Brandon Gets his Man

David Brandon discusses the search process that led him to Brady Hoke. Michigan's athletic director sheds light on the criteria by which he evaluated the candidates, how challenging it was to keep the details of the search out of the media, and much much more. ***Full Transcript***

David Brandon opening statement: "I met coaches from several different conferences from several regions of the country and several different personalities, coaching personalities and levels of interest in the Michigan job. I learned as part of this process, this is the first time I've been through it, that all of that glitters is not cold when it comes to some coaches. A two- or three-hour meeting with a coach uncovers much more than you could learn scanning the Internet or sifting through statistics. Sometimes the hype or the PR doesn't match the real person, and this is why you have to meet and interview candidates to make the right decisions."

"I accomplished my goal in the last week of testing the market. And putting myself in a position to be able to select the very best leader for Michigan football to ensure it's an exciting and successful future for our players, our students, and our fans. Brady Hoke is a guy that I met him when he was a coach here, I don't remember and I don't think he does either. We just didn't have an opportunity to have any kind of a relationship, and the first time I met him that I recall was this last summer at a charitable event, he flew into town for and we shook hands and shared about 12 seconds of conversation."

"So contrary to maybe some folks' belief, I had had no relationship and didn't really no Brady Hoke really well until the several hours that we spent together as part of this search process. I didn't know him before, but I knew a lot about him afterwards. I believe I have done exactly what I set out to do in the selection of Brady Hoke as Michigan's head football coach. There were a number of criteria that I established, actually 12 of them, that in every interview, every individual is rated and I did that with every coach that I interviewed."

"But the two that I wanted to highlight particularly, No. 1, his love for this football program and his intense desire to compete for this job. And secondly, his reputation as a coach who can take a program over recruit great players and wins because his players want to play for him. He is truly a players' coach, unlike some other coaches, it's not about him; it's about his players and it's about his team. Brady understands Michigan and what football means here. He has lived it as a coach and he knows what it takes to be successful. He doesn't have to learn the words to the Victors; he's saying it many times in the locker room. He doesn't need a map to get around Ann Arbor, he; was a member of our community for eight years. And he told me that he participated in something like 25 summer football camps in a row here on this campus at University of Michigan."

"As the search progressed, I became more and more interested in Brady as a probably candidate and started contacting with people Brady had worked for, coaches who had coached with him, players who had played for him, and very important, I talked to coaches who have coached against him. The feedback I received was consistent and clear. This is a special guy who can do great things for Michigan football. He's also a guy who knows how to coach defense, has done a lot of it, and it's love and his passion. Brady was a defensive line coaches as many of you know here for the eight years he was part of the staff."

"I called Brady yesterday morning, West Coast time, after I chased him down and asked him to be our coach. He immediately accepted. And I'm thrilled he's here with us today to start his first day of work.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm very pleased and proud to introduce the head football coach of the University of Michigan, Brady Hoke."

Question:  When did you start contacting Brady Hoke and when did you meet with him?

David Brandon:  "Yeah when you're in five cities in six days, you're going at it pretty aggressively and he said it was a week ago.  I think it was a week ago that I was in this room right now.  We put a list together that I really wanted to talk to and I felt the only way to make the process legit and effective was to not turn it into a circus when everybody wanted to turn it into a circus.  I tried to be as clever as I could to create circumstances where I could interact with people and have serious confidential conversations, because in some cases I was not going to meet with certain people if I could not maintain that confidentially.  A lot of these guys are coaching other teams at other places and I wanted to talk to them.  Along the way, some people decided they wanted to talk to me and I was open to that as well in some cases.  I managed the process as best I could to protect the confidentially everybody involved, as I said in my opening remarks.  I spent several hours with Brady.  I wanted to talk to Brady.  He was on the list from day one of somebody that I wanted to talk to and I needed to get to know, because I knew him by reputation, but I didn't know him at all.  There was a lot of people in that process that I knew by reputation, but I wanted to get to know them the way that I wanted to know them and I did.  I'm really interested in as hard as you all tried and as much you all wanted to know, who all I talked to, when I talked to them and what we talked about, it ain't going to happen.  It just ain't going to happen.  You can ask that same question 11 different ways and it is not going to happen.  I'm going to fulfill my promise to those people and we are not going to be blabbing about what we talked about or who we talked to and when we talked to them."

