Mailbag: Long Discussion Of Brandon Email Post, DANTONIOAD, Turnovers Comment Count

Brian October 29th, 2014 at 12:46 PM

[ED: Hey guys! Ace is looking for a few good questions for a basketball season preview mailbag. Hit him up at [email protected].]


Meta-response about yesterday's post.

[ED: I normally hack out praise from these emails in an effort to be as concise as possible but it was not possible to do so here without making bronx sound like a jerk.]

Hey Brian,

I've been trying to think of a better way to ask this, but I can't so I'll just come out with it:

What is/was your goal with reporting about the Brandon emails? 

Man, yeah, that comes across as condescending.  Let me try to explain.

I'm not saying they shouldn't be given their due. and I respect the hell out of you and Ace putting in the effort to figure out their veracity; count me in the camp of people who doubted WD's initial post due to the inconsistencies in his story.  Following through on the story and backing it up with multiple sources is the type of reporting you don't expect to see from a "fan" site, and yet you guys did better work than I've seen in a long time from more established media members in the community.  Heck, it's basically you guys and the Daily kicking ass in that department.

But once the dust settles, how do you see this information positively or negatively affecting the program going forward?  I've made my feelings known about Brandon and how, frankly, this really shouldn't accelerate his removal (I mean, if his handling of Gibbons, Morris, ticket prices, attendance, stadium experience, alumni relations, coaching snafus, losing, etc. doesn't do him in but bitchy emails do I'll be a bit disappointed in the administration for needing something so trivial to move them to action), but I honestly want to know your take.  Do you think the fan's role in the turmoil surrounding the program, now being given a wider public forum by your site than in the past, will ultimately hurt its recovery going forward? 

For example, you mentioned in your podcast that fans' habits can be broken quickly and it can take a generation to get them back.  You and Ace seem to think that Brandon and Hoke coming back would lead to an exodus, but are you worried that the level of vitriol displayed by the fans already shows the pivot point already happened, and that everything from this point on is just piling on and driving even more fans away?  Personally, I'm less and less excited to follow this team even this year because it is just a clown show made worse by the negative tone so many fans seem to hold toward it.  My Facebook feed is full of people linking to articles calling for Hoke an co. to be booted (many to mgoblog), and lots of them were moderately-sane fans before the last couple of years.  I'm not saying you and the site are to blame for any of it; you are just reporting and commenting on the shit show being trotted out every week.  But do you think we'll look back in a couple of years and wonder if too much gas was thrown on the fire?

And again, I'm conflicted even asking this, because you guys have a duty to ferret out these idiots and bring them to the public's eye, and you do a great job at capturing the Michigan zeitgeist effectively.  But there's just such a toxic culture around the program, and I wonder even if they get some homerun hires (which I'm a bit dubious about), if some of this damage will linger. 

Anyway, feel free to respond however you want; if part of this makes its way into a mailbag or something then by all means out me and respond how you wish.  I'm fine with it.  I honestly just want to know.



I made a decision to let the original Have A Happy Life email stand—in fact I made a decision to re-instate it after one of the mods pulled it 200 comments deep—and from there things proceeded inexorably to yesterday's post.

I let it stand because I thought it was true.

[After THE JUMP: a full run-down of the decision to run with this story and evaluation about whether this was in error.]

As I said in the post, over the past few years about two dozen different people have emailed me their interactions with Brandon. The purported Brandon consistently overused ellipses and exclamation points. Most emails had that arrogant tone, sometimes subtle, sometimes not. There was no way all these different people were snowing me, especially early on when we were just somewhat cranky with Brandon.

The first burst of these came after Brandon broached the possibility of moving the OSU-M game to midseason in a WTKA interview. Brandon got a lot of emails about how that was a very bad idea and responded to them like so…


…at the time emailers generally said "this guy is kind of a jerk" and let it drop; I did too. But I knew that this was a thing, as did a lot of people I talked to. I have a dozen more of these after yesterday.

