CHICAGO — When Jim Hackett played football at Michigan, he remembers looking into the student section, wondering what it would be like to spend a game day there.
Now, as Michigan’s interim athletic director, Hackett is working to improve the experience for those who do.
“I remember going into the stadium and looking over at the student section and we used to say, ‘It would be cool to sit over there sometime,’ ” Hackett said Friday at Big Ten Media Days. “Because what was happening in that corner was so lively and such at the texture. And I want that back. I want that back in a way that changes the game.”
Michigan’s student section will be substantially larger this season than last, with a 54-percent increase of student ticket sales. And with the increase, Hackett wants to make sure the experience grows too. He didn’t go into many specifics, but rather spoke of it as a general goal of his.
One issue he did address was stadium internet. He said AT&T installed new antennas in the stadium and will continue to work toward solving bandwidth issues.
Additionally, he hopes to continue to foster growth in the department through working with students. Former athletic director Dave Brandon created student committees to help the Athletic Department understand the students wants and needs.
With former Central Student Government president Bobby Dishell now out of office, Hackett is working with new president Cooper Charlton on design thinking, a movement aimed at solving problems through creation.
“You jointly solve problems by building prototypes of the solutions, and then you edit them together,” Hackett said when describing design thinking.
The goal, he said, is work together to accomplish goals, rather than being told problems and having to figure out ways to solve them.
Charlton’s instruction from Hackett was to think about the game day experience. And if they accomplish their goals, perhaps football players will once again envy the student section, just like Hackett did.
Hackett also spoke about the Wolverines’ new deal with Nike and what ways he wants to use some of the money.
According to Hackett, the money Nike gives Michigan will be used both on athletics and at other parts of the university. One such area, Rec Sports, could see a major boost from some of the Nike money.
Currently, students pay fees to participate in intramural and club sports. But Hackett would like to alleviate some of that burden, if possible, to make participation more accessible.
“(Vice President for Student Life) Royster Harper and I want to improve diversity in the Rec Sports,” Hackett said. “If you can’t afford to pay to play, how can we help you have the opportunity to participate if you come from a challenging environment?”
NOTES: Hackett said Friday that the Athletic Department’s budget deficit, reported at $7.9 million, will be much less than initially thought. Brandon’s buyout will be lowered now that he has accepted the CEO position at Toys ‘R’ Us, which helped to decrease the deficit. Additionally, the sale of football tickets fell in this year’s revenue, which brought Michigan closer to the black.