UM varsity sport coaches sign letter supporting Brandon

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

UM athletic director Dave Brandon has been under increased scrutiny in the wake of the football team’s struggles and how a concussion was handled.

Five days after Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon came under intense national and local scrutiny for the athletic department's handling of an injured football player, the head coaches of every UM varsity sport signed a letter of support sent to the university president.

The letter, on UM Athletics letterhead and dated Oct. 2, 2014, indicated "unanimous support" for Brandon and was signed by every coach, including football coach Brady Hoke and basketball coach John Beilein. It was addressed to new university president Mark Schlissel.

But not-so-favorable results of a student-run online petition asking Brandon to step down were analyzed by the Michigan Daily, the student newspaper, and they were published Oct. 3.

Of the 10,745 signatures analyzed, nearly 5,000 were students, but 30 had "professor" in the title and, interestingly, 110 were affiliated with intercollegiate athletics.

Bobby Dishell, president of Michigan's central student government, will present those results during his "Student Government Report" in Thursday's University of Michigan Regents public meeting at UM's Flint campus. Otherwise, there is nothing on the meeting agenda specific to athletics.

That can change, of course, and there is a public comments period regarding non-agenda items at the conclusion of the meeting.

Brandon and the football program have been the subject of intense scrutiny since Michigan's Sept. 27 game against Minnesota at Michigan Stadium. Quarterback Shane Morris, later diagnosed with a "probable mild concussion" and a high ankle sprain, stayed in the game for one play after a hard fourth-quarter hit. Morris wobbled after getting up from the hit and needed assistance to stand from a teammate. He left the game after the next play but returned for one play shortly after when quarterback Devin Gardner's helmet came off.

The story and video of a wobbly Morris appeared on various national networks Sunday and Monday after the game. Brandon then authored a lengthy statement after piecing together the events of that game night and the aftermath. The statement was publicly released just before 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Students then protested Brandon during a rally, and the online petition gained steam.

Also on Oct. 2, the date of the letter signed by Michigan varsity coaches, Brandon conducted one-on-one interviews with a number of media outlets. He was apologetic and said there was a breakdown in communication with the medical staff regarding the Morris injury. He absolved the coaching staff.

While Brandon, who has focused on marketing the "brand" of Michigan, has been responsible for improving the athletics facilities campus, adding lights to Michigan Stadium for the now-popular "Under the Lights" games and bringing major money-making events to Michigan Stadium like the NHL's Winter Classic and a soccer event in August, he has had a series of stumbles.

Michigan has struggled to fill Michigan Stadium this season in part because the team was coming off a 7-6 season and has an unattractive home schedule. But Brandon raised ticket prices for students. Then there was a bungled Coke promotion the week of the Minnesota game. It was pulled after an hour, but the damage had been done – two face-value $75 tickets for the purchase of two Coke products.

In the Regents meeting agenda for Thursday, the Student Government Report will be the last of the reports scheduled. Dishell's second item involves Michigan athletics. He will present the findings of the online Upetition that is open to anyone with a umich.edu login credential.

The petition, now with more than 11,100 signatures, was in response to Morris' re-entry into the game after being concussed. It asks Brandon to step down, citing he had "alienated the current student body."

Schlissel has the authority to fire Brandon — the Regents do not — but their influence on the president's decision cannot be undervalued. Brandon, a former Michigan football player and Regent, began his tenure March 8, 2010. In 2012, his contract was extended through 2018.

Complete text of letter:

Dear President Schlissel:

With all the negative voices displaying their displeasure with University of Michigan Director of Athletics Dave Brandon, every head coach of a varsity athletic team at U-M would like to counter those voices with a letter of unanimous support.

Immediately after Dave Brandon was named Director of Athletics in 2010, he raised the bar of success for all sports, their staffs and most important, the Michigan student-athletes. The continued improvement of the athletic facilities, increased support staff, higher quality travel conditions and a greater emphasis on academic support of all of our 900 plus student-athletes are just some of the advancements we have been a part since 2010. New initiatives and more individual mentoring are now in place to ensure our student-athletes are academically prepared. Programs to create opportunities for career planning, future employment and post-graduate advancement are now an integral aspect of the student-athlete experience at U-M.

One of our guiding principles of this Michigan Athletic Department culture is to create positive academic and athletic experiences for our student-athletes and prepare them to be successful in life. Now, our student-athletes for the revenue and Olympic sports feel more prepared, valued, and appreciated.

The University of Michigan prides itself on developing future leaders, and this Michigan Athletic Department with the leadership of Dave Brandon is developing men and women to be the "Leaders and Best."

Thank you,

Red Berenson

Head Ice Hockey Coach

Carol Hutchins

Head Softball Coach

Mike Bottom, Mike Hilde

Head Men's & Women's Swimming & Diving Coach

Bev Plocki

Head Women's Gymnastics Coach

Kurt Golder

Head Men's Gymnastics Coach

Erik Bakich

Head Baseball Coach

Greg Ryan

Head Women's Soccer Coach

Chaka Daley

Head Men's Soccer Coach

Mark Rosen

Head Volleyball Coach

Dr. Marcelo Leonardi

Head Water Polo Coach

Adam Steinberg

Head Men's Tennis Coach

Ronni Bernstein

Head Women's Tennis Coach

Brady Hoke

Head Football Coach

Marcia Pankratz

Head Field Hockey Coach

Jerry Clayton

Head Men's Track & Field Coach

Kevin Sullivan

Head Men's Cross Country Coach

Mike McGuire

Head Women's Cross Country Coach

Joe McFarland

Head Wrestling Coach

John Beilein

Head Men's Basketball Coach

Kim Barnes Arico

Head Women's Basketball Coach

Jennifer Ulehla

Head Women's Lacrosse Coach

John Paul

Head Men's Lacrosse Coach

Chris Whitten

Head Men's Golf Coach

Jan Dowling

Head Women's Golf Coach

Mark Rothstein

Head Rowing Coach

James Henry

Head Women's Track & Field Coach

Copy of the letter sent to Michigan president Mark S. Schlissel