I've let my internet spidey sense guide me for my career here and it's served me well—if you seek a popular blog, look around you. I went with it here, and then a few things happened.

  1. An Olbermann staffer found it and got it on freakin' ESPN. ESPN actually credited us on TV, to which my response was "Oh no. Oh no no no no."
  2. A skeptical MGoBlog user submitted an FOIA specifically tailored to return this result and got nothing. This caused a maelstrom of recriminations for Wolverine Devotee, whose only crime is purchasing Michigan alternate jerseys.
  3. I found out that there was a very good reason this FOIA was not likely to return a response, as detailed in the post.
  4. I felt the FOIA response was tactical. I had FOIAs pending at the time, filed before the MGoBlog user filed his. The U took the absolute maximum time allotted to respond to them, and when I filed a FOIA request in summer of 2013 that was similarly non-responsive they again took the maximum amount of time. The quick response to his request felt like selective efficiency designed to release information they desired to release, and this made me even more certain of the email's legitimacy.
  5. A second, detailed email chain was provided to me by another reader.

So now we're in a situation where we've been credited nationally for something that might be bunk but probably isn't bunk and thanks to the multiple emails we can confirm or disconfirm with great confidence. Plus there is the strong, false implication that the thing is bunk provided by the nonresponsive FOIA request.

At that point there is really no decision about whether to go forward or not, especially after Ace did yeoman work to actually track down the original Have A Nice Life post with headers and all. It was my call to let the original post stand, so now I have a responsibility to follow that through.

The one thing we can absolutely not afford is to be wrong, or even perceived as wrong, about anything. It is so much worse for us than a larger outlet. If we had published something like the Oklahoma State expose, we would be done. Doomed. If something is news-ish from us it cannot be sort of news-ish, it has to be ironclad. This is why the site's rumor reporting has always gone with the maximum amount of transparency possible—that's the closest thing to iron we've got in those situations.

We have solid, newsworthy information that we need to disclose. The only thing that would have prevented us from talking in this situation would be if the release of the information was damaging to a student-athlete, a private citizen, or the department.

I do not consider Dave Brandon the department. If Dave Brandon is fired and replaced nothing we published affects Michigan one iota. It is my opinion that Dave Brandon leaving would be a great boon for Michigan. That's not why I published, but it is why I didn't hold my tongue like I had for the previous three years.

To answer the questions above directly:

What is/was your goal with reporting about the Brandon emails? 

To confirm something that had been reported as Reported By Us, and vindicate a guy who was right in the first place. And to publish something newsworthy.

Once the dust settles, how do you see this information positively or negatively affecting the program going forward? 

If Brandon is replaced it does not affect the program. If Brandon is kept it probably sucks out a few more ticket holders.

Do you think the fan's role in the turmoil surrounding the program, now being given a wider public forum by your site than in the past, will ultimately hurt its recovery going forward? 

I reject the notion that the fans have any role in the "turmoil" except as people responding to said turmoil. The fans did not go 2-11 against Ohio State and 1-6 against Michigan State over the last X years. The fans did not leave Shane Morris on the field—the fans actually urged Michigan to take him off. The fans did not botch the aftermath of the Morris incident such that it led national news for almost a week.

All of that is orders of magnitude more damaging to the program than anything a fan will ever say.

And anyway Michigan fans have in fact been super patient. How many other programs going through this fallow period would have put 113,000 in the stands for a game everyone knew was going to be a dud? Look at how much money we are providing relative to performance, with this home schedule and this team.

The idea that Michigan fans are somehow worse than other fanbases is ridiculous. I did This Week In Schadefreude for years. Michigan is nowhere near the most volatile fanbase. We care our asses off; spinning that as a negative is backwards.

You and Ace seem to think that Brandon and Hoke coming back would lead to an exodus, but are you worried that the level of vitriol displayed by the fans already shows the pivot point already happened, and that everything from this point on is just piling on and driving even more fans away?

This question seems to assert that fans complaining about the degraded state of the program is why fans are discontent. Again, if that is impacting Michigan negatively the size of that effect is dwarfed by the losing and inept PR provided by its leadership. This is a response to the things negatively impacting the program.

