Might it be time for a Michigan football to follow the example of Domino’s and reboot with an epic mea culpa?

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I don’t know how many University of Michigan football fans we have in the audience, but I’d be curious to know what those of you who pay face value for tickets thought of yesterday’s short-lived “buy two Coke products and get two free tickets” promotion, which essentially set the value of a U-M ticket below $1.50. I imagine, if I’d paid $75 a piece for tickets, I’d be kind of pissed.

I suspect that, under most circumstances, folks would be relatively forgiving, knowing that U-M is up against the wall, desperately fighting to fill the seats and maintain their four-decade long 100,000+ attendance streak, but, given the current state of affairs in Ann Arbor, my sense is that this might be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It would be one thing if people felt that the team was moving in the right direction, but, as things stand now, I don’t get the sense that folks are willing to give the Athletic Department the benefit of the doubt. The trust, I think, is pretty much gone. And that, it seems to me, is a bigger problem than the product on the field.

As much as many of us would probably like to lay everything at the feet of U-M Athletic Director Dave Brandon, a staunch Republican with ties to Romney and Bain Capital, the truth is, much of it is out of his control. Sports are changing at every level. As awesome as the game day experience might be at the Big House, people are increasingly making the decision to forgo the traffic, the parking fees, and the crowds, and stay at home, where the beer is plentiful, the bathroom lines are shorter, and every play can be seen multiple times in high-defiinition. More importantly, though, university culture is changing. More so now than ever before, the incoming Freshmen at Michigan aren’t kids who grew up here in the state, constantly subjected to grandparents who dress in maize and blue every Saturday and make it a habit of blasting 50 year old recordings of the Michigan marching band prior to every kick-off. Sure, if the team were playing better, as a better class of team were coming to Ann Arbor, the drop-off in attendance might not have been so precipitous, but I think the problem would still be there. While football still matters, it just doesn’t matter like it did in the 1950’s, when there was significantly less competition for our attention. And we need to accept that we can’t just market ourselves out of that problem. We need to change the recipe.

Not to pick on Brandon, but I think what the situation calls for is a big, public mea culpa, not unlike the one issued by Domino’s when Brandon stepped down as their CEO. For those of you who may not remember, the Ann Arbor-based pizza franchise essentially made a public announcement in 2010, stating that they’d been taking their customers for granted, and serving them shitty pizza. They faced their criticism head-on, owned up to their awfulness under Brandon, and said that they intended to win back the trust of the American people. The campaign, which featured teary-eyed Domino’s employees confessing to making inedible pizzas, was painful to watch, and absolutely crazy, but it worked. People respected them for it. And I imagine that it might just work for whomever follows Brandon at U-M.

I don’t know that it would fill the Big House to capacity, but someone, in my opinion, needs to say, “We’re sorry for the talk of drones and fireworks, and the prices we’ve been charging.” Someone needs to say, “Irrespective of whether we win or loose, we need to do a better job of listening to those of you who care deeply for this team and its traditions.” Someone needs to say, “We’re going to start treating you like a members of the family, and not just customers.” And, perhaps most importantly, someone needs to say, “Tickets for students, from this point forward, will be affordable.” If this ship is ever going to be righted, you need to get the undergraduates in the stands, investing in the experience, and laying the groundwork for long-term sustainability… Yes, winning is important, but my sense is that it’s not the main thing. The main thing is getting undergrads onboard, so that the traditions continue, and treating people like true partners. Michigan fans, I suspect, would forgive the occasional loss if they felt that they weren’t being sold a bill of goods.

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19 Comments

  1. Eel
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Brandon needs to bring the Noid to UM. We’ve been without a mascot for far too long.

  2. Pocket Beaver
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    I’m a Michigan fan and I agree with everything in this post. I feel like this is part of a larger trend of thinking that treating an institution (usually some public or government entity) like a “business,” and running it with business people, means that it will automatically create success.

  3. Jay Steichmann
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    pretty much agree here, Mark. I don’t have a horse in this race since I’m a Sparty, but I live in A2 and I hear the groaning. Most of the drop in student attendance is due to Brandon’s ill thought “first come, first seated” policy. He tried to fix a cosmetic problem-late arrival of students to the game-by abandoning the one quality that distinguishes most of Michigan’s view of itself: class advantage.

    They saw that a near 40 year old record might fall. They’ve had more than 100,000 per game since November 1975. With two losses to middling teams already on the books, they didn’t want to see that record fall with a Minnesota game at home. And face it, this season, all of their big rivalry games are away: Notre Dame, MSU, OSU are all road games.

    Hoke also seems woefully out of touch. Some of the criticism of Hoke at the beginning was that he didn’t seem to have all that great of a record at SDSU. he is clearly over his head here, and the Wolverine fans can only hope that the new president will sweep Brandon and Hoke with the same broom. Just not yet, OK? “Little Brother” is enjoying being top dawg in the state for now, and, with OSU down, we might just have another Rose Bowl coming.

  4. 734
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    I’m fine with giving tickets to students, but it should be the University giving the tickets, not a marketing partner like Coke. If you’re a Freshman at UM, you should get tickets along with your dorm assignments. It should be part of the deal.

