Brandon and Hoke applaud Wolverines' perseverance
Ann Arbor — Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, who in the last two weeks has been the subject of an on-campus student protest and an online student petition to have him fired, and of considerable speculation about his future, admitted it has been a difficult time.
Brandon, as he usually does, accompanied Michigan coach Brady Hoke to his postgame news conference Saturday night after the Wolverines ended a three-game losing streak with an 18-13 victory over Penn State. He stood in the back with other athletic department administrators.
"It's been very tough for everybody, everybody affiliated with the program," Brandon said as he followed Hoke out of the room. "It's not just about me. It's been tough for Michigan athletics, for everybody, and our kids.
"It's a big win, we're very happy."
Since the Big Ten opener against Minnesota in which quarterback Shane Morris took a big fourth-quarter hit that left him wobbling as he got to his feet and needed assistance from a teammate to keep his balance, Brandon and the Michigan program have taken considerable hits.
Morris stayed in the game for the next play before leaving, limping badly on a sprained left ankle. He returned a few plays later for one play in relief of Devin Gardner, whose helmet had come off. It was later revealed that Morris suffered what Michigan in a release called a "probable mild concussion."
Mainstream media across the country picked up the story and challenged the program on the grounds of player safety.
Brandon, more than a week ago, conducted a series of individual interviews to discuss the statement the school had released three days after the Minnesota game.
Since then, he has been out of the spotlight. Last Wednesday, Michigan president Mark Schlissel attended practice and spoke to the team. He was accompanied by Mike DeBord, a U-M sports administrator for Olympic sports who also spends a good deal of time with the football program.
There has been much speculation about Brandon's absence during Schlissel's visit.
Hoke said the victory over Penn State, which improves Michigan to 3-4 overall, 1-2 Big Ten, helped break the tension of the last few weeks. Several hundred former players showed up Saturday to support the team as the players walked off the bus and toward the locker room and later formed a tunnel the Wolverines ran through at the start of the game. Several former players spoke to the team Friday night after practice.
But the win was something Michigan needed on a number of levels.
"I think the way our guys have handled the last two weeks, I don't know if many football teams can do that and persevere like they have and stay together like they have," Hoke said. "I give those kids a lot of credit."