Hackett not sure he wants to be UM's permanent AD

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Interim AD Jim Hackett shows off his Nike-themed screen saver on his phone.

Ann Arbor — Jim Hackett, the former Michigan football player and retired CEO of Steelcase, has been a busy man since taking over as his alma mater's interim athletic director late last fall.

He has fired a football coach (Brady Hoke), hired a new coach (Jim Harbaugh) and inked what he said is the most lucrative college apparel deal in the country (Nike) — the financial details are expected to be revealed next week.

Michigan announced the long-term deal with Nike on Monday, and Hackett met with a small group of reporters on Tuesday to discuss a number of topics.

Hackett remains unclear on whether he wants to become the permanent athletic director, saying he has his head down and is working on three more substantial projects, although he wouldn't be specific about their nature.

"I've got to get my arms around it, but I'm not there yet," Hackett said about the athletic director job. "I've got to be clear for everybody. I know it sounds funny to you, there's not a hidden thing. It's working, so why mess with it? I want to remove any of the speculation in all that. But right now I've got more issues I've got to tackle."

Part of the reason, he said, is because of the newness of so many factors. University president Mark Schlissel had been on the job only a few months when athletic director Dave Brandon resigned on Oct. 31 and Hackett took over as interim. Hackett and Schlissel are still getting to know each other and their jobs.

"There's a puzzle," Hackett said. "When I came here, the president had been on the job eight weeks, six weeks. I had not been on campus other than advisory roles. I had been retired a short time, and there were a sea of problems that weren't just athletic, like transitional, a lot of pieces moving."

In the midst of that transition, there were so many issues involving the football program, and Hackett believed to focus on whether he would be anything beyond interim athletic director would take attention away from what needed to be done.

"It would be like a forced marriage, and what's the probability that will live like my 39 years of marriage?" Hackett said. "I said to the president, 'If you're OK, I'd like to put that off until we both think that needs more attention.' I reminded him of that this year as I've done the budget. We'll kind of go to work on it. I don't want you to think anything is programmed yet. He's in China now. He has a lot on his plate."

Hackett said he doesn't manage the day-to-day business because his style is to focus on the future and what needs to be done. He relies on Chrissi Rawak, executive associate AD for external relations and Rob Rademacher, senior associate athletic director, facilities and operations.

He runs the department differently than Brandon, he said, opting to work with a smaller team as he did at Steelcase.

"And they have bigger jobs," he said.

Recently, Hackett got a boost to the athletic department when former Michigan softball coach and athletic administrator Bob DeCarolis, now retired as Oregon State athletic director, decided to move back to Ann Arbor with his wife.

DeCarolis, who hired legendary Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins, offered to help the Michigan athletic department, and Hackett accepted. He will have an advisory role and made clear he has no interest in becoming Michigan's athletic director.

"This is not the future athletic director," Hackett said.

Future football dates

Hackett said since Harbaugh's arrival as head coach, programs have been clamoring for a game against Michigan on a neutral field.

"You can't believe the people knocking on the door for them now because of Jim Harbaugh," Hackett said. "But they're not good ideas for us. I'm not a big fan of those. Somebody wants to put one where there's 160,000 people in one setting. Thought about that, but I don't think that's kind of game you want to see."

Harbaugh bump

Last month while addressing the university Regents, Hackett said season ticket sales were robust and at an eight-year high.

Apparently student season ticket sales have spiked, and Michigan will reveal those numbers in greater detail next week. After dropping to 11,000 last season, sales are up to about 18,000 now, Hackett said.