Amid an avalanche of criticism directed at the Michigan athletic department and the school’s awful football team, Dave Brandon resigned Friday as the university’s athletic director.
The resignation comes a week after the Michigan football team suffered another embarrassing loss to in-state rival Michigan State, a school Michigan has always viewed as inferior to the Maize and Blue but one that has dominated the rivalry in recent years.
The resignation also comes amid swirling criticism of the way Brandon has handled everything from the game-day experience at football games and the way the football staff handled a concussion suffered earlier this year by quarterback Shane Morris, who was allowed to go back into the game despite being unable to remain upright following a blow to the head against Minnesota. The incident prompted Brandon to issue an apology for the football staff’s botched handling of the situation.
Here’s what you need to know about Brandon and his rocky tenure in Ann Arbor:
1. Michigan Named Dave Hackett Its Interim Athletic Director
University President Mark Schlissel announced that Jim Hackett, a former Michigan football player who retired earlier this year as the CEO of a Grand Rapids-based furniture manufacturer, will take over as interim athletic director.
Like Brandon, Hackett played at Michigan under legendary coach Bo Schembechler in the 1970s.
Brandon’s resignation is likely yet another piece of bad news for embattled football coach Brady Hoke, whose job is widely seen as being in jeopardy and who is highly unlikely to survive under a new athletic director.
The Wolverines, who are 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten, are favored by only 7 points Saturday when they host lowly Indiana at Michigan Stadium.
2. People Were Calling for Brandon & Hoke to Be Fired Over the Shane Morris Concussion Debacle
Attempting to tame some of the public backlash against the football program, Brandon issued a 1 a.m. news release on September 30 apologizing for the team’s handling of a concussion suffered Morris, who was sent back into the game despite being so groggy he couldn’t stand up without help from two teammates. (Watch the video of the sequence above.)
Brandon’s statement came two days after coach Brady Hoke told reporters he had no knowledge of Morris suffering a head injury when he sustained a vicious helmet-to-helmet blow during the Wolverines’ loss to Minnesota.
The team’s botched handling of Morris’ concussion brought further negative attention to a program and an athletic department that were already reeling because of poor on-field play and declining fan interest.
3. Brandon Is the Highest Paid Employee at Michigan
Brandon, who signed a five-year deal when he was hired in 2010, made $850,000 in 2013, making him the highest paid employee at the university, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The Free Press reported that Brandon’s salary, which is paid out of the self-sufficient athletic department budget rather than the school’s general fund, was almost $250,000 more than the school’s second-highest paid employee, President Mary Sue Coleman.
Hoke and men’s basketball coach John Beilein made $300,000 and $350,000, respectively, in base salary, though both coaches receive additional compensation for media appearances and endorsements.
Prior to being hired as athletic director in January 2010, Brandon served for 11 years as the president and CEO of Ann Arbor-based Domino’s Pizza. He still serves as the company’s non-executive chairman.
While Brandon was CEO, the company came out with the largest initial public offering ever for a restaurant company.
Brandon and his wife, Jan, have four children and seven grandchildren.
4. Brandon Fired Rich Rodriguez in 2010 & Replaced Him With Brady Hoke
A year after he was hired, Brandon fired football coach Rich Rodriguez after three disastrous years during which the Wolverines went 15-22 overall and 6-18 in the Big Ten and the NCAA launched an investigation into whether Rodriguez violated rules on how often and for how long the Wolverines practiced.
Brandon then turned the program over to Hoke, a former assistant who had been serving as the head coach at San Diego State following a head-coaching stint at Ball State.
Hoke’s tenure got off to a good start with an 11-2 season in 2011, but things went downhill after that. The Wolverines went 8-5 in 2012 and 7-6 last year, putting Hoke on somewhat shaky ground heading into this season.
Brandon had no athletic administrative experience prior to being named athletic director. But he did have a background in Michigan sports, having played for three seasons under legendary coach Bo Schembechler from 1971-73 before graduating in 1974 with a degree in education.
The Wolverines won three Big Ten titles while Brandon was on the team.
5. You Could Get Free Tickets to the Michigan-Minnesota Game by Buying 2 Bottles of Coke
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) September 23, 2014
In the eyes of many Michigan season-ticket holders, the low point in the program’s history may have come when the university was so desperate to sell sell tickets to the Michigan-Minnesota game that the school offered free tickets to the game along with Coke products bought at local convenience stores.
The move came off as both a tacky sign of desperation and an insult to season-ticket holders who have paid a small fortune to get into the Big House.
In a scathing column for ThePostGame.com, John U. Bacon writes about a Michigan athletic department that has lost its way under Brandon, jacking up ticket prices, replacing diminishing the role of the university’s world-renowned marching band in favor of loud rock music, and, yes, giving away tickets for buying a couple bottles of coke.
The department has resorted to desperate measures to keep the streak going, selling deeply discounted tickets on Groupon, Livingsocial and Amazon, and dumping thousands of free tickets on local schools, churches, camps, the ushers, Michigan golf club members and the student-athletes — and yes, through Coca-Cola giveaways — urging them all to come to the games. It’s good that people who couldn’t afford to pay full price, especially kids, are visiting the Big House for the first time — but that’s not why the department is doing it.
So far, the department has been blessed with gorgeous weather for all three home tailgates, and has managed to draw enough fans each game to claim with a straight face that the attendance streak is still going. Sure, they’re covering the foundation’s cracks with wallpaper — but that’s load-bearing wallpaper. It’s best not to pull on it.