Dear Athletic Director Brandon,

You have no idea who I am, and you probably don’t care. Why do I know that? Because you clearly don’t care about the opinions of the generations of loyal Michigan fans that have come before me, nor the generation of lifelong fans that you should be trying to create right now.

With the team’s poor performance in recent games, many people are calling for Coach Brady Hoke to be fired. I am not one of those people, and those losses are in no way your fault. However, there needs to be a fundamental change in the University Athletic Department, and that begins with you. Your job is safe for now because University President Mark Schlissel, while a capable administrator, cannot claim to come from a tradition of athletics, regardless of what anybody says. That’s perfectly fine — he went to Princeton and Johns Hopkins and a tradition of athletics doesn’t exactly run through the veins of every student at those institutions. However, a president who studied at Michigan or another perennial athletics powerhouse such as Oklahoma, Alabama or Michigan State would have fired you a long time ago.

What I don’t understand is your utter disregard for Michigan’s traditions. You and I are more alike than you realize — we were both part of the game day experience, you as a football player and I as a member of the band. However, Michigan fans who had watched you play in Bo’s early years would sense a definite difference in the atmosphere had they attended a recent game. The blame for that, I believe, falls squarely on your shoulders.
Surely you remember what it was like to play under Bo, how the Big House was a sacred place on Saturdays. Without piped-in music. Without inexplicably long media time outs. Without advertising galore. One of your great predecessors, former University Athletic Director Fielding Yost (who originally was responsible for obtaining the Little Brown Jug that Michigan lost this Saturday), would be rolling in his grave right now. You may have heard the story in which he called up Dr. Revelli, then director of the Marching Band, and chastised him for using the band to advertise Buick on the field.

I’ll put it bluntly. You’re out of touch. You don’t have a clue about what your fans, alumni and students want. If you do, you clearly don’t care. We couldn’t care less whether we get cell phone reception in the Big House or not. However, students do want to be rewarded for their loyalty to Michigan Football. Raising prices and instituting a first-come-first-served seating system last year was not the way to do that, and it wasn’t a good way to get them to show up on time, either. You lost roughly a third of your student season ticket holders just to make a bit more money.

You do deserve credit for one thing: for turning the Athletics Department into a very fat cash cow. While the two-dozen plus varsity teams are almost completely supported by football revenue, they were doing fine before you came along and turned Michigan Athletics into a business. The men’s gymnastics team probably would’ve still won its back-to-back national championships if the Athletic department pulled in $100 million instead of $150 million.

It’s as if you make excuses to justify bad decisions. At the end of the day, they’re still bad decisions, and you’ll see consequences that can’t be covered up. If the attendance streak of more than 100,000 that stretches back to 1975 ends this season, how will you explain that? When there is no longer a waitlist for non-student season tickets because the price is so prohibitive and because you alienated several years of current students, how will you explain that? You seem to forget the basics of investing — that today’s students are tomorrow’s season ticket holders.

I want you to think about a very serious question. Is selling the soul of a 135-year-old tradition worth any amount of money in the world?

We want football games to not last four hours. We want to listen to the band, not canned pop music. We want to pay a reasonable price for student season tickets. And we don’t want to hear about tickets sold under face value to get more than 100,000 people to go to a game — even if the promotion wasn’t approved, what a slap in the face to loyal fans.

We want to impatiently count down to football season in January. We want to be quivering with excitement because we have tickets to Saturday’s game. We want to be ecstatic after attending a game at the Big House, even when we lose. We want to inherit a tradition that we can be proud of.

I love the University of Michigan. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have come back for graduate school (and there were four others who were happy to take me). I will bleed maize and blue until I die, and support the football program through thick and thin, but I cannot support you as Athletic Director.

Forever Go Blue.

Charles Zhou is a second-year master’s student at the School of Public Health.

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