Soon after Athletic Director Bill Martin submitted a letter to University President Mary Sue Coleman announcing his retirement effective next year and shared the announcement with Athletic Department staff in a department-wide meeting yesterday, speculation began over who would succeed Martin as athletic director.
Though many names were floated among members of the University community yesterday, University executives have not yet released the names of any possible replacements.
In a statement released yesterday, Coleman wrote she would manage the process of hiring a new athletic director.
“I will personally oversee the search for the next Athletic Director with the help of a small advisory group,” Coleman wrote. “We expect this process will take a number of months. With this advance notice, we have the opportunity to make a thoughtful and deliberate choice and to manage a smooth transition.”
Similar to the process used when Bill Martin was hired as athletic director in 2000, the advisory committee will recommend candidates for Coleman’s consideration, though the final decision will be up to the University president.
In an interview yesterday, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said no one has been asked to serve on the advisory committee yet. Fitzgerald also said Coleman will personally choose the committee members.
Of the many names circulating around the rumor mill, former University regent David Brandon has been highlighted as one of the primary frontrunners.
Brandon, the current president and CEO of Domino’s Pizza, played as a back-up quarterback for Michigan and was on three Big Ten Championship teams during his years at the University in the early 1970s, though he does not have any experience as an athletic director.
However, Brandon, 57, does run a company with annual sales of $6 billion and has stayed very active in University affairs. He has volunteered time and money to help spearhead the campaign to build the University’s new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital and renovate the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
In an interview yesterday, Brandon said picking Martin’s successor should be left to Coleman’s discretion.
“It’s not a job to campaign for. It’s not a job that gets elected. It’s a job that (Coleman) needs to choose based on her criteria,” Brandon said. “Only Mary Sue Coleman knows what she wants to do and how she wants to do it.”
Asked whether he would be interested in becoming the University’s athletic director, Brandon would not confirm or deny whether he had any interest in the position.
“I am not campaigning for, against, involved or uninvolved,” Brandon said. “I’m doing what I do for a living and that is, right now, running my Domino’s Pizza corporation, and that’s a job that I love very much.”
University lecturer John U. Bacon — a noted journalist and historian of Michigan athletics — included Brandon on his list of people he feels are contenders for the job.
Bacon also mentioned current Miami (Ohio) University Athletic Director Brad Bates, current University of New York at Buffalo Athletic Director Warde Manuel and current Oregon State University Athletic Director Bob De Carolis as potential frontrunners.
“As far as candidates come, you hear the same three or four names floating around, but I don’t know if anybody has got an inside track at this point,” Bacon said.
Former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, who stepped down from coaching in November 2007, has also been rumored as someone worthy of consideration.
Carr, now 64, has worked in the Athletic Department since 1980, when he was hired as the defensive secondary coach under Bo Schembechler. His coaching career at Michigan continued until he resigned from his post as the head football coach in November 2007. After stepping down, Carr was appointed associate athletic director, a position he still holds.
While Michigan’s head football coach, Carr led the team to a bowl game each year, securing five Big Ten titles and the 1997 National Championship. Carr was the second Big Ten coach to ever have an undefeated season within three years of becoming head coach. Over his time as head coach, the team had a122-40 record overall.
For his leadership, Carr has been awarded several honors, including the Walter Camp Football Foundation, American Football Coaches Association, Football News, Maxwell Football Club, Woody Hayes and Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant coach of the year awards.
Carr told AnnArbor.com he would not accept the position, if offered, though a statement released yesterday about Martin’s retirement, did not address whether he would be interested in the job.
“In 2000 when Bill Martin became the athletic director at Michigan, we were well behind our peers from a facilities standpoint. Today, we are at the forefront and the monumental changes that Bill and his team have orchestrated have positioned Michigan Athletics in excellent position for decades to come,” Carr wrote. “I join the many in expressing our appreciation and gratitude.”
The other rumored frontrunners to succeed Martin — Bates, Manuel and De Carolis — all have ties to the University of Michigan, though none as deep as Carr’s.
Bates, who has served as the athletic director at Miami (Ohio) University since 2002, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Michigan. Though he has not worked for the Michigan’s Athletic Department, he was a walk-on defensive back for Michigan from 1977 to 1981. He also worked as a strength coach, assistant athletic director, associate athletic director and senior associate athletic director at Vanderbilt Univeristy, before assuming his position at Miami.
