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

Brian 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 2:37 PM ^

For #5 I'll say scheduling home-and-homes with interesting teams.  Arkansas, Washington, Texas, etc.  "Scheduling" in general is a very mixed bag, because DB has done some things there that I emphatically don't like, but at least he's done a few things that I emphatically do.

Getting some big donations is nice, but yeah, if Stephen Ross is willing to give enough money to get the damn business school named after him, squeezing a buck or two out of him for athletics shouldn't be too hard.  And I dunno, are the reports credible that say Brandon has been encouraging donors to give to athletics at the expense of the school at large?


October 2nd, 2014 at 2:46 PM ^

I know what that phrase means, but I've often wondered where it came from.  Reading this prompted me to look it up.  I'm not trying to be "that guy" but I just discovered that it is actually "through a/the wringer".  A wringer is a machine used to press out liquid or moisture from clothes.  I'm not sure if you already knew this or not, but I thought it was interesting.

I'm sure most people could not care less about this, so I will now see myself out.



October 2nd, 2014 at 2:47 PM ^

The things that Brandon has done to non revenue sports probably won't be seen in his tenure, the new facilities are going to be good but they aren't done.  I'd say that's number 5, going back to plain block M made me happy too.  I also don't think you can knock him based off what a hypothetical AD may have done.  He's maintained a surplus in the AD despite spending a ton of money, considering most AD's including Michigans for a long time hemorrhage money not being in the red is still somewhat of an accomplishment.

In terms of the regents they actually do a lot but mostly just take the presidents lead which is why they are so in lock step.  Everything gets done behind closed doors but I can tell as a student who was very active in trying to get institutional change while at the school the regents are the one's with that power.  If Brian is seriously going to run for regent I would hope he is putting a lot of thought into the academic and university side of things, the athletic stuff is a tiny part of regents work other than rubber stamping the spending of money.


October 2nd, 2014 at 3:10 PM ^

Another positive for Brandon is that he's allotted considerably more money for assistant coaches in football and basketball than previous ADs did.  We used to have a reputation as a very cheap athletic department that would get outbid for coaches' services.  That's not an issue anymore.


October 2nd, 2014 at 3:14 PM ^

People frequently ask me how to go about deciding who to vote for Regent.

I usually tell them to just vote straight party ticket for whatever party they normally support, with one important exception:

If there is anybody on the ballot who's last name is the same as that of a major building on campus, vote for them.

So, you're golden as long as people think that you donated the money for the Law Quad and Martha Cook.

Don't disabuse them of that notion.


Go Blue 10

October 2nd, 2014 at 3:34 PM ^

I have come to the conclusion that i do not think a move will be made until the end of the season. This going to hurt moving forward on everything assoicated with the football program.


I hate to say it but i think a 5-7 season is upon us, time to start looking forward to next year with a new coach and a new AD


October 2nd, 2014 at 3:44 PM ^

I think this goes to Brian letting the trainers/docs off too easy. We have seen plenty of evidence that Hoke is not good at his job (pre-Shane incident) and thus that UM football is not well-prepared, but I had no idea the trainers/MDs were not good at key aspects either.

Thus, even if Brady Hoke was (miraculously) good at his job and we were 5-0, if the same sequence of events happened (Shane Morris with inured ankle rolls out; throws ball down field; gets hit late in head; gets up shaky on his feet), the trainers still would have missed it. They missed the head shot. All of them. None of them did a concussion evaluation during the game. And thus Shane still would have been left in for one more play (and gone in for one more play later, after Gardner loses his helmet). At 5-0, Shane Morris still would have played with a "probable" concussion, b/c they didn't think he needed to be evaluated.

It was their job to hold any possible concussed players out. They have primary responsibility -- Hoke, Brandon and Schlissel agree on this. I mean, even in the MSU/Gholston situation, it was the MSU trainers who came up with "wind knocked out", not Dantonio; he was just saying what he was told by the medical experts.

Monocle Smile

October 2nd, 2014 at 3:50 PM ^

PLEASE tell me that first letter was a joke. Someone was actually wondering why head injuries are taken more seriously than foot injuries?

How about I cram someone's foot in your ass, then cram someone's head in your ass, and ask which one felt worse?


October 2nd, 2014 at 4:16 PM ^

I love how Brian looks like he never changes, showers or cuts his hair. He plays into the I live in the basement and I'm on my computer all day and night. Typical blogger. 

Bill the Butcher

October 2nd, 2014 at 4:19 PM ^

Good thing Brandon has done #5 could be bringing coaches salaries up to par with our peers. For ages Michigan underpaid coaches and assistants because "this is Michigan" and we are special. Brandon changed that and started throwing out some serious cash.

We can quibble over the merit of those who got the cash, but at least we are willing to spend.


October 2nd, 2014 at 5:17 PM ^

Can someone explain to me how the practice of robbing any future star from having their own place in M football history in the form of a retired jersey number is a good thing? I think it is a stupid idea designed to sell more jerseys, and the significance of those jersey numbers is undermined or devalued more often than it ever should be (see Countess, Blake vs. ND; or Avery, Courtney, in general; or Gardner, Devin, in general).


October 2nd, 2014 at 6:17 PM ^

with Dakich, and I must say, he gave you the opportunity to destroy Brandon and you only scratched the surface of the man's lies and mismanagement of the program. Here's a few items I would like to have heard you bring up or at least address here...

