By Will Greenberg, Daily News Editor
Published September 30, 2014
A University student petition calling for Athletic Director Dave Brandon to be relieved from his post has collected 10,101 signatures as of 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Ford School graduate student Zeid El-Kilani has created a petition through the Central Student Government’s UPetition website, stating that the University’s football program has become a “black eye” for the University and requests President Mark Schlissel remove Brandon. The petition summary notes the athletic program’s historic ability to provide prestige to the University, both as a recruiting aid for new students and a source of pride for alumni, saying the department currently runs the risk of “producing a generation of alumni that are disinterested and disengaged.”
El-Kilani’s petition was launched late Monday evening in the wake of the football team’s third loss in a row over the weekend, a game that generated a range of criticisms of Brandon and the department for poor leadership and treatment of player safety. He said the petition speaks to broader concerns about Brandon’s handling of the department.
“It didn’t have anything to do with the football field. I think it comes at a time where we’re facing national attention and increased scrutiny about the way our Athletic Department handles situations,” El-Kilani said.
Since Saturday, both Brandon and Michigan coach Brady Hoke have received criticism for improper practices. For Hoke, his failure to remove sophomore quarterback Shane Morris from the game following a helmet-to-helmet hit — causing what Brandon called a “mild concussion” — had fans calling his concern for player safety into question. Brandon released a statement early Tuesday morning admitting the situation was poorly handled, specifically citing sideline communication. Additionally, fans of the team have voiced displeasure at the team’s historically poor performance, as Michigan lost three matchups in September for the first time in the program’s history.
CSG President Bobby Dishell, a Public Policy senior, also issued a statement Tuesday, echoing similar sentiments to that of El-Kiliani’s petition regarding the Athletic Department as a whole, though not specifically endorsing or objecting to Brandon’s removal. Dishell mentioned the historically poor performance and wrote that “CSG joins the voice of students and their demand for managerial culpability.”
However, Dishell said in an interview that he has no defined number of petition signers that would indicate a student consensus. He also said, to his knowledge, that there is no resolution yet drafted by any CSG assembly members for consideration at tonight’s meeting. Dishell said, as far as he knows, CSG has never before formally requested the removal of any faculty or staff members from the University. Dishell added that he hasn’t decided if he will be signing the petition himself.
CSG has worked closely with the Athletic Department over the past year. Following an unpopular football student ticket policy change last year, CSG worked to establish a new policy based on attendance. Additionally, CSG conducted its own investigation last spring into the Athletic Department’s handling of the permanent separation of former Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons for sexual misconduct.
Dishell said many students still feel like “pawns,” citing rising prices for tickets and concessions, and the injury of Shane Morris was part of a “tipping-point” after a long stretch of poor regard for University students, athletes or not.
“If you ask alumni … they’re still big supporters of Michigan football, Michigan football still largely shaped their experience and they still view it very positively, and I think that’s just not there anymore,” he said. “That’s a combination of the safety of the students, a combination of how the students are being treated, it’s a combination of students being priced-out of being able to participate in this.”
Dishell said anyone who still has a unique name and password for the University is able to log on to and sign the petition. El-Kilani said he knows of several alumni who have already signed.
Additionally, commenters on MGoBlog.com have been organizing a “Fire Dave Brandon” rally on the Diag Tuesday evening at 6 p.m.
This is a developing story. Check back with michigandaily.com throughout the day for updates.