If the guy negatively impacting the entire University's public image is removed, the fans immediately get hopeful and happy. That's how this works.

Do you think we'll look back in a couple of years and wonder if too much gas was thrown on the fire?

No. Fans want Brandon out. As soon as Brandon goes, the fire goes. At this point the most damaging thing possible is Brandon's retention.


Amongst the copious positive feedback from yesterday there was the occasional comparison of our decision to publish Brandon's emails to stretchgate, including a hilarious thread on Rivals calling for a boycott of this here site.

This kind of response comes from a fear that publishing the way we do hurts the program. I don't think that's true. I think the program hurts the program. The reaction yesterday indicates that the great majority of the fanbase is with us, and we stand by our decision.

I'll talk about this more later but when we do get significant pushback we change our tack. I got a lot of concerned reactions to the idea of a Maryland boycott and I'm dropping that idea. Yes, even if Brandon is still in place. I misjudged what an appropriate response would look like there.

I've gotten zero indication that's the case here—even that Rivals thread quickly turned into a bunch of people bombing the few proponents. If we err, we own it; this is not an error.

Harbaugh precedent?


ain't no precedent for an NFL coach wearing google glass neither

Hello MGoBlog,

I can't think of a single example of a successful NFL head coach who left the league to take a college job (e.g., an NFL coach who had a winning record one season and then coached in college the next season).

Would a Harbaugh-to-Michigan move after this season be literally unprecedented?

Mitch Price

Seattle, WA

I think so. Help me out, hivemind, but I could not find a single instance of a successful NFL coach leaving his job for college. There have been a few instances where guys bail on the NFL:

  • Bobby Petrino ditched the Falcons at the tail end of their season after going 3-10 in his first year
  • Nick Saban did leave the Dolphins after two years without getting axed. He was 6-10 in his second year.
  • Steve Spurrier resigned after two years in Washington, took a year off, and then took the South Carolina job.
    That appears to be the full list of NFL head coaches who voluntarily returned to college.

So it would  be unprecedented for an NFL coach who seems like a good NFL coach to go back to college. But Harbaugh is an unprecedented guy in a lot of ways. How many coaches coming off back-to-back-to-back conference championship game appearances are dogged by constant rumors he's out the door no matter what?

There are college guys and there are NFL guys; Michigan is hoping that their guy is a college guy who happens to also be a great NFL coach until people get tired of him.

Turnover stuff

I know that you ascribe turnovers to randomness, but do you think that it feeds itself? Not getting turnovers leads to not looking for turnovers or trying to create turnovers?  It feels like our DB's don't even look to pick things off over the middle - rather they are looking to "bring the wood".


That's not entirely true. I ascribe fumble recovery rates to luck. This was a position of some controversy after Michigan picked up 74% of the fumbles that hit the ground in 2011, fueling Michigan's stunning defensive turnaround that year. Michigan has not come anywhere close to repeating that feat. The last three years they were/are at 51%, 61%, and 40%. There is no repeatability to fumble recoveries.

Turnovers in general are pretty random just because they're low probability events, but anyone who's watched football knows that hitting people hard and getting pressure on the quarterback are reliable ways to force TOs; having a young quarterback is a reliable way to cough 'em up. College teams have so much turnover from year to year that TO rates tend to have very low repeatability.

Phil Steele uses TOs to predict up-and-downswings from teams annually. He has good success predicting that teams who suffered a huge negative TO margin will improve. If turnovers were repeatable year to year that strategy would backfire.

But anyway, the question: I think that Michigan's lack of TOs forced this year is a combination of bad, predictable coverage in the secondary and bad luck. It's hard to force an interception when the QB is rifling it to a wide open first read. You can't apply pressure to the QB and you can't, like, cover the guy he's throwing to. Michigan has not forced many throws into tight windows. Coverage across the middle has been particularly nonexistent, and that is an area of the field a lot of coaches fear to go because dangers lurk therein.

