The pros and cons of Dave Brandon

Submitted by go16blue on June 13th, 2011 at 7:39 PM

A new post about Yost possibly being renovated got me thinking, while you could argue that DB's corporate attitude has harmed the program (jerseyz, for example), he has undoubtedly also helped it (renovations and new scoreboards in all 3 major venues).

So my question is: who would you prefer; a corporate type like DB who improves facilities, stadiums, etc while "selling out" some of UM's tradition, OR a more traditional AD who may not bring a lot of improvements to UM's sports programs, but also doesn't mess with UM's tradition, etc.



June 13th, 2011 at 7:41 PM ^

The problem with your analysis is that DB DOES understand tradition. He was on the team under bo.  Its not like he's some random corporate guy that we sold out too....


June 13th, 2011 at 7:42 PM ^

shouldn't we be able to have our cake and eat it too?  shouldn't the model AD bring in the new while still paying homage to the old?  brandon has done a good job for the most part, and if you look at the things we complain about, they're rather small in the big picture.  but its those small things that make all the difference.



and just to preempt the inevitable: unchecked, this thread will burn into a RR thread.  dont do it.  i will send spider monkeys to gouge out your eyes.


June 13th, 2011 at 7:43 PM ^

I love what Brandon is doing.  He is the 'corporate' type you talk about but being a former player under Bo there are things that will never be changed.  He'll be the perfect balance in my opinion.


June 13th, 2011 at 8:01 PM ^

I don't understand what makes him so corporate other than he was CEO of a corporation before.  He's marketing the brand name and keeping it fiscally viable to have the other sports teams funded and also huge renovations to the Big House (that was Martin) but also Crisler and Yost.  

If I was the AD I'd do the exact same thing.  That's kind of your job as AD of an elite athletic department.  Labeling him corporate has a ridiculous stigma that he doesn't care about traditions or it's all in the name of making $$$.  He's doing exactly what he should be doing- that doesn't make him "corporate."  If he's corporate then every major athletic department in the country is corporate, which there is an argument for, but it doesn't make Brandon any different.


June 13th, 2011 at 8:15 PM ^

I think people mean personality more than skillset. Obviously BCS AD's are all big time execs, but if you read Brandon's writing or hear him talk, it sounds like he wishes he was doing a Power Point presentation after handing out presentation binders.

Not to say this is a good or bad thing; it could be either depending on your view.

Deep Under Cover

June 13th, 2011 at 8:30 PM ^

I disagree in that I think people mean the stigma associated with the word "corporate", as in cold, calculated, and purely bottom-line driven.

DB clearly has the bottom line in mind, but I do not believe he sacrifices tradition as an expense (not to say that is what you are implying by any means).

In regards to your post about the "process", I frankly don't see how it could have gone much differently given how borderline the season was to many people who witnessed it.  But, that topic has been beaten to death so I do not wish re-open it.


June 13th, 2011 at 8:40 PM ^

I do think that corporate can have a stigma associated with it. Personally, I don't associate the two and think he does a good job at applying the principles he's learned at publicly traded companies to a very visible AD job. The AD bottom line should say that on its own.

I'll just say this about the process: Brandon would have been better served, IMO, acting decisively either way, as the leader of the M fanbase. You mention the fanbase split into thirds, but I would have preferred even a "wrong" action than the inaction we saw for so many weeks. Obviously this all seems moot because a vast majority of the fanbase is now happy with the way things are headed, and rightfully so.


June 13th, 2011 at 9:05 PM ^

Yesterday, Brandon MCed the DC Alumni Club's Coaches Tour and was great:  funny, personable, engaging and obviously very smart.  After introducing all the coaches and acting as intermediary for all the audience questions, he stood around and talked to everyone who wanted to talk, signed autographs, kissed babies, you name it.  I was neutral before the event but left a fan.  He had great answers and showed great insight and appreciation for all of our traditions and values.


June 13th, 2011 at 9:33 PM ^

All of that might be true, and probably is if you say so. Still, I think DB has ways of doing things, like the way he speaks, writing with exclamation points after every sentence, that definitely show his background. As I said before, it's not a bad thing, and doesn't make him heartless.

Without getting into any of the politics behind it, I think Mitt Romney and DB think alike (in approach, not politics or outcome or anything like that) and by most accounts Romney did well when he was engaging with followers.


