Report on Schlissel/Ross Meeting Friday with Donors

Submitted by SF Wolverine on October 15th, 2014 at 6:14 PM

Have posted this in one of the "hurrah" threads among 200 other posts; in light of Bacon's reference to "big donors" and his tweet re Schlissel's meeting with them over the weekend, I thought this would be a good new thread.  So, SIAP.

I was at the "meeting" JUB references.  Really was a talk in the Ross School's first-floor auditorium, followed by a reception at the business school's Wintergarden (?).  President Schlissel was joined by Stephen Ross on the dias for an introduction of Schlissel to the donors and about 30 minutes of Q/A led by Ross.

Audience was perhaps 125+ people in the auditorium at the b-school.  Mostly folks in for the weeked events at various schools at UM to kick off the official launch of the new Victors for Michigan campaign.  I assume that this group consisted of involved, pretty big money-giving alums, who are on various committees whose purpose is to organize fundraising outreach to the broader alum base (and of course, to give themselves).  

I was concerned when it was clear that Ross was going to ask Schlissel pre-programmed questions, and VERY concerned when the first question out of his mouth was what was on everyone's mind -- the athletic program.  Seemed that this was chance for Ross to get Schlissel to publicly support DB.

That did not happen.  Schlissel talked about understanding importance of athletics, big programs (FB, MBB, Hockey), and about how it is an integral part of the many things about Michigan that are important to alums, and that draw alums together.  Noted a broad feeling that the program had lost its "direction" and that a lot of people were pissed (not his word) about it.  Used the term "reset" -- deliciously ambiguous -- with respect to a going forward plan, and later referred to $5 water as an example of the "drift" of the program as between making $ to support athletics and serving the fan base.

Let the speculation about what this means commence  My own read was that I expected either nothing said on this topic, or for Ross to use it as a chance to publicly stand behind Brandon, neither of which happened.  Certainly nothing that was said committed Schlissel to any course of action.

Lastly, Schlissel recounted having visitied the football team to talk to them about hanging in there, you have our support, etc.  Got big laughs and applause when recounting how he caught an overthrown Devin pass (not sure he caught the irony of that), and noting that it was the one time over the last weeks a photog had not been present.  Finished by making clear that he thought the team deserved full-throated fan support.  Which is, generally, what I saw that night from my seats.



James Burrill Angell

October 15th, 2014 at 8:06 PM ^

I was there too. It was in Blau Auditorium at the Ross School. The OP's post was pretty true to form. President Schlissel didn't mince words explicitly hitting on the "disappointment" mantra once again and making points to say he is just beginning to understand what athletics mean to our alums. I wouldn't say anything he said would be any kind of indication that a move is imminent. That said it was refreshing to hear express an understanding that people were pissed and that something was wrong. After about a decade of high level alumni involvement I'm used to University leaders managing to say absolutely nothing while using many many words. This wasn't the usual but again, wouldn't read into it.

One additional comment about the Victors for Michigan day I will make. They have these all campus events from time to time where they call the bigs donors and VforM campaign volunteers back to campus en masse. The last really big one was centered at Crisler Arena two years ago. Brandon was at those proceedings and was very very visible. I was sitting two rows behind him. Point being that he was previously very much around at these events. Friday he was absolutely nowhere to be found, even at the VforM All Campus Volunteer luncheon at the IM Building which would have been convenient since it was right around the corner from his office and because there wouldn't have been time for him to be talked to as opposed to seen as seating was assigned and mingle time was nominal.


October 16th, 2014 at 11:23 AM ^

became more hands on with Brandon, Brandon would resign. His ego is too big for anyone to tell him how to do his job and what is best for the athletic department.

Brandon has enough money not to worry about losing money by resigning. Because of his pride and self esteem he would rather walk than be told or needing approval on most of the department activities and decisions.

I don't believe Schlissel will fire him. If that was his intent he would have done so because he has plenty of reasons to do so.


October 15th, 2014 at 11:32 PM ^

For the record, those oft-cited comments about college athletics were nothing but positive.  He mentioned how important they were and only then said that athetics need to be in balance with academics (which, obvs).  But many people, it seems, only look at that last part and his factual statement that the word "athletics" doesn't appear in the University's mission statement.

A.C. Number 1 …

October 15th, 2014 at 6:32 PM ^

By the way guys, go easy on me. I am new at posting to this blog however..... I have been an avid reader of MGOBLOG for about 5 yrs. I have been a monster fan of Michigan for 45 yrs now. My first game at the Big House was when Anthony Carter was the man. I have been hooked ever since. Through thick and thin. I am a glass half full type of fan. Go Blue! We will be back! 


October 15th, 2014 at 8:40 PM ^

Your explanation seems a bit forced, and your motives for providing it seem a bit nefarious. 

"Hey guys, I've been here for a long time!  I have a completely average and reasonable reason for being here!  We have similar interests!  I'm just like you!"

Either you are setting up for an entrenched trolling, or the NSA has lost a lot of polish since the whole Snowden thing.


October 15th, 2014 at 6:26 PM ^

If my guess is right and I am not reading too much into this (which I could be), some of what this and Bacon's tweets about this meeting seem to mean is that donors probably won't stand in the way of any change if it occurs. If that is the case, then that's huge, I would think. If I am reading the signs correctly, there may not be much of a fuss made if certain people are asked to pack up their offices. 

SF Wolverine

October 15th, 2014 at 6:42 PM ^

Hearing what I wanted to hear perhaps, but since the questions Ross asked were clearly scripted, they must have discussed the answers (at least in a general way) in advance.  As I said, ambiguity, but for Ross to associate himself with something between ambiguity and a message that change is in the air makes me hope that Ross has said he is behind the school whomever the AD might be.

I also think a graceful exit is possible, and preferable.  Do a deal on the buyout, let DB resign, say nice things about the good things he did as he departs.  I know, many feel those are few and far between, but I'm OK with some logrolling if it gets this done cleanly and quickly.


October 15th, 2014 at 7:19 PM ^

I love the work our SF folks do. I did a lot of light and heavy weapons consultation and training with 1st and 5th SFG many years ago.   SF folks are just brilliant people, and it's a culture unparalleled in our armed forces.  

Thanks for your service. 


October 15th, 2014 at 7:19 PM ^

I'll buy that. Brandon doesn't have to be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. Let him leave with a nice golden parachute, a verbal pat on the back, and with as little drama as possible. I'm fine if he goes out with his dignity intact ... just as long as he goes.

The Geek

October 15th, 2014 at 8:03 PM ^

I am really beginning to like the hire of Dr. Schlissel.

He appears to be doing all of the right things -- and our alumni base is a very big "check" in the block. 

This is no small task, in fact it's one Dr. Schlissel probably wasn't banking on ever happening. DB is the only the 11th AD at U of M., and his predecessors are a who's-who (Yost, Schembechler, Crisler, Canham) of OMG greatness. It is a post most retire from. 

Based on your intel and other sources (JUB, others on this blog), I am willing to be patient and let Dr. Schlissel and the Regents come to a final, intelligent conclusion (read: golden parachute for DB). Unfortunately, I see no resignation in the future.

Stay fit!

James Burrill Angell

October 15th, 2014 at 8:20 PM ^

Schlissel definitely feels The Force flowing through his body. The man had a way of making it clear he at least was aware of and had control of the issue.

That said, he needs to make the decision soon and ride it. If a change is coming they have to get Brandon's replacement in by Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter to be in play for when the coaching carousel starts spinning.


October 15th, 2014 at 6:32 PM ^

You know, if after ConcussionGate if DB had a presser and said after a review of how things were handled we have decided to go back to the policy of allowing fans to bring unopened bottles of water to games, many in the mob would have dropped their torches or their pitchforks, not both just one or the other.

Presumably they will then have a bottle of water in their freed up appendage...must stay hydrated whilst mobbing.

I dumped the Dope

October 15th, 2014 at 6:47 PM ^

he talks about might be a reset in relations and strategies to rebuild relations and not the reset in personnel everyone is salivating about.  Read it again and I think you can see that possibility in his words.

The thing today's world its very difficult to fire someone because you don't like them.  Of course there's the monetary buyout option, can Schlissel force the budgetary hand of the Athletic Dept to buy out its own leader?  Or does the buyout money come from the academic side (General Fund) since he would make the call?  The former is sort of a LOL, non-disclosure compensation is bound to be negotiated, the latter is bound to stir up a lot of trouble if its true because its going to find its way to a headline(s) that's going to make the UM look foolish due to academics having to buy out the contract of the Ath Dir.

If one truly wants to fire a subordinate there are the "for cause" set of possibilities which involve a stupid amount of documentation to avoid wrongful termination lawsuits because there is a lot of ambiguity in job performance.  A more common tactic is to move the individual in question to a new job, one that they are not good at nor inherently comfortable with, and that usually leads somewhere without all the distasteful mudslinging.

We all can probably identify someone who by conventional wisdom is a proverbial anchor in our respective business organizations, its amazing how long they can stick around in many cases.



October 15th, 2014 at 8:11 PM ^

DB isn't to blame for that. Hoke and his staff are responsible for on-field activities. I'm still waiting to hear what happens to the neurosurgeon they had on the field who recognized the symptoms of a concussion and said that Morriss had to come out but couldn't bother to go down to the examination that the trainor then conducted.

Mr Miggle

October 15th, 2014 at 7:24 PM ^

for his full buyout. It's a black mark on his resume and he may still harbor political aspirations. A termination with cause would be messy for everyone involved. I would bet both sides have already been negotiating the terms of his departure. Ultimately I expect he'll be allowed to resign and get a partial buyout.

There is nowhere to move Brandon. Are they going to make him the interim coach? He's too high up for that to be a viable option.

True Blue Grit

October 15th, 2014 at 7:35 PM ^

Michigan will offer DB some sort of gracious way out.  This will be a position related to fund raising and strategic direction that doesn't involve interaction with the general fan base.  I think this is a good idea given Brandon's skill at schmoozing and fund raising.   It's really a win-win situation.  We'll see what happens.  

CRISPed in the DIAG

October 15th, 2014 at 9:11 PM ^

This is also what I thought on my first read. The "reset" could easily mean that the Athletic Department will simply retool its business practices which could - but not necessarily require a change of Director or even a football coach.

IIRC, Brandon's contract will be expensive to terminate for at least another year. In this light, the muckity-muck could be discussing exit strategies at one end or *merely* rearranging philosophies at the other.


October 15th, 2014 at 7:00 PM ^

I was chatting with a few of the alums/big donors the day after and the impression they got was that Schlissel essentially told them he would "handle it" (their words, unsure if that was actually used).


Grains of salt at secondhand info, but their impression was that he was just waiting to get a solid commitment from another AD and then would make the necessary changes.