Standing in the Regents Room in the Fleming Administration Building on Friday, University President Mark Schlissel announced the resignation of Athletic Director Dave Brandon. Brandon’s resignation comes on the heels of a slew of controversial events and decisions that led to public outcry from students and alumni alike. As the athletic director, Brandon was rarely able to genuinely connect with or understand Michigan fans, often implementing shortsighted policies and marketing tactics that betrayed the core beliefs of the school. Brandon’s justified departure presents an opportunity for President Schlissel and the University to realign the Athletic Department with the school’s foundational traditions and values of a strong moral code, academic excellence and tradition of athletic success.

While much of the public outrage toward Brandon was due to the football team’s poor performance on the field, the heart of student and alumni discontent was based on the apparent disintegration of Michigan’s values. During Brandon’s tenure, the Athletic Department mishandled a number of critical incidents, a reflection of the department’s failure to prioritize basic University principles. On Nov. 23, 2013, former Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons was allowed to play in a game against Iowa despite the fact that three days prior Gibbons had been found responsible for an violating the University’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy. At best this was a communication failure, and at worst it was a willful disregard for the ethical standards of the University. In the Sept. 27 football game against Minnesota, after Michigan sophomore quarterback Shane Morris suffered a concussion on the field he was allowed to reenter the game. Though the incident seemed to be an accident of ignorance — another breakdown in communication, apparently — the fact remains that the policy in place failed to protect student-athletes.

Rather than reinforcing player safety policies or the personal conduct of its student-athletes (see former Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan’s alleged physical assault in addition to Gibbons’) upon taking the athletic director position, Brandon appeared to prioritize the gimmicky marketing strategies of a profit-driven agenda; effectively brushing aside the virtues of a “Michigan Man.” From raising football ticket prices, to the accidental Coca-Cola ticket giveaway promotion, to the skywriting incident, Brandon’s marketing decisions were a series of rather impulsive ideas or mistakes from which he backtracked following public disapproval. The University cannot afford another athletic director with such misaligned values.

All of which is to say the University needs to better integrate the Athletic Department into its overall mission. In addition to choosing a principled athletic director, Schlissel has to find a balance between an efficient delegation of responsibilities and sufficient oversight to ensure that the Athletic Department is an extension of University virtues. Learning from Brandon’s mistakes, the next Athletic Director needs to focus on student-athlete safety, player behavior and connecting with alumni and students.

Michigan’s storied history is a winning one — especially in football — but it’s not the scoreboard from which students and alumni draw their pride. Michigan tradition is defined by morals, not money; the team, not the brand. By forgoing profits, wins or skywriting in exchange for ethical behavior in the Athletic Department, President Schlissel can continue to maintain that proud tradition.

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