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Monday, March 8, 2010
The Brandon era begins at Michigan

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

David Brandon officially begins his new job as Michigan's athletics director today, and he's certainly taking over at an interesting time.

The athletic department is stable, certainly more so than when Brandon's predecessor Bill Martin arrived a decade ago, but Brandon faces several challenges right off the bat. Michigan's three flagship sports programs -- football, men's basketball and hockey -- are all struggling to varying degrees, and the football program is facing NCAA allegations of five rules violations.

Michigan has until May 23 to respond to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations, and the school is scheduled to appear before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions in August. Many will watch how Brandon handles this initial challenge, and he's off to a good start.

If there was one bright spot for Michigan fans from the university's Feb. 23 news conference to address the NCAA's allegations, it was Brandon. The former Domino's pizza CEO seemed prepared, poised and totally in command, even though he hadn't officially taken over as AD.

As annarbor.com's Michael Rothstein writes: "He was genuine. He was confident. He didn't stumble over words. He acted like a CEO and a leader. All of this even though this situation is not one any employee wants to walk into -- let alone someone preparing to take over one of the country’s most storied athletic departments. ... He was the star, if there could be a headliner in a three-person press conference."

Brandon represents a new breed of athletic director who are better suited to handle the current climate of college athletics. You're more likely to see lawyers and CEOs in these jobs than football coaches and athletic department lifers. Brandon certainly has a lot on his plate -- Rich Rodriguez and the football program are right in the center of it -- but he likely won't be overwhelmed.

Here are some more Brandon-related links as a new chapter begins in Michigan athletics: