Just got off of a teleconference with new Michigan athletics director Dave Brandon, hired today to replace the retiring Bill Martin. Brandon is an impressive guy with a very impressive background. He most recently has served as chairman and CEO of Domino's Pizza, and he's a former University of Michigan Regent (1998-2006) and a former defensive lineman under Bo Schembechler at U-M.
Brandon, the leading candidate to replace Martin from the get-go, had been mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in Michigan. But the 57-year-old made it clear Monday that he's committed to Michigan for the next five years and hopefully more. He's definitely a Michigan man, with strong ties to Lloyd Carr and others, but he recognizes the need to unite a program that has been splintered in recent months.
"I'd be proud to play for Rich Rodriguez," he said.
One other thing: Brandon doesn't lack self confidence, which should serve him well in his new role. His five-year appointment begins March 8.
"You need a vision, and you need to surround yourself with people that share that vision and value the principles you hold dear," Brandon said. "And then you hold people accountable. I know how to do that. I'm a team sport guy, and the athletic director needs to surround himself with a great team and hold that team accountable. I want the athletic department at the University of Michigan to be No. 1 in the nation."
The football program is nowhere near No. 1 right now, and getting things on track will be a main focus for Brandon the coming months.
Here are his thoughts on several football-related issues.
On Rich Rodriguez: "Rich Rodriguez is the football coach at the University of Michigan. He has an awesome responsibility, has a proven track record of winning at the highest levels. I have great respect for Rich and I look forward to getting to know him better and getting a chance to work with him."
On the NCAA's ongoing investigation into the football program: "I don't mind being plopped in the middle of things. As it relates to the investigation, we're going to do what Michigan always does. We're going to do the right thing. And if we've made some mistakes, we'll correct them. Let's just wait and see how the investigation pans out. I don't live in fear of that. We'll deal with that as we need to."
On his relationship with Rodriguez: "I don't know Rich well. We've spent a little bit of time together. He and his lovely wife, I've had dinner with them a couple of times and got acquainted in a social way. I've seen him on the field a couple of times and chatted very briefly. I attended one practice a couple of years ago, when he first came on board, and we chatted at that practice. Rich and I have not had a lot of time together, and I really look forward to getting to know Rich better and understand more about how he's approaching the difficult task ahead, and that is turning our football program around and having it be what we all want it to be."
On uniting a potentially splintered fan base: "I'm a team-sport guy. I was brought up that way, and that's what I believe in. Factions and divisiveness are enemies of success. I feel strongly that to the extent there has been any fracturing that has occurred as a result of whatever, it's something that needs immediate attention. It needs to be fixed and truthfully, won't be tolerated."
On the current state of the football program: "I am as concerned as everybody is, knowing we're a program that likes and needs to win. We sing about being the champions, the leaders of the best, and that's what we want to be. And no one wants to be that more than Rich Rodriguez. No one wants to win more than Rich Rodriguez and his staff."