I don't think it piles on itself; I think it's just an effect of not being very good.


Hey Brian and Ace,

I've figured out why people think Dantonio's reaction to the spike was cool and good.

Listen, run the score up or don't. As people have repeated ad nauseam, "it ain't Dernternier's jerb to sterp his term!" That's fine as far it goes. And I also understand that beating Michigan and feeding red meat to the fanbase are each about 45% of his job.

But why do people think it's cool that he got so offended by the lesser team's dumb motivational ploy? Why do people think this is how an adult who makes millions of dollars a year should behave?

It's actually quite simp . . . ALL HAIL THE HYPNOTOAD!


Tom in DC

It is cool that he got offended by the lesser team's motivational ploy because Dantonio's never ending torrent of anger has made Michigan State as good as they've been since the 1960s.

This is not how an adult who makes millions of dollars a year should behave, but football coaches are not expected to be adults. See: Bo, Woody, etc. Football coaches are expected to be high-functioning lunatics.

Here is a DANTONIOAD anyway.


Seth Fisher

You now feel a need to apologize for anything you have ever done that might offend Mark Dantonio, which is everything.

Why haven't we fired him yet?


Why is Brady Hoke still the Michigan football coach this morning? While there may be a dearth of promising interim options, what benefit is there to keeping a clearly inept and doomed coach at the helm? The current players cannot be enjoying this, they are not improving, and they may not really care anymore. Further, no recruit currently committed to UM can realistically think Hoke will be still be here after December, and no un-committed or once-committed prospect is likely swayed that the program is heading somewhere good while Hoke persists as the "I think I was aware that something happened, but I'm not fully aware" guy.

Shouldn't Michigan create an opening right now, post it on the job board, and begin rounding up all the lucre it needs for Jim Harbaugh or someone else sufficient for the task at hand? Even if David Brandon is also headed for a career change, doesn't officially firing Hoke free up more permanent forces--boosters, donors, Jesus--to work on a football regime change?


The benefits of firing Hoke now are dubious because of the AD situation, and because search firms exist. If anyone at Michigan has their business right, they're already gauging possible candidates.

Letting Hoke stay on does provide some fringe recruiting benefits—they're still out there visiting places, trying to get guys in, offering the occasional in-state three star. Letting him go out on his own terms instead of roughly pulling the plug will help soften the blow for the players on the team, who are universally said to like Hoke. Midseason firings are mostly reserved for coaches who are loathed by their team (see Weis, Charlie) for a reason. If the players feel that Michigan did Hoke wrong they might be more inclined to transfer.

I don't think it matters much either way but after the initial flush of post-Morris anger I've come to accept that keeping Hoke on until the end of the season is the right move. I would still give him his walking papers before OSU on the off chance there's a miracle that muddies the waters.


Bando Calrissian

October 29th, 2014 at 12:54 PM ^

"If you seek a popular blog, look around you."

Needs to be an MGoShirt. Pronto. Maybe a redrawing of the State of Michigan seal with two wolverines flanking a depiction of Brian in his hockey jersey. Just think about the possibilities...

Bando Calrissian

October 29th, 2014 at 1:04 PM ^

No idea. But one must replace TUEBOR with TACOPANTS, E Blogus Unum could work at the top. Leave the eagle, because America, love it or leave it.

Man, I haven't been this excited about anything in a while. Need this shirt so bad.


October 29th, 2014 at 3:41 PM ^

I'm a little disappointed that there doesn't seem to be much consideration given by Wikipedia latinists to translating the "web" component as "araneum" or a cognate. Since the English is a very intuitive abstraction of a very concrete word, I see no reason not to translate it literally, not to mention that it's much more poetic. I'd vote for "diurnum aranei" or something like that.


