Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 31, 2014

The healing officially has begun and the building can begin for Michigan with the resignation of athletic director Dave Brandon.

No sense in spending much time trying to analyze what went wrong in the Brandon era. It?s over, finished, gone. It was an abject failure. He seemed perfect for the job back in 2010, a ?Michigan Man? who was a slick package of business acumen and political savvy. Brandon became history at a press conference this afternoon in a move that was widely speculated.


"This morning, I accepted the resignation of athletic director David Brandon," Michigan president Mark Schlissel announced. "Dave feels that it would be in the best interest of our student-athletes, the athletic department and the university community if he moved on to other challenges and allowed the important work of the department and the university to continue without daily distractions.

"I agree with his decision."

Now, only a few scant months after arriving from Brown to take over Michigan, Schlissel is tasked with perhaps the biggest decision he?ll ever make in his tenure: Hiring an athletic director who must hire the football coach who will save the program.

That?s all.

Yes, nuclear reactors, Bunsen Burners, thermodynamics and lasers are important in Ann Arbor. But nothing swells chests quicker or makes hearts beat faster than winning football games.

Sorry, Professor.

You aren?t in the Ivy League anymore, Mr. Schlissel. This isn?t Brown football, where losing to Cornell was OK as long as the candelabra was light, no wine was spilled on the linen and the brie was chilled.

This is Michigan football. The winged helmet ? The Victors ? Tom Harmon ? Bo ? Winning matters. No, that?s not correct. Winning BIG matters. And, it hasn?t been happening much at Michigan, which is how Schlissel ended up in front of sportswriters today being peppered with questions about the football team.

Schlissel handled himself well today in the presser. He says it hasn?t taken him long to grasp the importance of football on the school and community. Heck, just soaking in one game while shoehorned in the 100,000-seat Michigan Stadium will do that.

No doubt, Schlissel probably would rather devote his time to dealing with stuff like controlling tuition costs and defining the school?s public mission. He was hired for stuff like that. But he must get this right. Schlissel can?t swing and miss on who he chooses as the next A.D.

Mary Sue Coleman, his predecessor, whiffed-a few times. She is the one who approved A.D. Bill Martin?s hiring of Rich Rodriguez. Mistake. She is the one who hired Brandon. Mistake.

You?re up, Schlissel.

The hopes, dreams and future of one of America?s premier institutions are on the line. Deep breath ? exhale ? relax.

"I'll be looking for someone who appreciates the bond between the university and athletics and wants someone who works to tie athletics closely to the rest of the university,? said Schlissel.

On the football field, Michigan finds itself in a chasm, looking up at hated rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. The Wolverines are now Michigan State?s "little brother," losing six of the last seven encounters. The Buckeyes? Well, they just own Michigan, winning 11 of the last 13 meetings. And Big Ten East chum Penn State has all types of mojo behind the refreshingly vibrant and charismatic James Franklin.

Then there is Michigan, stuck in a morass of mediocrity bordering on ineptitude. Michigan has become a speed bump, last winning the Big Ten in 2004. This is a proud school with a proud tradition that must be restored. A strong Michigan isn?t just good for fans, students and alums. A strong Michigan is good for the Big Ten ? and college football. Fans of other schools don't always like to hear that, but it's true.

A ?Michigan Man? has been appointed interim athletic director: Jim Hackett, a former football player under Schembechler. He?ll keep the seat warm and help steady the ship in the short-term while assisting in finding a full-time replacement for himself.

Names of other athletic directors already are being bandied about to assume command, all with ties to the school. Boston College?s Brad Bates and UConn?s Warde Manuel both played football for Michigan. Texas Tech deputy A.D. Joe Parker is a former associate A.D. at Michigan. Like Parker, Arkansas? Jeff Long is a former Michigan staffer and currently is the head of the College Football Playoff Committee.

The ?Michigan Man? phrase carries a lot of cachet around the ivy walls of Ann Arbor. The moniker was coined by iconic Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler, who ironically wasn?t a ?Michigan Man.? He was a graduate of Miami (Ohio). Go figure. Regardless, Schembechler came to define and embody the regal and noble ?Michigan Man? label that resonates today.

Schlissel says he gets it. He has been on the job a little more than 100 days but says he already has a notion of what being a ?Michigan Man? means. It certainly doesn?t mean phony acts of machismo like planting a stake in an opponent?s field. But, I digress ?

The departure of Brandon means the clock is ticking louder on Brady Hoke. Without a doubt, Hoke will be gone after this season, leaving the new athletic director a chance to bring in ?his guy? in attempt to make Michigan matter.

Without making a move on Brandon, Michigan would have had little chance to lure a top-notch coach. No way would a sage football mind have left a good situation to come work for an A.D. who was in Brandon?s situation. Brandon had become a pariah who fractured the fan base. Now, Michigan can offer a fresh start to whatever is next. The possibilities seem limitless.

First, there?s a season to finish. How will the football team do moving forward in 2014? No doubt, having Brandon?s future decided relieves a big distraction. Now, maybe the team can focus on football, even though Hoke?s future remains a distraction.

Still, this is a flawed football team on the field with persistent issues on offense. But incredibly, despite all of what has gone on away from the field and between the white lines, there?s a chance for this season to end on an up note in a bowl game.

The Wolverines are 3-5, needing go to 3-1 in the last four games to qualify for a bowl. It?s possible. Michigan plays host to Indiana this Saturday, travels to Northwestern, welcomes Maryland and finishes the season at Ohio State.

Meanwhile, the search for Michigan?s future churns in the background.

"I'm confident that Jim will immediately begin the process of moving the department forward - including working closely with me to develop a plan to identify and recruit Michigan's next permanent athletic director," Schlissel said.

One of the most pivotal eras in Michigan athletics history has begun.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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