June 14th, 2011 at 9:32 AM ^

Interesting, it seems this "important meeting" might have been a late breaking development. In Boston Brandon was talking about how he had to get to New York for the next event just seconds before leaving. I wonder what could have changed.

For the record, he seemed like a nice guy and was engaging. On the whole he's been a positive for the university. I can't say I've agree with him on everything. I'm not really a big fan of the night game jerseys (at least they don't look nearly as bad with short sleeves) or how he's handled one or two issues. My concern, and I think the reason he's being called "corporate", is that he doesn't seem to give much weight to the fans' opinions. He hinted as much at the alumni event. In the end I think what most of us want most is an athletic department that wins with integrity, so if he can continue delivering on that he'll be just fine.


June 13th, 2011 at 10:59 PM ^

I stood 6 feet from him and the coaches last night in DC, and I can tell you that he did not behave as though he wished he were pointing to powerpoint slides or handing out presentation binders.  He was engaging, frank, honest, and EXTREMELY snarky which is about as anti-corporate as you can get within the confines of decency (and something I enjoyed greatly - watch the videos of the event).  I was very impressed.


June 13th, 2011 at 11:47 PM ^

Alumni event he was funny, accomodating, and said he's personally responsible for over 800 student athletes. He talked about his personal involvment in day to day recruiting and has said in the past that his door is always open. The second question he fielded was from some 8 or 10 year old kid wearing a helmet. He seems like a great guy. I think someone was putting words in his mouth.


June 14th, 2011 at 12:21 AM ^

One of the things you can do after the verb "say" in English is to paraphrase something somebody said. If I had put the phrase in question in quotation marks, your question would be reasonable. I meant to be paraphrasing the quotes below, if you care. Since I'm sure you won't just let it go, I do admit that I should have included the qualifier "part of" before "his job" in order to be precise.


"From a marketing guy's perspective, I think it was a great opportunity for sampling the product," Brandon said. "Our team played great and we won a big rivalry game and I'm hopeful that we'll see it show up in season ticket sales and single ticket sales at Yost because I think there’s a lot of people today that really saw what Michigan hockey’s all about."

“Well, the first thing is I want to grow and grow in every way. I want to grow in facilities, want to grow in the number of student athletes that we have participating in Michigan athletics. I want to grow the number of sports that we offer. I want to grow the crowds that we bring to our venues. I want to grow our revenue streams to afford us the ability to reinvest in the program. So growth is a real part of what I want to accomplish. "The second thing I want to do is really work on building this brand. It is a global brand and we’re in a strong position to help the university by really positioning that brand as pre-eminent and leadership oriented. And through some of our new marketing initiatives and the new marketing organization that we put together, we have a lot of strategies in place to really help drive that brand. In the aftermath of an NCAA investigation and three disappointing years in football, which is kind of our lead program, we have a lot of work to do to really bring our brand back to where we want it to be in terms of preeminence nationally."

Given all that, I don't see why anyone would want to argue about whether Brandon is "corporate"--the only thing missing is the overuse of the word "synergy" and its derivatives. Some of the other commenters assumed that I was criticizing Brandon for his corporatism; see my response to some of that below if you're interested.


June 14th, 2011 at 12:37 AM ^

For the record, my post was not intended to be snarky at all.  Why are you so mad? 

Your post seemed to suggest that he viewed making money as his primary objective.  I don't think he would view it that way.  As a practical matter, he has to make sure our revenue streams are adequate, but I don't think he sees that as being more important than the well-being of the programs and their athletes.


June 14th, 2011 at 2:38 AM ^

Why are you so mad?  

I always read the questions you ask when you're obviously just telling somebody that they're wrong as extremely snarky. Apparently you don't intend them that way, and it was pretty hypocritical of me to condescend to you while simultaneously jumping on MGoAero for putting words in my mouth, so please accept my apologies. In general, the whole spectacle of people whining about the jerseys (a topic which appears to me to be possibly the least important that could ever be discussed when it comes to M football) has lowered the default level of respect I've been giving people around here. I'm still ambivalent about who's to blame for that (seriously, jerseys?), but it seems like I probably ought to cool it. So as not to Tressel it: sorry.

