his number from memory later on, but he's worn three of them.  I agree 100% - the way it's set up, nobody can create their own legacy any more unless they decline a Legends number.

A better way would be to unretire every number and hand them out as you normally would.  Keep but redesign the patches so it's easy to put a decent list of players on them.  If a patched number like 47 or 98 comes available for a freshman class, award it based on academic performance in high school.  And if the bearer of the number so happens to distinguish himself, add his name to the patch.

You could then add numbers to the program like 20 (Mike Hart), 1 (obvs.), and so on.


October 2nd, 2014 at 3:22 PM ^

Maybe honorary numbers could be handed out temporarily after the season -- until next season begins  -- more as an award or recognition for excellence during the season. That way you get the link to the past and an opportunity to create new legendary numbers. Maybe it could be a small patch added to their jerseys or a sticker on the helmet to signify the winners.


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:35 PM ^

Thank you for finally laying that stupid 5-0 straw man argument to rest. Would Brady be on the hot seat if we were 5-0? Nope. But we're not 5-0. We'll probably not be 5-0 very often as long as he's here because he's a very poor head coach. As my dad always says, if your grandma would've had the balls, she'd be your grandpa.