Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon reiterated Monday that it was coach Brady Hoke's decision to fire Al Borges and hire Doug Nussmeier as the football team's new offensive coordinator. (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
Detroit — Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon is in charge of the athletic department, not the every-day coaching and handling of the football program.
That falls to head coach Brady Hoke.
But Brandon has clearly heard comments he is calling the shots regarding football, including the most recent decision to fire offensive coordinator Al Borges and hire Doug Nussmeier, who spent the last two seasons at Alabama.
Brandon participated in a one-hour discussion with Channel 4 sports director Bernie Smilovitz during “Mondays with Bernie” on Monday night at the TAP at MGM Grand. They went over a wide-range of topics, including the perception he is running football, one that was heightened during Nussmeier's introductory news conference when Brandon took questions but Hoke did not.
“I have no idea where that (perception) comes from,” Brandon told a small group of reporters after the event.
He said he is not angered by it, but is confused.
“As to how anybody can draw that conclusion,” Brandon said. “I’m not a football coach, I have no experience as a football coach, I’ve never run a football program, and so how that conclusion has been reached by anybody is beyond me.”
Brandon said during his interview with Smilovitz that he was not surprised Hoke fired Borges, but he also wouldn’t have been surprised if Hoke had kept him on staff.
He insisted Monday that Hoke made the decision.
“I’ve said this a thousand times, and you can ask anybody who’s ever worked for the last 25 years — leaders get to pick their teams,” Brandon said to reporters. “How can you possibly hold somebody accountable if you tell them who they have to work with, who they should work with?
“Those are coaches’ decisions, and our coaches are in the best position to make those determinations because they’re working with those people every day, and they’re also the ones who have to recruit replacements.”
While Brandon said Michigan men’s basketball is “in a good place” right now, he can’t explain what happened to the football program last season as it went 7-6.
“I don’t think there’s an easy answer,” he told Smilovitz. “If there was, it would be an easy fix.”
Later, Brandon told reporters he understands the disappointment of Michigan’s fanbase.
“There are a lot of angry Lions fans, a lot of angry Pistons fans,” he said. “When fans don’t win, they’re not happy.
“We have a tradition of having winning programs. We have a tradition that’s important to us competing at the highest level and competing for championships, and we didn’t do that this last year, so everybody’s frustrated and disappointed in their own way. I’m not sure everybody’s angry. It’s not like we’ve never had years before we’ve disappointed.”
Here are some of the highlights of Brandon’s discussion with Smilovitz:
On thoughts of enlarging Michigan Stadium: “No, I think right now, we’re in a situation where the next commitment we make means we have to sell about 6,000 more tickets. We have to make sure waiting list is robust is enough.”
On his vocal support of Hoke the week of the Ohio State game because of rumors Hoke’s job was in danger: “I felt silly, like calling a press conference that we’re going to keep the winged helmet. I do believe (his blog and comments to The News) served its purpose. Often times there are people who want to stir the pot who have other interests.”
On rooting for Michigan State in the Rose Bowl: “You bet. (MSU athletic director) Mark Hollis is a great guy. (MSU coach) Mark Dantonio has done a terrific job, love the way they play football, hard-nosed. They’re our sister school, and they’re representing the Big Ten at the Granddaddy of Them All.”
On whether MSU’s success puts pressure on Michigan: “Our job isn’t to worry about Michigan State — our job is to worry about Michigan State when we go head-to-head. This rivalry goes through cycles. When I played here we beat Michigan State badly four years. Michigan State has definitely gotten the best of us the last few years.”
On playing for Bo Schembechler: “Bo Schembechler the head coach was mean and intense and at times we just thought he was crazy. There were times where you really disliked this man. He was a hard man to please. He just drove us, his desire to be successful and to get the most out of us. At the time, when you’re a kid you just think, ‘Why don’t you relax? Could you just back off a little bit?’ But then later when you grow up and get out in the real world … you understand why that mind-set was important.”
On running for public office: “No, that time has passed for me. I enjoy what I’m doing.”
On paying college athletes: “From my perspective we already pay the college athletes to play (with scholarships).”
On how many cups of beer were sold at Michigan Stadium during the NHL’s Winter Classic on New Year’s Day: “At $9 a cup, close to 75,000. That’s $650,000 worth of beer.”