Back on topic, it's never been clear to me that DB distinguishes carefully in his thinking between growing revenue streams and caring for the well-being of the programs and their athletes. He talks about the 4 things he wants to do in this interview. They are (1) grow, (2) build the brand, (3) innovate and leverage technology, and (4) improve talent and culture. Aside from the fact that he sounds like he's hitting talking points from some business book or other, the culture bit of (4) is the only one that's potentially concerned with "the well-being of the programs and their athletes"--but it's unclear what the culture part is supposed to be other than working hard and being good. The well-being of the student-athletes doesn't obviously feature in what he says. The lion's share of (2) and a big part of (1), meanwhile, are explicitly money-related.


June 14th, 2011 at 12:24 AM ^

i didn't say he wasn't good enough for me. i was just informing somebody on the internet of something they didn't know.

in case you care what i actually think, i think he's kind of a dick for being dismissive about advice fans give him, and occasionally a pragmatic liar (see: jerseys), but i think he's a pretty great AD so far anyway. witness my comment here:

Ron Swanson

June 13th, 2011 at 7:44 PM ^

Dave Brandon is unique and valuable because he was a top businessman who played football for Bo.  I believe he understands the traditions a little better than we do.  Not to mention he probably has the entire alumni association in his ear keeping him in check.  So who would I prefer?  Both, because that's pretty much what we have.


June 13th, 2011 at 9:30 PM ^

Goal oriented, centered, knows exactly what direction he wants his programs to go and knows how he wants to get there.  Strong leader, self confident and now comes the most important part.  He knows the Michigan landscape as a Football Player he knows the traditions and what everything means to Alumni, to Boosters to Fans and esp to Players!  He has served on the Board of Reagents, he has been a corperate CEO.


His backround came in perfect to meld the fans back together.  His leadership thru the ncaa was perfect taking over for something that never should have happened.  The hiring process imo he made one mistake and that was not making the decision after the osu game and waiting till the bowl game...Imo he had what he needed. 


Publicity, idk, he is a little overboard and as he says the job should be about Michigan, and in my mind that means more of the head coaches and players and less of him.  But I'll take this any day over Bill Martin not stepping up and being the leader we needed in crisis.


Renovations, right now this is all Bill Martin and he deserves total credit for that, Brandon walked in at the end, and one thing I respected that Brandon did was have Bill Martin do the ribbon cutting and give him the credit for the stadium renovation.


June 13th, 2011 at 7:47 PM ^

What are his cons? Does our tradition cease to exist because of a jersey we will see worn for a matter of three hours? Are we not the same Michigan we always were before this "jersey" dilemma? I think its a matter of pride more then anything for most of you. Bite the bullet and enjoy alittle flair once in awhile. The pros entirely eliminate any cons you can think of. We will always carry the same tradition, with or without jerseys(and night games). It's exciting, so enjoy it.


June 13th, 2011 at 7:47 PM ^

There are two ways to get back to the BCS. 1. Work hard to ensure that you are evolving with the landscape of college football, that you continue developing and marketing a brand that is strong, recognizable, and on par with other great institutions who originally modeled themselves after you... To do this and win over both new members to your massive fan base as well as recruiting classes to your campus. OR.... 2. Tresseling.


June 13th, 2011 at 7:48 PM ^

It's not quite as simple as "tradition vs. corporatism."  If you want to field 20+ varsity sports teams (we're going to be up to 27 soon), you have to constantly expand your revenue streams, because the costs of fielding these teams (including, but not limited to, paying skyrocketing tuition rates) keeps on increasing.  Many schools are going in the opposite direction, cutting money-losing sports.  We've made the decision to not only keep all our sports programs going (even though most of them bleed red ink) but to actually add more of them.  If you're in favor of that, you should welcome the new jerseys and all the other marketing schemes, because those will help pay for them.  


Omar Comin Yo

June 13th, 2011 at 7:48 PM ^

Imo he has done a wonderful job thus far.. The way he fired RR was a bit odd.. He screwed Rich out of a coaching job somewhere this year. Other than that Renovations were neccesary and draw in recruits in a much more effective manner. A-.


June 13th, 2011 at 7:52 PM ^

As well, we're coming out of our worst three year stretch in decades. We are already questioning the guy cause a jersey? Were acting like classic, entitled Michigan fans. Let's give this guy a few years at the helm before we preemptively decide that we, somehow, deserve better than what our harsh unfounded speculations dictate. Let's just win some goddamn football games.


