Dave Brandon served the University of Michigan well
University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon resigned Friday afternoon. The move is a loss for the athletic department and the university as a whole, and comes at a time when Michigan's football team, in particular, needs all the consistency it can get.
But a poor won-loss record and bumbling by his football coaching staff started a backlash that eventually drew in university donors. And once the people who write the checks lose faith, there's little choice but for the president to act.
Still, Brandon made changes and improvements to the department that butted up against some of the more hide-bound traditions of the university, which has resisted the kind of change he introduced.
Brandon, who attended U of M and played under legendary Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler, raised impressive amounts of money for the department, which led to facility improvements and an expansion of the whole athletic campus.
He was also able to increase attention to women's athletics and non-revenue sports that often get overlooked.
He raised academic standards for athletes, brought in additional counseling and help, and made academics a more important part of the department's overall mission.
His downfall, in part, was his aversion to pander to former athletes, alumni and other constituencies that are used to being courted by the university.
If Michigan's football team was 7-0 going into this weekend, Brandon likely wouldn't be resigning.
But he's been caught in the discontent from Coach Brady Hoke's failure to produce wins.
The inability to win was compounded by quarterback Shane Morris' head injury last month. Brandon and Hoke both came under fire after it was revealed Morris suffered a probable concussion while playing, but was not removed immediately from the field. Students on campus have even held rallies against Brandon.
Michigan football fans take their team and sport seriously, and for life. It's surely been no small challenge for Brandon to prioritize appeasing former players, university alumni and the Board of Regents, while still focusing on those he's there to serve: current students in the athletic department.
His passion for those students, and the coaches of Michigan's various sports teams, wasn't enough in the end. By the time Brandon left, he had lost the student body, whose members organized a protest and a petition drive whose goal was Brandon's depature.
Michigan's athletic department is one of the best in the country. It was made better by Brandon's time there, despite the inadequacies of the football team.