October 29th, 2014 at 1:04 PM ^

Thanks for responding Brian.  I guess my wording was a bit off, but you largely answered my questions how I thought.  I didn't mean to infer that the fans being angry was somehow a "bad" thing - they should be angry and are entitled to do so.  But I do take issue with the idea that this anger directed at Brandon (and to a lesser extent Hoke) will disappear when they are removed.  People are angry, and I'm pessimistic that everyone will just come running back and filling the stadium when Hoke and co. are gone.  As you noted, this program is 2-11 against OSU and 1-6 against MSU across multiple administrations; at some point, the stink isn't going to be washed away entirely with a new coach and AD.  

This fanbase isn't like other ones, and as you noted that's a good thing.  It makes them less reactionary, less prone to rage and the like.  But it is also a more docile group and, from what I've seen, less dye-in-the-wool compared to your SEC/OSU/PSU programs and the like.  in other words, if they see a football team that keeps stubbing its toe, they'll move on to something else, maybe checking back in if the team starts winning again but who knows.  That waiting list isn't going to fill up any time soon, and I think the general anger surrounding the program might linger longer than you think.

But whatever.  Thanks for responding, and leaving in the whole letter.  Some people already think I'm a dick, but man that could have gotten ugly with some editting.

Ty Butterfield

October 29th, 2014 at 1:19 PM ^

I understand where you are coming from. Normally I think that most fans would be fine once Brandon and Hoke are gone. This may be different since Michigan really screwed up the last two coaching searches. There is no way I will renew my season tickets if Brandon is still employed and gets to pick the next head coach. Even if DB is canned I think I will still wait to see who the next coach is before renew. So yeah, firing DB needs to happen but I think a lot of fans may wait to see who the next coach is before they decide if they want to renew or even make new purchases of season tickets.


October 29th, 2014 at 1:48 PM ^

The "It takes a generation" comment fits with what you're saying here. Many fans have been turned off, the question is just how many. The other reply already states that at least some people are rethinking season tickets due to the general malaise of the last 7+ years. I think part of it is that every year under DB & Hoke it has become harder to justfiy even more money for an even worse product. The AD has already shown contrition to the students. If the new AD comes in and does a re-run of the Domino's campaign once DB left (see below, and contrast that with DB's emails) drops PSLs and/or ticket prices for a year, apologizes to fans, and makes a good coaching hire I think the fnas will come back in droves. That said, if the team continues to struggle and fail and lose 5+ games a year? who knows.



October 29th, 2014 at 2:29 PM ^

. . .part of it is that every year under DB & Hoke it has become harder to justfiy even more money for an even worse product.

The waitlist was unharmed by 3-9. What nuked fan support was a continued shitty product combined by unmistakeable communication from the AD that it was, after just a product, and that the AD intended to soak every last penny out of anyone who was sucker enough to continue buying it. That is what we have to get out the door. A losing team deserves support; a predatory program hawking a shitty "brand" doesn't. Brandon has inserted himself between the fans and their team, and shat all over both.

I would replace the word "contrition" with "shift in tactics"; "contrition" would be the case if he had shown it four years ago, or at least before he became the cause of embarrasment to UM in the national press.


October 29th, 2014 at 2:46 PM ^

I wouldn't call it "contrition" to the students.  I'd call it Econ 101.  And here's something that's probably not a coincidence:

20,000 * $175 = $3,500,000

12,000 * $295 = $3,540,000

Brandon made reference in his emails to dropping from 20,000 to 12,000 student tickets sold, so these are the facts he's using.  Let's face it: He set the price to try and get back to 20,000, while breaking even on revenue.  All he did was react to a shift in the demand curve, after having been beaten over the head with the proof of it.


October 29th, 2014 at 11:40 PM ^

I think Brandon actually wanted to minimize student ticket sales, he only reduced prices to try to save himself.  Remember, every student ticket sold means less general tickets available to sell and they sell for a lot more.  Also, I think that, if somehow, Brandon survives, and Michigan wins an NCAA championship or two, mother-fucking Brandon would raise student ticket prices to $500 or $600 in retribution.  That is exactly the piece of shit he is.


October 29th, 2014 at 2:18 PM ^

roiling at the time of the Hoke hire, quieted by recruiting and canny calls on 4th down in the 2011 Nebraska game.