1. Waiting to fire RR until it was too late to save the recruiting class or for RR to find a new job. (Speaks to Brandon's lack of professionalism.)
2. PSDs have gone up 100% since 2008.
3. Wasteful spending on non-rev sports facility upgrades at the expense of football.
4. Not paying for a decent D-coord. in 2009 and then breaking the bank with this new staff which is aweful.
5. Botched coaching search.
6. In addition to the "noodle", which Dakich laughed off and dismissed, how about parking, flyovers, fireworks, band not travelling to Bama game at first, skywriting incident in EL, UConn game scheduling debacle, 2 neutral site games in lieu of home and homes (Bama and UofF), ridiculous Thursfay night game against Utah, season ticket waiting list going from 200,000 people to zero in hair 2 years.

I applaud the points about student tix and how his customers (current and future season tix holders) hate him, that was dead on but reasons as to why that aren't widely known outside the UM fan base would have been icing on the cake.


October 2nd, 2014 at 6:37 PM ^

season ticket waiting list going from 200,000 people to zero in hair 2 years.

Where did this claim come from? I've seen it posted it here multiple times and it's completely out there. 

There might have been 10,000 people on the waiting list at one point under Carr.  Neither I nor anyone I know ever had to wait more than a couple of years.  Since the introduction of PSLs there has effectively been no waiting list at all.


snarling wolverine

October 2nd, 2014 at 6:41 PM ^

Not to defend the guy too much, but Brandon wasn't our AD in 2009.  He took over in the spring of 2010.  Martin was the AD when we hired Gerg.  

More generally, I don't think you can really accuse Brandon of skimping on football spending.   Hoke, Mattison and Nussmeier are among the highest-paid coaches in the country and our football facilities are top notch . . . where else would we be spending money for football?



October 2nd, 2014 at 7:42 PM ^

Still think this is blown out of proportion. However, Brandon and Hoke can't place all the blame on the medical staff.  Hoke equally responsible for leaving Shane in the game.  

You Only Live Twice

October 2nd, 2014 at 9:17 PM ^

Having a successful and popular sports blog means you can call things exactly how you see them.  So at the end of the day, yeah, it's your blog.  But when you dismiss people who might offer even a slightly different angle on something than you do... as being "stupid"  "idiots" or "lunatics", well, count me among the lunatics who will not vote for you for any public office.



October 2nd, 2014 at 9:18 PM ^

Even if Brian really does run for Regent, he won't get more than a few hundred MGoBlog votes with that hair. Voters at large won't go for it.


October 3rd, 2014 at 12:53 AM ^

but if taking the bad with the good, didnt Brandon have something to do with the soccer match over the summer?…


It is one of the few useful things I can think of. My understanding is that events like this benefit everyone (and I think it is pretty cool to have big name clubs with international superstars in the Big House).


I still think he needs to go and should not be further involved with the University. A handful of positive things do not make up for all the damage he has caused both directly and indirectly. I was very happy (and pleasantly surprised) that I was able to login and sign the petition against Brandon. I was also impressed that my 10 year old uniquename and Mcard# are both still in the University's system. #gomichiganengineering


October 3rd, 2014 at 6:12 AM ^

I know I will probably get neg-bombed into oblivion but the irrational hysteria on this blog has reached epically ridiculous proportions with this last post.

Calling references to the Gholston incident only 2 years ago "irrelevant" is beyond insane.   The Gholston incident was 1,000 times worse and received 1,000 times less attention.  Gholston clearly had a severe concussion.  He was knocked the fuck out for about a minute and then was allowed to complete the game.  In contrast, Morris had at worst a questionable mild concussion.  And he played one extra play.

Concussiongate is a media fabrication.  Objectively, it is a minor incident compared to the crap that is and has been happening in college football routinely. The flogging of Michigan over it's handling of Morris' injury in the media and on this blog as if it was some horrible anomaly is insane.

The disparate treatment of these incidents is similar to charging somebody with a felony for going 75 mph in a 70 mph zone and not even ticketing somebody for driving highly intoxicated at 120 mph.  Drawing attention to such disparate treatment is completely relevant.

Secondly, pulling the Gibbons incident into this is more journalistic malpractice.  They are completely different issues.  Nobody but Gibbons and his accuser know the real facts in that case.  Gibbons wasn't even charged with a crime.  It is an issue so fucked up by political bullshit that it is impossible to know how Hoke should have handled it.

Brian is a genius when it comes to analyzing football.  I generally love this blog.  But he has gone off  the rails on this issue.  He should step back and realize he's gone overboard.  He should show some moderation and discretion in his statements.


October 3rd, 2014 at 8:55 AM ^

Boards or in this case Regents typically are not involved with the day to day running of an organization and that includes hiring and firing.  The regents are simply not going to get involved with micromanagement of the University.  They do oversee policies and influence the direction of an organization and the overall image of a University if impacted by a negative situation might become involved informally.  I am not an expert on the UM chain of command however I beileve that ultimately the firing of Brandon would have to come from the University President or someone that has been delegated that responsibility.   


October 3rd, 2014 at 11:12 AM ^

Hoke is the guy that broke into the Watergate Hotel, and Dave Brandon is Nixon. This has gone from mass miscommunication issues and incompetence to a poor job of damage control and now----- outright cover-up.

With a video like the Ray Rice video---damage control should have never been attempted to begin with. Per Foster's story--they have a guy saying players and staff were yelling at Hoke to get Morris off the field and he was like a deer in the headlights, and Mgoblog correctly said the med staff refused to lie which is why Brandon's statement came at 1am. Every neurologist across the nation said there is no such thing as a 'mild' concussion.

Should i also note that that Domino's stock has gone from about 7-8 bucks to $77.78 since Brandon has left.


October 3rd, 2014 at 3:27 PM ^

hoping and fully expecting to read that DB has been replaced. Maybe the powere that be recognize that RR's job instability and eventual termination was bad for the program and now they are going to support the incumbent absolutely, and no matter what.