The Race to Replace Mary Sue Coleman - Part 3

Submitted by James Burrill Angell on January 7th, 2014 at 11:35 PM

Now that football season is over and Mary Sue Coleman is in her last semester at the helm at Michigan I thought I'd pull together the latest installment of this Diary. Here are links to Part 1–-odds-university-michigan’s-next-president

and Part 2–-odds-university-michigan’s-next-president-part-ii

We all have seen, and a Detroit Free Press noted in a basically factless article later this week, the information on the search is pretty quiet. That in itself and the fact that the student body is completely blocked out of the search committee and the faculty is damn nearly equally left out actually speaks volumes. The University is clearly looking at other sitting Presidents and the need to keep confidential their interest has required a very tight circle of those involved in the search. Further, as the office opens up in only seven more months, it may be that we are looking at an interim president if word doesn't come down relatively soon. President Coleman was publicly named in late May and took office in August of 2002 moving directly over from her position at the helm of the University of Iowa. Though no names have emerged publicly there are some interesting theories, a major wild card and a very strange rumor about a fly in the ointment.

Again, no names are really emerging from any credible sources (and by credible I mean one of the twenty or so people who actually know what's going on). There has been widespread speculation that, much as Mary Sue was, a sitting Big Ten President might be in the crosshairs. This makes sense considering that, our fellow B1G Universities share several commonalities beside geography. Aside from most being considered Top 50 to 60 academic Universities according to US News and World Report, all also have big time athletics that any President of this University would need to have an active role in. So take a look at the sitting Big Ten leaders from least likely to most likely:

1) Ohio and the Wisconsin system are looking for their own Presidents

2) Penn State, Wisconsin-Madison, Purdue, the University of Illinois system and Minnesota just replaced their Presidents in the last two years so they are all seemingly out.

3) indiana's President Michael McRobbie has been at the helm for six years but their academic reputation isn't what Michigan's is and nor is their football program. His entire professional career has been at IU. Seems unlikely to leave.

4) Nebraska's academic reputation just isn't strong enough to seriously consider their President who has been in place nearly ten years but is a Nebraska grad.

5) Iowa's president Sally Mason has been in place six years and was Provost (#2 in charge) at Purdue for another six.

6) Morton Schapiro at Northwestern would be phenomenal. He's been in place for four years and served nine years as President of Williams College and has a tremendous academic reputation. That said, NU is a pretty good gig. I hate to say this but this would be a lateral if not backwards move.

7) Illinois-Champaign's Chancellor is Phyllis Wise. She's been in place since 2011, was the interim President at the University of Washington for two years prior and Provost of the same for five years prior to that. Wise has ties to Michigan as her Ph.D. is from Michigan's zoology department.

Which leads us to....

8) Lou Anna Simon, the President of Michigan State and a Sparty alum (received her Ph.D.) Laugh all you want, but...
a) Simon has been at the helm for ten years (longest of all Big Ten Presidents) and was provost at State before that. She knows the players and politicians of this state which is crucial as all Michigan Universities fight for the scraps the State legislature throws to them.
b) Simon is currently the chairwoman of the executive committee of the NCAA. How would that be for instant pop in the college athletics scene.
c) I don't know if you noticed but Simon was given an honorary degree in Ann Arbor this past graduation cycle. Is that the Regents warming us up to the idea?

Anyway, there are a couple of interesting candidates here. Will the Regents pull their candidate from this pool?

I also want to address a name I heard recently but think its more of an "I wish" kind of thing from some of the administrators who said it. The name is Martha Minow, the Dean of Harvard Law School and name on the short list for the next available Supreme Court position. Come On! I mean, she would be a dream candidate in terms of reputation in the academic world. The reason her name likely comes up, aside from her academic reputation, is because she has Midwestern roots and a Michigan bachelor's degree before going on to get a Masters and J.D. From Harvard and Yale. I mean, again, IF she was actually interested, she'd be an academic powerhouse but its a HUGE jump from running a law school to a large University and she obviously has no experience dealing within major college sports. I just don't see it happening.

Finally, to that's no mystery that David Brandon has many detractors around the University community. Nearly every Dean wants his head for drastically increasing the size and scope of the Athletics fundraising efforts and raiding many donors that were previously making academic gifts and slashing access to athletic campus. Further, his policies towards many of the Regional Alumni clubs have won him few friends (just ask the Detroit Club about Brandon's mandate they pay several thousand to rent space for their annual kickoff event where space was previously given free and the subsequent move of the event off campus). His popularity is rumored to be not so high among some of his former colleagues on the Board of Regents. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that a Regent or two is the source of the many rumors heard in certain circles that there are candidates for the President job that are declining because they fear/don't want to have to work with Brandon. Again, it could just be a malicious rumor being circulated by any one of many detractors of Brandon's but the smoke on this one is growing and I've heard it from four different and completely unrelated administrators at the University and a fifth person with ties to a Regent. It would truly be a shame if that is in fact damaging the possibility of getting the University a top candidate. Further, it will be very interesting to see how a new President without the same ties and familiarity to Brandon that Mary Sue has deals with him in light of much of the clear animosity directed towards him. Would Brandon walk away without the same kind of cover? Who knows? One thing that certainly would hit home here at MGoBlog would be how all of this would affect any kind of coaching change if necessary after next fall (and let me be clear that I personally hope we never have to answer this question). If Hoke were to be replaced, how comfortable would people be with the person who chose him in the first place making the decision on the new hire? Would a newly seated President have enough clout to influence the decision? Would that same President be pressured to then oust Brandon for his failure to bring in a winner. Would letting go of Brandon increase the perception of instability for a new hire and potentially screw up a hiring timetable while the AD gets hired before the coach search could happen? As I said, the Presidential search may have more to do with athletic campus than one might ordinarily expect.

So now we all sit back and wait. If there is going to be a a permanent President named to start by the fall, we should hear the name in the next few months. If I hear any names start to surface, I'll certainly tap out the fourth installment of the Diary.

Here's the link for this week's Freep article:…



January 8th, 2014 at 5:38 PM ^

"...and go get Lee C. Bollinger back!"



In bed with radcial anti-American speakers, but also anti-ROTC.

Spent millions to defend a racist "Blacks get 20 bonus points for skin color" plan that was even a non-starter with O'Connor.

Openly plotted to violate the Nike contract.

Big House studio scandal.





Come On Down

January 8th, 2014 at 1:01 PM ^

Thanks for the updates. In my opinion, the most important issue facing the new president will be increasing financial aid and slowing the skyrocketing tuition rates (though the latter seems to be happening already). Unfortunately, Michigan is losing the right to claim that it provides an "uncommon education for the common man." All of the shiny new buildings are nice but it would be great if more of that money began to go to the students, especially given that one of America's poorest cities is only an hour to the east.


January 8th, 2014 at 2:17 PM ^

What about Brian of MGoBlog?


Michigan Alum - check

Knowledgeable about athletics - check

Published - check. I have it on good authority that the man has his own blog!

Entrepreneur - check - It's the hot new thing sweeping Academia!


Can you imagine the friction between him and Brandon? We'd finally get answers to the MGoQuestions that aren't gibberish.



January 8th, 2014 at 3:12 PM ^

on my part, but isn't it, like, really bad that the AD is steering money away from the academic side to the athletic side? The AD should be/is turning a profit, and doesn't seem to be doing as well with its main product (football) as it should with the money it already has, thus the justification for more money seems limited. I get he's trying to do what's best for the AD, which is always more money, but shouldn't he have a bigger responsibility to the larger school and its academic mission?


January 8th, 2014 at 5:07 PM ^

I don't understand what you are talking about or why you are talking about it. But if I were to accept your invitation for mammothly confusing thread tangent, I'd begin by correcting you: The Michigan AD is technically autonomous.

The preciously small amount of money the AD gets from the state goes to the salaries for a couple employees who, for bureaucratic reasons, aren't allowed payment from the AD itself. Make no mistake that the percentage of money spent on those salaries versus the entire AD annual budget is nigh infinitesimal. Therefore, claiming the AD isn't self-sustained is a misleading technicality.

Wolverine In Exile

January 8th, 2014 at 4:35 PM ^

She's presided over the impressive growth in facilities and academic capacities at a major university, and also little known is that Simon has been at the forefront of a group of university presidents actively trying to reestablish a more assertive role for us universities in us dept of defense research and national security issues. I have it on good authority that the CoE is doing a major strategic investigation of getting back into DoD research as non classified research dollars are shrinking big time. Other big time schools like Washington, VaTech and others are relooking at their post Vietnam research restrictions and my sources say that UM CoE and hard science types are really worried they're going to be left behind and hence lose some national clout and dollars. Simon has been very friendly to DoD and Natl security customers at msu but from what I hear has been hamstrung by MSU's relative lack of prestige in key areas (aero, naval, comp sci). Michigan has the resources but hadn't had the big advocate for shedding the "hippy U" image. Simon (or dean Munson with more freedom) could be that bridge. If she could bring mark Hollis with her I'd be even happier. :)

James Burrill Angell

January 11th, 2014 at 12:10 PM ^

I think she's still out there. I have heard three knocks against her candidacy.

1) Some say she was being groomed for the M job and bailed on us for UVA and there are still people who are butt-sore at Michigan.

2) Not sure if you heard but shortly after she was named President at UVA she had to struggle through a very public political battle with some of their version of the Board of Regents. Essentially some wanted to push her out because they didn't think she was good enough. She survived and now has tremendous power having survived the coup attempt. She may not want to leave that.

3) She's only been at UVA a few years (three maybe), she may not want to leave that post so early. It's also sort of a lateral move. We're about the same academically.

I would be she's still under consideration IF she wanted it but I suspect there are others they would rather.

James Burrill Angell

January 11th, 2014 at 12:15 PM ^

I understand how many people whose remaining contact with the University (whether they be alum or just a fan) love and respect and borderline worship Dave Brandon. The point of the notation above is that while he may be worshipped in those athletic circles he has a LOT of detractors elsewhere in the University. I think its that distinction exactly that has drawn Brandon the enemies. His actions leave many to believe that he has forgotten that our Wolverines are actually attached to the University of Michigan and that the rest of the University is not to be treated as the enemy or some kind of corporate rival.


January 11th, 2014 at 12:50 PM ^

It is a rare president of a major U with a major atheletic program who does not have friction with the AD. This is what makes Coleman so good. She did not back down ( ie Gordon Gee and also MSU in the 90s, sorry sparty is not signifigant enough to remember the personal involved ) and DB knew his limits, whatever they were. 

SF Wolverine

January 12th, 2014 at 8:33 PM ^

Superiority complex aside, this job is a much different animal than is the presidency of  MSU, so I don't see Simon making the leap.  State funding is much more important for MSU than it is for UM, and the President of UM has a much larger, more powerful and more sophisticated set of alums and faculty to manage.  MSC's principal skill, in my view, has been her ability to manage all of these interest groups (athletics included) without alientating any of them.  Agree entirely on the comments on Bollinger -- we do not need him back here.  This job demands someone who is much less imperious, without a "look at me" complex.