Yesterday I met with Rich Rodriguez for several hours and conducted a thorough review of the football program. I had prepared my evaluation of the program fundamentally examining the following performance measures:
- Performance and competition
- Recruiting and retention
- Academic performance
- University image as it relates to our players
- University image as it relates to our coaches.
Rich and I agreed at the start of the meeting that we would have an open, honest, and direct exchange on all of the issues connected to these performance measures. We agreed that this meeting would not conclude with any specific go forward decisions or conclusions. I wanted the opportunity to reflect on the meeting and take the evening to reflect on the conversations that we had and we agreed that we would get back together today to discuss any next steps. It was a professional helpful meeting that afforded me the opportunity to review the entire program with the coach and gather all the information I needed to make an important decision.
I met with Coach Rodriguez this morning, and informed him of my decision to relieve him of his responsibilities and to pursue new leadership for our football program. I believe this is the best decision for the future of Michigan football.
Now I don't intend to do a public performance review of our coach or our football program here today. I don't think it's the time or the place. I will simply say that Coach Rodriguez has faced many challenges and difficulties over his three years here, and I want to state for the record that I appreciate the hard work and effort that he and his staff have put forth.
Rich Rodriguez is a good man. None of us are pleased with the result that is we have achieved over the last three seasons but I don't believe this was a result of lack of effort.
I wish Rich, his family and his staff good luck in the future. I'm confident that he will be a successful coach at another program and accomplish many things.
I now intend to conduct a national search to determine the best person to come to Michigan and lead our football program.
What questions do you have for me?
QUESTION: What about the rest of the staff and the other people in the program?
DAVID BRANDON: Rich and I met this morning and we are having meetings right now over at Schembechler Hall and having one-on-one discussions with individuals so that they are all aware of how they are affected by this change and we will let that process continue so that I don't get ahead of any of those discussions.
QUESTION: What about the future now? You do have a short list right now, I'm assuming, and how short is that list?
DAVID BRANDON: Certainly I've given some thought to this and tried to do some planning around it. But knowing that this decision is very fresh, I have a lot of work to do. So that's where we start immediately following this session today.
QUESTION: Will there be a search committee or will it be your call in the end?
DAVID BRANDON: No, I don't intend to create any committees. Certainly there are people out there that are close to the program whose judgment and whose experience I value, and all of them have constantly, since I got this job in March, reached out and made their advice available.
So I'm sure there's no lack of advice in this job. But certainly it's my job to pick out those folks who give me the best advice and help me make the best decision for Michigan football.
QUESTION: Given certain constraints, recruiting, how quickly do you need to get a new coach in place?
DAVID BRANDON: Well, this is job No. 1. It's very important that I move as quickly as I possibly can, but I think what we have learned in the past is these decisions last a long time. So my job is to get the right coach and to engage in a process that affords me the ability to do that. Clearly, when you go through a transitional change like, this it's a disruption to recruiting. Anybody who says it's a positive is lying; it's a negative. I get that. The faster we can bring a new leader in, the better, but I'm not going to be motivated by those circumstances. I'm going to be motivated by making sure that I get exactly the right person to come in and be successful.
QUESTION: Did Jim Harbaugh express to you that he's interested?
DAVID BRANDON: There's been a lot of Jim Harbaugh noise out there and I'm not duff to hearing it. Jim has a lot of contacts to this program; the Harbaugh family does. Jim Harbaugh is close to Michigan and I think Jim is in a position where he's making important decisions as relates to where his career is going. I personally believe that Jim Harbaugh is headed to the NFL, but that's my opinion. As opposed to any qualified judgment I can give you on that.
QUESTION: How coveted is the head coaching position at the University of Michigan today and will you have any shortage of interested candidates for this position?
DAVID BRANDON: I do not believe we will have a shortage of interested candidates. I think that this program is still one of the most premiere programs in the country, when you look at the facilities here, when you look at the fan base here and the passion that exists here for Michigan football; the role that it plays in the athletic program here, the Big House and everything that comes with it is something that a lot of coaches aspire to be a part of. So I believe that there will be very qualified, interested candidates out there, and it's my job to select the right one.
QUESTION: Obviously whatever decision you make, the on-campus talk, moving forward, how important is it for the Michigan family to get behind whoever the next coach is?
DAVID BRANDON: Yeah, I started in this position in March, and one of the first things I said the first day was that one of my objectives was to try to bring the Michigan community together again.