Manuel, a Michigan alum and former football player under Bo Schembechler, also has experience in Michigan’s Athletic Department. Prior to signing on as the University of New York at Buffalo’s athletic director, he worked as an associate athletic director at Michigan, where he worked with the men’s basketball and football programs. Manual also led a fundraising campaign in which he raised millions for the Student-Athlete Academic Center.
De Carolis spent 19 years on staff at Michigan, where he served in several positions, including softball coach, associate athletic director and senior director for financial operations. He has been the athletic director at Oregon State University since 2002. During his time at Oregon State, he has eliminated an accumulated $12.5 million budget deficit and has grown the department’s budget by more than $25 million. In May 2006, De Carolis signed a five-year contract extension with the school, which is scheduled to end on June 30, 2011.
University Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R–Ann Arbor), who was a regent when Martin was hired as athletic director, said in an interview yesterday that a number of backgrounds would prepare candidates to be athletic director.
“I want the University to hire the best person for the job, whether that person has an athletic background, a business background, a combination of both or an English background,” Newman said, underscoring the wide-ranging responsibilities of the position. “I think that whenever you look to hire someone you look for the best candidate to do the job, the overall job and not just aspects of it.
“Obviously you have to be able to manage a budget and you have to be able to manage a multitude of businesses that are ongoing on the athletic campus,” Newman continued. “What you want is the person that encompasses what you see as the vision for the department.”
Newman did not discount the fact that Martin’s replacement may not have a prior connection to Michigan.
“Obviously, we have a strong tradition at Michigan,” she said. “Just because someone didn’t grow up at Michigan, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be a candidate for the job.
“Bill Martin was certainly the right person at the right time to do the job,” Newman said. “But I think the next athletic director will have to be the right person at the right time to move the Athletic Department forward.”
Newman said she has heard a great deal of speculation over who will replace Martin — including Manuel, Long and Brandon. However, she said the speculation is not serious.
“I think any name at this point is nothing but speculation. I don’t think that anyone affiliated with the University has speculated on names,” Newman said. “Nothing has been discussed or talked about.”
Newman added she expected rumors would continue to circulate over Martin’s replacement.
“We will all read speculation,” she said. “It is sort of fun, I guess.”
Speaking at his bi-weekly press conference yesterday, Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez said he trusts that Coleman will select a qualified person to succeed Martin.
“Our president, our administration, they’ll have a good plan and I’m sure they’ll have a great AD coming in here,” Rodriguez said.
“I think as a coach, all you can do is worry about what you can control,” he continued. “For me, it’s trying to build the best football program in America. That was the task that we were put in front of us, and that’s the task that we work on daily.”
Asked whether he would prefer the new athletic director to have prior experience with a large football program, Rodriguez said he hadn’t given it much thought.
“Again, I’m only worried about what I can control, but I think all coaches want someone that understands athletics,” he said. “But I don’t think there’s going to be anybody that wants the position that doesn’t understand athletics.”
However, Rodriguez said Martin’s replacement should have the same commitment to Michigan that Martin has.
“I really haven’t thought much about it … but I think you want someone that had the same kind of love for this university that Bill Martin has, and someone that understands athletics and student-athletes and what coaches want to accomplish,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also said Martin’s replacement would need to be able to manage the increasingly complex operations of intercollegiate athletics.
“I think it has become more multi-faceted than it has in the past,” Rodriguez said. “And that’s natural, because of, not just fundraising and facility-raising and friend-raising and the fiscal aspects of it, but the media — and everything’s so much more transparent now in athletic departments and in sports.”
Michigan Baseball Coach Rich Maloney said Martin’s replacement should be someone with strong communication skills, a deep understanding of the changing operations of the NCAA and exceptional foresight.
“We want somebody who would want to continue building on the great traditions that we have in the athletic program in the university,” Maloney said. “But in everything that we do, a person of integrity would be first and foremost.”
“We’re losing a strong leader and we need to hire somebody who is going to develop a deep love for Michigan,” Maloney added. “That’s going to be very important that somebody (is hired) who really understands this culture here because it’s a deep, deep love that coaches have for their institution and the program so we want to have every opportunity of continuing the great traditions that we have.”
— Managing Editor Courtney Ratkowiak contributed to this report.