June 13th, 2011 at 7:53 PM ^

Its still a little too early define the Dave Brandon era. Overall, I'd say so far its going well. Think about what he has had to do:1) guide us (at least partly) through the Jihad and the NCAA mess and 2) hire a new football coach. I think UM came out OK with the NCAA and we'll see about the Hoke hire which at least so far has everyone thinking positively. 

Don Canham was a little out there back in the 70s with his ideas about marketing and promotion. By the end, he was considered one of the most successful and even powerful people in college athletics.

Going back to my era, as long DB doesn't hang K-mart lettering around the Stadium, I'll be happy.


June 13th, 2011 at 7:58 PM ^

What Canham did - basically invent the whole concept of sports merchandising by putting our logo on anything and everything that could be sold- pushed the envelope a lot further (relative to where it had been) than what Brandon has done.  And every AD since him has continued to push it further.  In the 1990s, alternate maize uniforms for basketball and hockey - a pure money grab - suddenly materialized, and the Nike swoosh prominently graced our football uniforms.  Strangely, these generated less controversy than the one-time throwback uniforms we've introduced under Brandon.  It seems like it's Brandon's corporate background, more than anything he's actually done, that fuels this cynicism.


June 13th, 2011 at 10:00 PM ^

including scoreboard ads at Yost and Crisler.  I hope it doesn't happen to the scoreboards in the Big House.  And the logos seem to be getting bolder (at least on the jerseyz).

I don't see it as epidemic.  I just would rather see a block M on my Curly Fries than Curly Fries on my block M.


June 13th, 2011 at 11:24 PM ^

goes back to "the swoosh" in the '90's, which I wasn't crazy about either.

If anything irritates me, it is hearing how the Oregon-ization of M's 130-year tradition is being shrugged off, so soon after RR's career here was being sandbagged with snark like "he doesn't get it." It makes me wonder what all that fuss was really about.

It's true that the almighty dollar has always been a part of the M tradition, going back to Yost and the stadium in 1929. So maybe it was only luck that gave us stability in M's visual symbols from Crisler to Schembechler. The swoosh was the camel's nose in the tent, and once we go the OSU way of wearing Halloween costumes for big games, we will probably depart the ranks of tradition-driven programs like Texas and Penn State.


June 14th, 2011 at 12:46 AM ^

Texas and PSU might be tradition-driven in terms of their team uniforms, but not necessarily in terms of the gameday experience.  PSU practically introduced RAWK to the college game, and Texas's stadium is covered in advertising.  Everyone is "selling out" in some way or another these days.


June 14th, 2011 at 7:55 AM ^

As far as the swoosh, bring it back. Nike is still king in the zeitgeist and I'm convinced our adidas affiliation hurts in recruiting. Stupid reflection on the times, but the truth.


June 13th, 2011 at 9:47 PM ^

I'm glad someone has reminded everyone that the tradition of Michigan Athletics has always had a strong eye on the bottom line and commercialization. The reason the stadium is the size it is, located where it is, and designed the way it is is because of commercial reasons. Fielding Yost wanted a big place which could draw a huge crowd and spent lot of his time selling bonds to help fund the construction.

There isn't anything wrong with trying to limit commercialization - I'd hate to see naming rights be sold for the stadium for example, but historically even before Canham, the people who ran athletics kept an eye out financially.



June 13th, 2011 at 7:54 PM ^

The jerseyz aren't ruining anything.  The vast majority of Michigan fans disagree with you including the players, former players, and many recruits.  I know it's cool to keep saying that but it's not a very good point to raise as a negative for DB.  

The jersey thing is especially funny to me because it's a microcosm of what everybody used to bitch constantly about: how vanilla the program is - how we're not modern enough - how we're not in the cutting edge anymore with the elite programs.  

Brian has his opinion and I respect it although I disagree.  Do me a favor and look at the jerseys again and ask yourself if they set the program back in any way at all.  If you come back with a Yes, then you're the same thing as the get off my lawn, stuck in the past Michigan fan that will inevitably be yelling at people in their section of Michigan stadium for being too loud or standing up at a football game a few years from now.  

If anything Brandon is restoring a lot of what made Michigan great in the past.  If Yost and Crisler were so afraid of our traditions or of creating new ones we never would've built the Big House or had wings on our helmets.