We have been divided to a large extent and we continue to be divided based on all of the various opinions and inputs that I get. And clearly, if we want to be successful; if we want to be successful as a football program, as an athletic department and we want our university to really represent what we are all about, we need to rally around our new coach, don't find fault, don't make hasty judgments there they arrive on campus. What we need to do is rally around our coach, support him and do everything we can do to help him be successful. I hope that's what our fans and alums and all of the folks who are connected with Michigan are prepared to do.
QUESTION: How important to you is getting the so-called "Michigan Man?"
DAVID BRANDON: There are advantages and there are disadvantages to a variety of things on that job description. Whether it's a Michigan Man, quote, unquote, or not, what clearly is important is that whoever it is has a clear understanding of what Michigan is all about. And this is a unique place; it creates unique challenges; it also provides unique opportunities. What I know and believe is that whoever comes into this job has to understand that clearly and be well-suited for it.
QUESTION: Did Rich Rodriguez not understand what it was all about?
DAVID BRANDON: I don't want to say what Rich did or didn't understand. I would just simply say that as I look forward for the successor to Rich Rodriguez, I think it's going to be very important that that individual have a clear understanding of what the University of Michigan is all about: The high expectations that exist here, the passion that we have for football, and the results that are expected.
QUESTION: Can you touch on why it was that you decided very clearly to wait until after January 1 and after the Bowl game to make this decision, when you consider how it does put you behind the 8-ball in terms of recruiting?
DAVID BRANDON: Well, first of all, from my perspective, if you terminated a coach in December, it's not -- that's not exactly going to help recruiting. There's this idea that if you terminate a coach between the last game of the season and a Bowl game, that somehow that's going to enhance your recruiting efforts. I don't necessarily buy into that. But fundamentally, my judgment was, and I said this repeatedly, the season ends with the last game and every game is important. And I do not believe it is fair to these student athletes to put them in a position where they are going to play on a big stage and they are going to be out there, particularly on New Year's Day, a Bowl on national television and not have them be coached by their coach. And there are clearly other programs who feel differently and they send their team out there with interim coaches or in difficult circumstances, and I don't think you put those kids in a position where they have the best chance to win. And I've said that over and over again and I believe that. And truthfully, as we got into the back half of the season, I was looking like everybody else. I was looking for signs of improvement and progress. And having an extra 15 days of practice and an ability to prepare for one SEC team to me was just another test. It wasn't the only test. It wasn't the only criteria. But it was another test, and it was one that I was studying very carefully to see what kind of progress we were making as a program. So that was my decision and it was my decision all the way along, and I still stand by that decision. Those players, particularly those players who had never had a chance to be in a Bowl game deserve the opportunity to go in with the best chance to win, and my judgment was that they should have the coaches who have been coaching them all season.
QUESTION: You mentioned Jim Harbaugh and you think he's going to go to the NFL. Have you talked to him or any of his agents, whatever, and do you plan to at least talk to him to see if he does want to come back?
DAVID BRANDON: The connection points that Jim Harbaugh has with the University of Michigan are plentiful and there as many stories ambling around out there about what Jim Harbaugh is thinking and going to do and where his interests are as there are about all of the atmosphere that's been around here the last few days. So I don't want to speak on behalf of Jim Harbaugh and I don't want to speak on behalf of the people who say they are speaking on behalf of Jim Harbaugh. Jim has got decisions to make. Jim Harbaugh is a great coach, he had a terrific season and I think the world of him and I have a terrific relationship with him.
QUESTION: Have you talked to him?
DAVID BRANDON: I have talked to Jim and I will continue to talk to Jim Harbaugh. He's a Michigan Man.
QUESTION: Did you make the decisions late last night or --
DAVID BRANDON: I made this decision last night. And I'm a disciplined --I've said all along, I appreciate opportunity when the season is over to sit down and do a thorough review. I spent an awful lot of time putting together an awful lot of information. And Rich and I sat together yesterday for three and a half hours, and you don't do that if you go into the meeting with some preconceived notion of how the meeting is going to end. I wanted to hear from the coach. I wanted to discuss some things that were important for me to know. And I wanted to have an evening to reflect on that, and that's exactly what I did. And anyone who suggests differently doesn't know what they are talking about.
QUESTION: How critical is this decision for the University of Michigan to get it right?