But back when, I remember commenting that Hoke would be the signpost of the Brandon era, either way.

I think when Brandon goes, the hostility engendered by his degradation of the game-day experience and four additional years of futility will go with it.

And I don't think we can afford to give any aid and comfort to anyone anywhere who might still nurture a hope that everything will just blow over and return to normal once the riled-up fans find another shiny object to obscess over.


October 29th, 2014 at 2:26 PM ^

for me, whatever that something special was about UM football is probably gone forever. Saturdays in the fall used to be an almost religious experience. Family had weddings and birthday parties skipped and friends had bachelor parties only partway attended during those 12-13 Saturdays a year.

I don't know if it was me growing up past my twenties or this absolute shitshow of the majority of the past decade but I just can't foresee me ever going back to how passionate I used to be. For the first several years of my kids' lives they were always "Go Blue" or "Yay Michigan" or pointing out a Block M or Michigan colors somewhere. Now I can tell they just say it because Daddy used to love for them to. All they've ever known is suck. They can't even muster a "Boo State" anymore. They can't figure out why Dad doesn't like State like some of their friends. Hell, State actually wins is probably what they're thinking.


October 29th, 2014 at 2:45 PM ^

you can be persuaded to change the word "forever" to "until we get a proper AD and really qualified HC in the saddle."

I suppose you could argue that Bo's seven initial bowl losses were cold comfort to those who endured up-and-down years after 1951 hoping for a return of the Mad Magicians and annual MNC contention of the late '40s, yet we look back on it as a golden age and the beginning of the sellout-crowd era.

Watch our the boys in our colors stack up a few exciting and courageous victories in the next few years and see if the old feelings don't start coming back.


October 29th, 2014 at 11:44 PM ^

Also something else bubbling just below the surface is the overall gameday experience.  And a lot of it the piped in music and whatnot but a lot of it also being nickled and dimed and ten dollared to death.  Charging, nay overcharging, for ever damn thing makes it feel a LOT less like a religious experience and much more like a commercial transaction.  The new AD REALLY need to understand this to get back to a 200,000 person waitlist.


October 29th, 2014 at 2:33 PM ^

They will not stand for a losing product while simultaneously being forced to pay higher prices to watch and consume merchandise supporting that product, when they are also being told their perception of said product doesn't match the outlook of the guys in charge.

Michigan fans didn't go away during RR's brief run and they were encouraged to stay by the hiring of a Michigan man even if he wasn't universally thought of as the best candidate when hired. Only long, sustained losing and its acceptance begets a losing tradition which is negative to the values and bedrock success of Michigan football over all time.

But disappointment over indecision, slow change or no change would create the burst of impetus leading to a sharp decline in season-ticket renewals. Football is such a fall tradition in Ann Arbor, it would take virtual denial of the current problems to incur the most consequential dropoff in fan attendance.

I mean hiring Harbaugh changes all that. Because Harbaugh is a link to Bo, the modern-day Godfather of Michigan football. So, it would be like getting Michael Corleone to ascend to the top of the Michigan football family after Sonny's shooting and Fredo's move to Vegas. It's not personal, it's just business, good football business.


October 29th, 2014 at 1:05 PM ^

"This caused a maelstrom of recriminations for Wolverine Devotee, whose only crime is purchasing Michigan alternate jerseys."

One of the things lost in the whole WD kerfuffle IMO was Brandon losing him as a supporter.  By all rights WD is the poster child for everything DB holds dear and seemingly wants from his fanbase and yet, in the end, WD left the world of alternate jersey's, piped in music and wow experiences to join the opposition.

Think about that for a minute.  If Brandon doesnt have the Wolverinee Devotee's of the world on his side - who does he have?  

Oh I forgot - coaches afraid for their job.  He's still got them.


October 29th, 2014 at 2:11 PM ^

I've been on this blog since approximately two weeks after it started (I used to have a lot to say, just check Haloscan) and I still do not understand how people get to upvote or neg (or start topics for that matter). Could somebody please explain?