University President Mark Schlissel opened Thursday’s meeting of the University’s Board of Regents with a prepared statement in which he touted the role of athletics in all facets of the University community.
“We have a very passionate community that cares deeply about our wonderful athletic tradition as well as the sense of connectedness our programs have long provided for us,” he said. “I value that connection highly and want to preserve and enhance it.”
However, Schlissel expressed displeasure with the Athletic Department’s response to recent controversy around athletics. He highlighted the department’s most recent issue: the response to the injury to sophomore quarterback Shane Morris, who was put back into the Sept. 27 football game against Minnesota shortly after sustaining a concussion.
“I was deeply disappointed in the department’s initial response in handling the situation,” Schlissel said. “We must be accountable for the facts with a response that is timely and takes responsibility for error. Without this we break trust with our stakeholders.”
Actions taken after the game to investigate this mistake yielded conflicting messages from University Athletic Director Dave Brandon and football coach Brady Hoke.
Schlissel noted the University has made several policy changes since the Minnesota game, such as placing a trainer in the press box with instant replay access and two-way radio communication with medical staff on the sidelines, as well as reinforcing the practice of taking away the helmets of injured athletes.
Schlissel has also instructed the Athletic Department to conduct a full review of in-game player safety procedures. The review is being conducted by the department and findings and recommendations will be shared with the regents and public at appropriate times.
He said the University ill need more extensive, long-term approaches to address additional issues.
“We work to establish the right balance between competitiveness, financial stability and the athletic traditions we hold dear,” Schlissel said.
Public Policy senior Bobby Dishell, Central Student Government president, contributed to the conversation about athletics in a report to the regents. He said Athletic Department policies have been just as troubling to the student body as the department’s response to Morris’ injury.
“These past few weeks have been a troubling time for Michigan students,” Dishell said. “Difficulty in regard to the football program, focused primarily within the Athletic Department’s administration, have made many students wary of the very thing that has united them with alumni, family and city residents for over a century.”