DAVID BRANDON: The University of Michigan Athletic Department cannot be successful unless Michigan football leads our success. It is the primary revenue generator. It is the primary brand builder. It's the program that leads the way. We measure that a lot of different ways. We measure it by everything from our ticket sales to our suite sales to our ratings on television to the number of tickets we sell when we go to a Bowl game. There's a lot of ways to measure whether Michigan football has the momentum that we need to continue to drive the growth and success of our athletic program. And so it's extremely important. And that's why I was extremely careful and deliberate in making this decision. This isn't about one particular kid we are recruiting or one particular kid on the football team. This is about making a decision that will really lay the groundwork for years to come. I understand that. And that's why I feel like I took my time; I did it correctly, I did my homework, and I believe the decision I have made today, although it's not a pleasant decision, I believe it's the correct decision.
QUESTION: I imagine you have to look at what went wrong so that mistakes are not repeated. What do you think went wrong with Rich Rodriguez? Is it a scheme issue or a fit issue? I imagine you have to identify it before you go forward.
DAVID BRANDON: Well, I believe that -- and I have said this publically: I don't think Rich Rodriguez has had a peaceful night's sleep since he arrived in Ann Arbor. I had his three years can somewhat be defined by three years of turmoil; it seems like it was one thing after another. It clearly impacted recruiting. It clearly impacted the positive energy that a team needs to be successful. It created a lot of hardships and a lot of distractions. And clearly, we need to put ourselves in a position where that is all history. The bottom line is, you know, the University of Michigan has been playing football for 131 seasons. We have had 17 head coaches; unless you count the fact that our first football team 131 years ago had two head coaches. So maybe there are 18. But what I want you to know is that our win/loss record, our percentage win/loss record overall the last three years is the worst in our 131-season history. I can't remember, I can't recall exactly when the Big Ten was formed or when we first started participating in that conference, but whenever that was, many, many decades ago, when you compare our current win/loss percentage in the Big Ten to our conference win/loss record over that time span, it the worst we have ever had. Michigan is not used to this. Michigan fans expect more than this. So do Michigan athletic directors. And so we need to put ourselves in a position where we get competitive again, both within the Big Ten which is critically important, as well as nationally. And we have to put ourselves in a position where the leadership that we have and the momentum and energy around the program is positive enough to carry us back into that level of play.
QUESTION: What other qualities besides knowing this program do you have to have in your head coach?
DAVID BRANDON: The job description of the head coach in the University of Michigan football team is an elaborate one. They become a significant spokesperson for the University. I believe that Michigan Athletics is the front door to the University of Michigan in terms of the shaping of the brand and the image of the brand. And this individual is a very high-profile person who becomes to a large degree, name and a face that's very important to the university.
This individual has to be able to compete at the highest level. The expectations here are extraordinarily high. The passion for this football program is unbelievable. If you don't believe me, you should see the e-mail traffic. There are people out there who care, and it's beyond just sport for them; it's a part of their life. That puts a coach in a position where they have to have the ability to stand up to that pressure and perform against it. We play difficult schedules. The Big Ten is a challenging conference. It's a smash mouth conference with big teams. You saw what happened on television last night. And you saw how difficult it has been for us to go nose-to-nose with the big guys in this conference. We have what I call -- what I call, the benchmark competitors as part of my review here at Michigan. And it's important that we win all our games, and it's important that we are competitive for all of our games. But I look at Notre Dame, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Ohio State and any Bowl opponents as my coach used to all those, red-letter games. If you want to be successful at Michigan, you'd better win more than your share of those red-letter games. And those red-letter games over the last three seasons, we have been 3-15. We have to have a coach who is able to come in and put us in a position where we can compete with those programs, because they are good; and in order to do that you have to be able to recruit and you have to be able to recruit the kind of players that can be successful at Michigan, not only in that competitive arena, but also in the very competitive academic arena that we provide here as well.
QUESTION: How much of the onus keeping the current players on the roster satisfied, because when Lloyd Carr retired and Rich turned over there was a loss of key players.
DAVID BRANDON: The risk factor is there whenever you have a transition, and you can almost expect that there is going to create unsettledness among some student athletes and particularly if there were any student athletes that were uncertain as to whether they wanted to be here or uncomfortable with the program; it creates more uncertainty. Our job will be to communicate with our players in such a way that they give us a chance to see this process through and give us a chance to introduce them to the new coach and make sure that they have a clear understanding that this is still Michigan. The reason that they came here is hopefully for a great Michigan education and a great Michigan football experience. And they are going to have to trust me that I'm going to go out there and find the kind of coach that can help them be successful and we'll be talking to them about that a lot.
QUESTION: Were players informed and how were they informed?
DAVID BRANDON: It's a very difficult set of circumstances because, I mean, hell, I had a meeting with the coach yesterday, and before I got out of the meeting it was reported what the outcome of the meeting was. So it's a very difficult thing when you have got players, particularly today who are starting classes and that's where we want them to be, so try to sequence anything in this world where it doesn't leak out and become something that they hear from somebody else.
