Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Michigan AD proving himself under fire
By ESPN.com staff
Michigan doesn't know if Rich Rodriguez is the right coach to restore its football program to national prominence.
More than enough evidence has surfaced in the past two plus years to create reasonable doubt.
There's no such doubt about the man Michigan has chosen to lead its athletic department. Dave Brandon is quickly proving himself as a shrewd and capable athletic director.
Brandon has been the lone bright spot for Michigan fans during an otherwise murky period for the athletic department and specifically the football program. He walked into this job and immediately faced a major obstacle, as the NCAA prepared to reveal the findings of its investigation into Rodriguez's program. And thus far, he has handled things in a thorough, professional, confident and authoritative manner, not looking like a guy who was running a pizza company six months ago.
His job title no longer reads CEO, but Brandon is still acting like one.
In February, Brandon took the lead in responding to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations, doing so before he had even officially started his new job (March 8). He spearheaded Michigan's response to the NCAA, which was sent Monday and revealed publicly earlier Tuesday.
Throughout the process, Brandon acknowledged mistakes and assigned blame, but he hasn't thrown anyone under the bus (aside from fired graduate assistant Alex Herron, sort of). He hasn't made this a Rodriguez issue and has gone out of his way to point out missteps by those who arrived at Michigan long before Rodriguez. He acknowledged that these are major violations but provided enough evidence for folks not to get too caught up in the word "major."
Asked earlier today who is ultimately to blame for the violations, Brandon replied, "I am. The reality is we had failures across the athletic department and I take full responsibility."
It's pretty hard to blame the guy who wasn't on the job when this stuff happened, but Brandon doesn't leave you with other choices. He's in total control.
Brandon's decision to be transparent with the NCAA situation is refreshing and, quite frankly, very un-Michigan-like. If you want to know how the school or its coach responded to the NCAA, it's all right there for you.
This won't be Brandon's only test as Michigan's AD. Heck, the NCAA could deem Tuesday's response too light and a little arrogant, and drop the hammer on Big Blue in August. And if the football team continues to struggle on the field this fall, Brandon will face constant questions about Rodriguez's job security.
But first impressions are important, especially for those in leadership positions. We want to see how these folks conduct themselves and handle challenges.
It's safe to say Brandon passed his first test.