John U. Bacon BLL Appearance in Grand Rapids

Submitted by itauditbill on September 10th, 2015 at 11:23 AM

Having not seen any reports I thought the board might like one from John U.’s appearance last night in Grand Rapids.

His book tour appearance was held at the Grand Rapids Downtown Food Market, a high end foodie market with a number of high end butchers, fish mongers, etc. The room used was on the 2nd floor in a teaching kitchen type area. Lots of seating, nice sized room. It was packed, standing room only.

John U. began with a talk, discussing the backstory of why he wrote the book, the limited time to get it done, and amount of the story that he didn’t know.

Most of the talk after centered around information already released in the book snippets we’ve mostly already seen, Brandon alienating every group on campus, trying to always be the center of attention, etc.

Then came the question and answer period. One question dealt with the lack of control exercised by the board relative to the extension given to Brandon, by MSC.  John U. noted that MSC had just been given a contract extension herself of two years.  When it came to Brandon’s extension, MSC “pushed all of her chips in” to support it.  If the regents had stood up to her, they would basically have made her a lame duck for two years. So, John U. said, they had nothing else to do but let it go.

However, I want to make clear, John U. has a great deal of respect for Brandon. He was a great regent. He was able to work across the aisle, do things for the betterment of the university without worrying about his own fame and fortune. MSC came to depend on him greatly. But, and this is the big but, when he became AD he lost his head. He wanted to become famous as being the AD. One example I was unaware of; when Michigan beat MSU in basketball one time, Brandon got in the handshake line. When Michigan won the national championship in Gymnastics, Brandon grabbed the trophy,  before the coach, got his picture taken hoisting it aloft and then handed it back to the coach. 

Also asked of John U.; is there a chance that Hackett stays on permanently. John U.  said that he could provide only a little bit of info, but he believes that if Hackett was going to stay permanently the interim title would be gone by now. 

Finally, one younger questioner asked if John U. had ever heard of a student body protesting an AD, and as a follow-up, “Did you ever consider titling the book Brandon’s Lasting Lessons?” John U. had a good laugh at that, noting “I read yesterday on MgoBlog that I’m offended at that name. I’m not.” He went on to note that it would be bad marketing (a theme in the talk) if he referred to a book as something other than the actual title. He also agreed that the student body protesting the AD was a big thing. People weren’t calling for the coach to be fired, they wanted the AD fired.

The line to get the book signed was long, but John U. was gracious. If you get a chance go on and attend one of his tour stops. 



September 10th, 2015 at 12:40 PM ^

Finally, one younger questioner asked if John U. had ever heard of a student body protesting an AD, and as a follow-up, “Did you ever consider titling the book Brandon’s Lasting Lessons?”

From an organizational / leadership perspective, that really isn't a bad subtitle for it, even if it is an unofficial one. A lot of companies have their David Brandons, if you will, and "Endzone" provides a good study of such people and why you don't do what they do. 


September 10th, 2015 at 2:57 PM ^

He also said that, although DB was a big part of the story, he didn't want it to be all about him.  It's much more about Michigan as a whole.  And he also tried to be fair, and not make it a DB bashing (even though that is easy to do), but also point out the positive things that he did as well.


September 10th, 2015 at 12:43 PM ^

for sharing this. I was unable to go last night but was interested in what attendance would be like given the location and it's already strange hours. sounds like it was a success.


September 10th, 2015 at 1:03 PM ^

I was one of the last 10 people at Rackham and it was hot and close to midnight. He was still very gracious.

You also didn't see anyone who tired of waiting and left.

Really Brandon's main problem was that he identified the wrong "customer". He viewed the position as taking care of the student athlete which is important. However without the people attending the games. You don't have the revenue to take care of those student athletes. There was also the drive to be seen as the greatest AD in Michigan history, which wasn't likely to happen. As much as Hackett has done, you still have Yost, Crisler, Canham and others who have come before who have not only elevated Michigan, but revolutionized college athletics and the AD position nationwide. I love Hackett but I don't see him staying long enough to do something to that level.