So we are gathering them together after classes today, and we will be speaking to them and we will be having a lot of one-on-one meetings with them and I have got people on my staff who are prepared to interact with those players and hopefully provide them as much information as possible. And I intend to get with them very soon and spend some time with them as a team myself.
QUESTION: Will you have visits by recruits this weekend, and if so, who will be in charge?
DAVID BRANDON: We will be delaying visits that were previously scheduled for this weekend. Brian Townsend, who is my assistant as it relate to the management of the football operation will be working with Chris Singletary, our recruiting coordinator, and we will be communicating with, and we are already communicating with, those parents and those prospects to reschedule their time in Ann Arbor here for their visits.
QUESTION: Will you address the players, like Robinson, who clearly came here to play for Rich Rodriguez and may not want to stay?
DAVID BRANDON: I will talk to any players that have -- believe me, I've talked to some players over the last few weeks, not because I've sought them, but because they have wanted to speak with me and I'm quite happy. I'm not their coach, and it's not my role to necessarily engage with them, but if a player wants to talk to me, I have always taken the meeting and it's always been very helpful; it certainly has in the last few weeks. If a players wants to reach out and have a one-on-one meeting with me or a group meeting with me, I'll have it, because that's the kind of guy I am. I'm accessible.
QUESTION: Will you address them and tell them anything?
DAVID BRANDON: We are working out the details as it relates to that meeting this afternoon. I don't know whether I will necessarily be at that meeting; if I'm not that at that meeting, I'll be at a meeting very soon with them.
DAVID BRANDON: I have spoken to Jim Harbaugh several times over the last couple years, and as I say, I know so many people that know Jim Harbaugh, and I know Jim Harbaugh and I'm just telling you there's this whole network out there; and it's very accessible and it's very fun to listen to with all of the conjecture that's taking place. But I will tell you again, my personal belief is that Jim Harbaugh is going to end up with a really, really challenging opportunity in the NFL. That's what I think. We'll see.
QUESTION: Is there pressure for to you hire someone who runs an offense similar to Rich, or someone willing to go a complete 180?
DAVID BRANDON: No, there's no pressure to try to find somebody who fits this offense.
But I will tell you this: One of the things that I look for is a coach who can modify their approach and their attack based on the personnel that they have. And I think that's an important discussion to have with any candidate, because we know who our players are and we know what we have and what they are used to and what their experience is. And I will be interested to hear from candidates, how do they think about that and how will they try to take advantage of that, as opposed to there's only one way to win and this is the way. I think that's a great topic of conversation with candidates.
QUESTION: Is there a thought of getting a defensive-minded head coach?
DAVID BRANDON: Is there a thought of getting a defensive-minded head coach; there's a thought of getting a defensive-minded everything. I want the -- I want the ball boys to be defensive-minded.
QUESTION: How do you deal with the perhaps competing entities, be they former football alums or donors or what-have-you that want their guy?
DAVID BRANDON: Yeah, I can only say that people have to understand that there's as many views out there as there are people, and they can be bucketed into various segments: And I like this guy and I like that guy, and I kind of like the fact that people think I'm reachable. And I like the fact that when I can, I respond and acknowledge people who care, because I think it's important. But if people would just stand back and understand that, you know, there's a few thousand attitudes out there in terms of what they think should happen, and I'm the guy who is paid to make that decision; and it's my responsibility, and it's not a vote. And logging in votes is not really going to be that helpful; if it's therapeutic for them, they are welcome to do it. But at the end of the day, I am in possession of the information. I know who the candidate pool is. I'm the one who is sitting down and doing the interviewing and ultimately, I'm going to make the best choice for Michigan, and I'm not going to be influenced by polling and all of the wonderful suggestions that I get from people who are really not all that close to the situation.
QUESTION: Is there a timetable you're working on for the next coach?
DAVID BRANDON: My timetable is go fast, but do it the right way.
QUESTION: Will you be looking for a high-profile person or someone who has a lot of head coaching experience?
DAVID BRANDON: My personal belief is the requirements of this job really lend themselves to someone who has been -- who has led a team and who has head coaching experience and who has recruiting experience and recruiting roots. I think that's a significant advantage to any candidate for this job.
QUESTION: Do they have to be from a BCS school?
DAVID BRANDON: Not necessarily. Is Tressel a bad coach? I think he seems to be doing pretty well down there. At least against us.
