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November 11, 2013 - 7:54pm

Spokesman: Coleman was not drunk during remarks at Michigan Stadium


Spectators at Saturday’s football game against Nebraska may have noticed that University President Mary Sue Coleman’s halftime address seemed a bit off.

In reaction to her slow, elongated speech, many people wondered aloud on Facebook and Twitter if Coleman was under the influence of alcohol during her speech. In a statement to the Daily early Monday, the University acknowledged the “awkward audio” but said it was due to “significant feedback” from Michigan Stadium’s PA system.

“She, absolutely, had not been drinking alcohol,” University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in a statement. “I want to underscore that point in the strongest possible way.”

Coleman had attended Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign events all day before the game and then held a reception in the stadium. No alcohol was served at those events, according to Fitzgerald, and no alcohol is allowed in any part of Michigan stadium, including Coleman’s suite.

At halftime, a tribute video featuring highlights of Coleman’s presidency was played, and Coleman entered the field to a standing ovation from the student section. The Athletic Department also presented Coleman with an honorary football jersey, bearing the number 12, the number of years she will have held the presidency.

The statement said Coleman had slowed down her words in the speech in an attempt to adjust to audio feedback and a delay between her speech and the stadium’s speakers.

“It was an unfortunate set of circumstances that led to the audio distortion,” Fitzgerald wrote, noting that Coleman was not familiar with the wireless microphone she was using.

In a statement, University Athletic Director Dave Brandon also blamed the wireless microphone for the distortion, adding that the department rarely uses live wireless microphones in the stadium because of the way sound is distributed in the Big House.

Brandon also vouched for Coleman’s sobriety, saying he was with her at events throughout the day and walked with her from the suites to the field before the halftime presentation.

Brandon said he has apologized to Coleman for the sound system failures and the subsequent “difficult situation” it has caused her.

“We were trying to do something thoughtful to honor President Coleman for her service to the university and athletic department and unfortunately the sound system backfired on us,” Brandon wrote.

In the hours and days following the speech, social media users discussed her strange articulation during halftime. Over the weekend more than 350 tweets mentioned “Mary Sue Coleman,” according to data from Toppy, a Twitter analytics website.

A video showing parts of Coleman’s speech was uploaded to Youtube Sunday evening and had amassed more than 50,000 views by early Monday, after Deadspin and Total Frat Move shared it.

“She sounds HAMMERED,” Deadspin wrote.

But, Pat Batcheller, a radio host for the WDET public radio station in Detroit, may have had the best advice for Coleman following her struggles.

“Someone should have told Pres. Coleman not to listen to herself over the stadium PA,” Batcheller wrote on Twitter.

Watch the video below:

Senior News Editor K.C. Wassman contributed reporting