With the recent struggles of the Michigan football team and the decisions of Athletic Director Dave Brandon, there has been a lot of controversy. The football team suffered very disappointing games against Utah and Minnesota at the Big House and a shutout in South Bend. Brandon has received a lot of criticism for sacrificing the tradition of Michigan football for profit. After an incident during the Minnesota game where Coach Brady Hoke kept concussed quarterback Shane Morris in the game, people had enough, and controversy escalated. Used to football success, University of Michigan students and other Wolverine fans have become very frustrated, and want Hoke and Brandon out. Students chanted “Fire Hoke” during the loss to Minnesota. A student run petition to relieve Brandon from his duties has over 11,000 signatures. Students protested at University of Michigan’s President Schlissel’s home demanding that he fired Brandon.
I understand the current frustration with the situation, (as I am also frustrated), but I think fans are letting their emotions get ahead of them. As fans of the football program, we are letting a couple of losses make us jump to unfair conclusions about Dave Brandon. While I agree that a new football coach next season should be a priority, I think we are blaming misfortunes on Brandon that he is not responsible for and also criticizing him for actions that may be beneficial.
If the football team were performing at the level fans are accustomed to, there would be a lot less complaining. While people were concerned about Brandon’s decisions before the season, the large movement attempting to fire Brandon began after the football team started losing games. Growing up as a Golden State Warriors basketball fan, where they did not make the playoffs for more than a decade, I can tell you firsthand that when your team is losing, you are willing to blame anyone for any reason. In the petition to fire Brandon, it states, “Unfortunately, under Mr. Brandon’s tenure, the football program, one of the most prominent programs at the University of Michigan and in the nation, has become a black eye for the University of Michigan.” It also says “…the athletic department produces overwhelmingly negative media attention…” People think that the athletic department is attracting negative media attention because of the football team’s recent struggles. We have to remember that Brandon is not the one calling the plays on the sideline or making sure the quarterback has a concussion. Brandon has nothing to do with the decisions made in the games. The games that we have lost and the Shane Morris incident are on the shoulders of the coaching staff, not Dave Brandon. Although the trend of increased ticket prices is frustrating, the money that Brandon is generating is very beneficial. According to Kellie Woodhouse of MLive, Michigan football brought in 82 million dollars to the University of Michigan athletic program in the 2012-2013 season. The football team spends about 23 million dollars, leaving about 59 million dollars for other athletic programs. This money allows other teams without comparable ticket revenue to succeed. With these funds, new facilities and state of the art equipment can be purchased to enhance the athlete’s skills. Since Brandon took over in 2010, Michigan athletics has won 3 team national championships, more than 20 individual national championships, and numerous of Big Ten championships.
I think that Dave Brandon is an effective athletic director and a leader. In Max Weber’s lecture “Politics as a Vocation,” Weber says that a good leader has passion and commitment to a cause, responsibility, and a sense of proportion. In the petition, it says that Brandon stated, “Athletic programs play [a role] in helping to shape the culture and image of our university community.” While many people believe that Brandon has failed to “shape the culture and image of our university community” in a positive way because of our football program, I think that he has actually done a good job. When I was choosing schools to come to, the University of Michigan stood out because of all of the opportunities and programs that they offered to their students. Dave Brandon is committed and passionate about providing an opportunity for all athletic teams to succeed, just as the University is committed and passionate about providing opportunities for students in the classroom. Brandon saw that the football program is capable of providing enough money to support many sports team in the athletic department. He has a responsibility to do what is right for all of the programs. Many argue that Brandon does not have a sense of proportion for getting rid of tradition. According to ESPN, alumni are accusing Brandon for prioritizing revenue over tradition. Even though the tickets are more expensive, I do not see how any tradition is lost. Fans sing the same fight song, listen to the same songs the band plays, and chant the same cheers.
To summarize, it is unfair to fire Dave Brandon. After the recent losses, people have become very frustrated, and started falsely accusing Brandon for many of the football team’s problems. Dave Brandon does not make the decisions on the field, Coach Hoke does. The athletic department is not bringing in the bad media, the football team is. Even though increased prices in tickets is frustrating, that money is used to create opportunities for other athletic programs at U of M. Brandon fits Weber’s definition of a good leader because he is passionate and committed to allowing all teams to succeed, and is not letting his goal get in the way of tradition. Instead of using Dave Brandon as a scapegoat, we should support our football team to finish the season strong.