Brandon's legacy will end up being destroying anyone who wasn't a total "yes man" and ineptitude in handing the Shane Morris situation. If not for Hackett and Harbaugh he may have brought down Michigan athletics as a whole.


September 10th, 2015 at 2:12 PM ^

ambitions, whether speculative or not, Bo was supposedly his mentor, and Bo was a Michigan AD and I know Bo advocated the kind of leverage that Canham administered with him, which was simply, to get out of his way while he was coach and attend to the regular duties of his office, not interfering implicitly with athletic performance. 

And, of course, this book could be called Brandon's Lasting Lessons, if only because his hire and administration were the antithesis of what Michigan used to be and what Brandon thought about while remaking the department. I mean, if ain't broke, then break it. 

Bo thought about leadership and ways to communicate strength in people to understand his mode of leadership and earn their respect while becoming passionate players of the team atmosphere he instilled. He didn't do this out of a sense of his own accomplishment, he did it by advocating principles that built the kind of program he knew would succeed in winning over the longterm. 

And there is something else that should be noted about comparing Bo's Lasting Lessons to the Dave Brandon story, and that is this: Bo entered Michigan at a peculiar time in America, the late 60's, when drug use, social unrest over the Viet Nam war was high on campus, and he was an unknown from a MAC school in Ohio. He was a conservative in a liberal town on a campus where Kennedy inaugurated the  Peace Corps, and Johnson unveiled part of his Great Society legislation in a commencement speech. He was a fish out of water at the start. 

You don't strive to become a legend, your legacy of deeds and passionate travails of overcoming hardship and difficulty with class and dignity, gets you there. It's the journey that signals the end, not a roadmap destination point. Brandon never got that, even though Bo lauds him and jimmy Hackett in one of the final paragraphs of his introductory chapter that carves out the pathway of the journey he undertook

Most of the values that Bo espouses for good leadership and organizational strength, Brandon eschewed. 

John doesn't mention it at his talks, I'm certain. But I still believe that one of the reasons for writing his Michigan book series is a follow-up to the Lasting Lessons education he got from working with Bo. 

Bo writes, "Good organizations matter. Good bosses matter. If you want to become a great leader, you need to prepare yourself to become a great leader, and the best way to do that is to study great leaders." Bo coached under three HOF coaches. He played at Miami of Ohio for Woody Hayes and then became an assistant on Woody's staff at Ohio State. He once tipped Bobby Knight not to take a head coaching job at Wisconsin after the coach called him about going there. 

Bo was the greatest leader at Michigan for decades. In the end, he notes that of everything he ever did "these values will outlast everything else I've done." 

Maybe if those values were given more than lip service over recent years, Michigan football  would be in a better place today. This is the real endzone at Michigan, not the Brandon story. 


September 10th, 2015 at 1:27 PM ^

Thanks for sharing your observations I really need to get a signed book.

The trophy story I had not heard and just makes me boggle at how a millionaire could lose his mind like this.


September 10th, 2015 at 2:54 PM ^

Question re Bacon: (mods I apologize if this is poor taste but I've been dying to ask this since last week's Utah trip)

Anyone have any insight on why several UM insiders don't speak favorably of Bacon? I asked a few former players and some inside the current program for their feelings about Bacon, the quality of his information and validity of his relationships to the program... The response was consistent and overwhelmingly negative... Nothing specific but almost that disdain you hear when mentioning DB...

Anyone hear or see anything similar? Could it be because some of this is too close to home? Or could it also be a few stretches of truths etc?

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


September 10th, 2015 at 3:02 PM ^

Do you think it is because many of the current players supported DB?  Just speculation, but many of the student athletes have very positive things to say about Brandon, and obviously the book doesn't paint a pretty picture.  Or perhaps they just don't like thinking that they are part of the the worst stretch of Michigan Football (part of the "fall").  Just a thought.


September 10th, 2015 at 5:00 PM ^

When Michigan won the national championship in Gymnastics, Brandon grabbed the trophy, before the coach, got his picture taken hoisting it aloft and then handed it back to the coach.

Ugh. That is cringe-worthy.