Before Friday, Michigan’s midterm elections seemed primed to be the story of the week. Then former Athletic Director Dave Brandon turned heads one last time, resigning his office, and suddenly, the governor’s post seems secondary compared to the still-warm but newly empty chair of the athletic director at the University of Michigan.

Tyler Scott

Normally it would be cheeky to suggest the ousting of an athletic director at a single university trumps the importance of a changing of the guard of the state’s highest political office, but timing is everything.

With each progressive controversy, the question of what exactly it would take to get Dave Brandon fired mid-season was asked with increasing regularity. In the end, whether it was the botched handling of Shane Morris-gate, the ineptitude of the highest-profile athletic team or just the mounting public pressure Dave Brandon is now gone — something that students should be proud of.

Tirelessly, the mantra of the “leaders and best” is preached, but even in this liberal haven, most dramatic illustrations of student activism elicit a response that can only be measured by how likely a passerby is to actively avoid the Diag on demonstration day.

After the misery of the Minnesota game on Sept. 27, organizers of the protest to have Dave Brandon run out of town seized the perfect time to voice the growing discontent. Hundreds gathered around the heart of campus and the media were there to listen. Students — the most faithful followers of the once-great Michigan Wolverines — were seemingly more fed up than anyone.

Poor Mark Schlissel. Not even a semester into his tenure as University President, and hordes of angry students were literally out calling for change from the front steps of his home. The decision sat with Schlissel, but the protest made national news. It wasn’t that the evening on the Diag caused any change directly, even with the news chopper whirling overhead. But it evoked frustration with the status quo and put Dave Brandon in the middle of a nightmare, albeit one that looked escapable.

There seemed for a moment to be a glimmer of hope for Brandon. Next year’s student football ticket prices were slashed, excitement about the upcoming basketball and hockey seasons quelled some woes, and Michigan finally won again — at home, under the lights, with proud and elated players.

It was all a cruel coincidence. A loss at Michigan State on Oct. 25 reincarnated the dismay, and the University’s Board of Regents began to put serious pressure on Brandon. Perhaps the left-leaning board was happy to excusably berate the staunchly conservative corporate pizza man, and perhaps much of what transpires on the football field doesn’t fall directly on the athletic director.

It should be said that Brandon did some great things for the University. Chiefly, the state-of-the-art facilities for many of the athletic teams and clubs should come to mind, but the timing was all wrong. Once this season began its disappointing course, Brandon never had a chance.

To claim that students had some hand in the resignation of Brandon may be overreaching. A lot of degrees, experience and money go into making decisions of such magnitude. Nevertheless, the entire ordeal would have had a different feel were it not for the protest on the Diag that fans and media members alike often referred to.

For once, it at least feels like the student voice meant something, that it made a difference by providing a key outlet of discontent — and at exactly the right time.

Tyler Scott can be reached at

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