  5. idea man
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Dave Brandon makes $850,000 a year. If tickets are valued at $1.50 a piece, that translates to 566,666 tickets. There are 7 home games a year. That would give him 80,952 tickets per game. The University of Michigan has 28,283 undergraduate students. Brandon could therefore afford to buy every student two tickets and still have 24,386 tickets left over, which he could trade for coke and pizza.

  6. Mike
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    All I wanted was a Pepsi.

  7. Elf
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Bain Capital destroys things and sells off the pieces.

  8. PrincessTinyMeat
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Football’s barbaric. Let’s channel our energies and monies into the arts.

  9. K2
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Maybe we’ll soon see what our new President is made of.

  10. Taco Farts
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Why will Michigan’s 100,000 streak never be broken (besides the fact that they’re the ones doing the ‘counting’)?

    Paid. Audience.

  11. Ankorage
    Posted September 26, 2014 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    John U. Bacon won’t be happy until he brings Brandon down.

    http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/road-saturday/201409/michigan-wolverines-football-dave-brandon-tickets-problems-corporate

  12. Brainless
    Posted September 26, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    From the Bacon article:

    “Michigan has somehow created a world where loyalty is punished with price hikes, and disloyalty is rewarded with freebies.”

    This sound remarkably like Comcast. “Stay with us and get a price hike, but new customers get killer (temporary) deals.”

    Folks are flocking away from them, too, Pizza Man.

  13. Mitch
    Posted September 27, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Brandon is on the defensive, calling on the University’s rich donors to stick up for him.

    http://www.crainsdetroit.com/mobile/article/20140927/NEWS/309289978/pressuring-david-brandon-over-football-woes-hurts-university-of

    The University of Michigan’s largest donor is giving an unequivocal vote of confidence to Athletic Director David Brandon, who has been under criticism for a struggling Wolverines football team along with increased event prices and marketing gimmicks.

    “He’s probably the most qualified athletic director in the country. I think he’s terrific,” said billionaire real estate developer Stephen Ross, a UM alumnus who has given the university $310 million in recent years.

    Ross, who owns the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins and is estimated by Forbes to be worth $6 billion, said his donations to the athletic department happened because he trusts Brandon.

  14. anonymous
    Posted September 28, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    You won’t get a new coach until Brandin is gone. No one with a damn would walk into the program the way things currently are. You need a new athletic director, one that doesn’t image himself to be a coach, watching tape with the team and going on recruiting visits.

  15. Maize and Blue
    Posted September 28, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I thought that you might like this blunt assessment of Hoke’s performance from Deadspin.

    “Brady Hoke is either blind, stupid, or a liar. Fire this asshole.”

    http://deadspin.com/brady-hokes-dangerous-incompetence-so-bad-espn-announce-1640003412

  16. anonymous
    Posted September 28, 2014 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    where was all the outrage when it was disclosed to the community that wolverine players like to rape undergrads (with impunity)?

    shitty teams are a drag, but rape is life-altering.

  17. Meta
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    That’s the sound of Brandon throwing Hoke under the bus.

    Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon released a statement just before 1 a.m. Tuesday morning regarding Michigan football’s handling of sophomore quarterback Shane Morris’ head injury Saturday against Minnesota.

    Brandon said he has had “numerous meetings since Sunday morning to thoroughly review the situation,” and determined that members of Michigan’s coaching staff and medical staff did not properly communicate.

    “In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline,” Brandon wrote. “Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes. I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made. We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first.

    “I, along with (associate athletic director for student-athlete health and welfare Darryl Conway) and our administrative and medical teams, have spent much of the last two days carefully reviewing the situation regarding Shane Morris. We now understand that, despite having the right people on the sidelines assessing our student-athletes’ well being, the systems we had in place were inadequate to handle this unique and complex situation properly.”

    Read more:
    http://www.mlive.com/wolverines/index.ssf/2014/09/dave_brandon_apologizes_for_ha.html

  18. Anonymous Mike
    Posted September 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    The students are circling Brandon. A protest against him is scheduled at 6:00 this evening on the Diag, and there’s an online petition urging President Schlissel to remove him.

    https://csg.umich.edu/upetition/p/fire-brandon/

    “Dave Brandon is the current Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Michigan. He has held the title since 2010. Upon being named the Athletic Director, Mr. Brandon stated “athletic programs play [a role] in helping to shape the culture and image of our university community.” 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. Instead of adding to the image and prestige of the university, the state of the athletic department has hurt the connection shared between alumni, fans, and the university. Furthermore, policies and decisions of the athletic department have alienated the current student body. As a result, the university risks producing a generation of alumni that are disinterested and disengaged. Finally, President Mark Schlissel previously stated that one draw of the athletic program is to provide an avenue for “public attention on to the other wonderful things that are happening on campus…” When the athletic department produces overwhelmingly negative media attention, it distracts from the main mission of the university.”

  19. Anonymous Mike
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    President Schlissel grabbed the situation by the balls and fired Brandon.

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