QUESTION: How important is recruiting experience in the Midwest, Michigan?
DAVID BRANDON: I think it's really important. We are a national recruiter and we need to go where the talent is. But I've studied pretty carefully where benchmark programs, like Ohio State, where they are getting a lot of their talent, and there's still a lot of good football played in the Midwest. And I think there's a distinct advantage to someone who has those kind of roots and relationships. It's not an exclusive, but I think it's a value.
QUESTION: If, in fact, the history and tradition are important in your decision-making process, there are two successful coaches who certainly have ties to the University of Michigan and are on record as saying, this is their dream job, Hoke and Miles; will you talk with those two and how high are they on the coaching chain?
DAVID BRANDON: Yeah, I just relieved our current coach of his responsibilities a couple hours ago, so I haven't talked to anybody. I've been a little busy since then. But I'm going to reserve the right to talk to everybody and anybody that I want to talk to and in some cases, people who are interested in talking to me. So I'm not going to get into this game of who and lists. I just don't think it's productive. But I'm going to do my best to make sure that I talk to the people that I think are the qualified, capable successors to our current program.
QUESTION: ESPN's John Clayton said that the University of Michigan had, in fact, offered Jim Harbaugh a $5.2 million contract; are you saying there's no truth whatsoever?
DAVID BRANDON: No, there's never been a contract. There's never been an offer. There's been a lot of conversations with Jim Harbaugh and his people over the last two to three years. Trust me. Not all with me; I've only been in this job for a few months. So I don't want to acknowledge or deny anything as relates to conversations that have taken place, because I know there have been many of them. But I think that report is erroneous.
QUESTION: It's been a couple of years since you've had a new head coach from outside; will money be an issue?
DAVID BRANDON: Will money be an issue? I just want you to know, the University of Michigan, if you look at where our benchmark is in terms of our comp packages for our head football coach, we have traditionally kind of been in the middle of the pack. That's been kind of our tradition and I don't necessarily believe that that's appropriate. My point is that there's a market out there and you pay for value and the marketplace dictates what those price tags are. So I want you to know that my philosophy, and I believe that my boss, and that my boss's bosses understand that concept, and we will do what we need to get the right coach to come to Michigan.
QUESTION: Is the goal of the Michigan football program to win a National Championship or to win the Big Ten?
DAVID BRANDON: First and foremost the goal of the Michigan football program is to win the Big 10 Championship and go to the Rose Bowl, every year. My experience has been that if you win the Big 10 Championship and go to the Rose Bowl every year, all kinds of good things are going to happen nationally. You're going to be ranked in the Top-10 or better. You're going to be in the BCS, you've have an opportunity to play for the National Championship because that's how this conference is. I was brought up to believe that if you win the Big 10 Championship and you defeat the people you need to do that, and I would say with the advent of Nebraska starting next year, the high bar has just been raced. If you can effectively win the Big 10 Championship and win that trip to the Rose Bowl, in my opinion, if you're the coach, you're doing a great job. If you're the fans, you're happy. And if you're a player, you get to leave here with a championship ring and you get to have experiences of a lifetime. And that's what Michigan should be about.
QUESTION: What was Rich Rodriguez's reaction to your decision?
DAVID BRANDON: Rich Rodriguez is a consummate professional. He was yesterday. He was today. Was he disappointed? Of course he's disappointed. Who wouldn't be? I know he's frustrated because he would have loved to continue. But I have nothing bad to say about Rich or the way he's conducted himself. I think when you consider -- as he would refer to it, the drama that he has dealt with from the day he got on this campus; and, in fact, some of it started before he even got here, I think he's handled himself in an amazingly controlled and measured way.
QUESTION: How about the buyout?
DAVID BRANDON: The buyout is what the buyout is. The contract is pretty clear and it's a matter of public record.
QUESTION: Are you sure at all surprised that Jim Harbaugh is apparently looking more towards the NFL than coming back here?
DAVID BRANDON: I don't know if surprise is the right word. You know, when you have a bunch of billionaires chasing you around, trying to convince you to come be a part of an NFL program with all of the trappings that come with that, if Jim feels like he's ready for that, and those kind of offers come his way, I mean, who would blame him? Who would blame him? Again, this is just my opinion based on what I see and hear out there and what seems to be emanating from some of the people that are close to Jim.
QUESTION: Were there times you thought that he would look more towards Michigan than the NFL?
DAVID BRANDON: It's no mystery there have been a lot of times in years past that Jim has expressed interest in coming back here. Don't report that as a news flash. That's been the case.