Question:  You were quoted as saying that Brady Hoke was plan A.  If indeed he was plan A, why wasn't this done earlier for recruiting and all that kind of stuff?

David Brandon:  "I don't know about plan A.  I don't remember saying that and I don't know what the context was taken in.  I'm just here to tell you that I said a week ago that I was going to do a national search and believe me you don't go to five cities in six days for entertainment.  I'm sleep deprived.  I'm exhausted.  I wanted to move as fast as I could.  There were some ridiculous schedules that were maintained to do this as quickly as I could do, but to do it well.  I had people that I wanted to see and I had people that I wanted to talk to and I made the decision that I wanted Brady Hoke and I called him at the first earliest opportunity and made the offer and he accepted it.  We never talked about what he was going to be paid.  The only guy that I've ever heard of that took a job without knowing what it paid was (Bo) Schembechler.  Now we're paying him (laughter).  We got to it eventually.  I want you to know that this is a guy that loves this place.  What you see is what you get with Brady Hoke.  He loves this place.  He wants to be here and I had a lot of things that I rated as being extremely important but I wanted a coach that wanted to be here, loved this place and was willing to do everything he needed to do within the bounds of the rules to be successful."

Question:  I'm curious in this whirlwind talking to Brady Hoke and getting to know him, but what jumped out at you that you liked so much about him?

David Brandon:  "I'm a former player.  It was a long time ago, but I still remember and I think one of the most important things in judging a coach is do players want to play for him.  He kind of scoffed at my players coach comment, but I'm here to tell you…you want a team that is going to perform at a high level.  It is a team that wants the coach to be successful because they know it is not about the coach, they know it is about the team.  What impressed me about Brady is first of all, I think he told me that he wanted this job and it was his dream in life in the first four seconds that we were together.  The second thing is that I got more and more of how he coached and he brought all the materials that he used. We had a long discussion about how he approaches his job.  It became very apparent to me that this was not a guy that it is all about me.  It's a guy that is all about the team.  He's a guy that players want to play for.  Our current football player have only spent a grand total of a couple hours around this guy, but you have no idea how many of them have come up to me and made comments about their immediate reaction to the attitude that this guy brings to coaching football.  I think that is exactly what we need here at Michigan."

Question:  Just a couple of process questions, how many people do you think you talked to?

David Brandon:  "Several."

Question:  At what point, I know you said you talked to Brady as soon as you made the decision, but at what point…

David Brandon:  "…but where within the several was Brady and when?"

Question:  No that's not what I'm asking.  At what point did you realize that Brady was definitely going to be guy you wanted?

David Brandon:  "I called him yesterday morning, really earlier and forgot there was a three hour time difference and spent the better part of an hour and a half trying to find Brady. We played where's Brady….Laura, yesterday morning.  That's when I officially extended the offer to Brady Hoke and unofficially do not read anything into that.  It is when I asked Brady Hoke to be coach at Michigan."

Question:  I know you walked about when you had your first press conference about hiring a coach that could fit his offense to the personnel.  Did you guys have any discussions specifically about that.  I know he ran the prostyle, did you talk specifically about fitting Denard (Robinson) into that or did you guys not talk about specific players?

David Brandon:  "We talked about that a lot.  Part of what we talked about was scheme and philosophy and how have you taken in your previous jobs various personnel and use that personnel in a way to be successful because I believe that is what coaches do.  If coaches come in and say, I only know how to do it this way, it doesn't matter who's here, it doesn't matter. I think that is a hard way to lead a football team.  I think you have to adapt.  I had a great discussion with Brady in terms of how he uses talent and how he leverage talent to be successful.  I came away very, very comfortable.  You cannot have a conversation about Michigan football without talking about Denard Robinson, special.  So I think every meeting that we had included discussion.  We had discussions about a lot of other great players on that team including other quarterbacks.  We talked about a lot of people including Denard."

Question:  Did you have complete autonomy in this hiring process?

David Brandon:  "I had total autonomy.  Every once in a while I would check in with my boss and she would say, ‘David where are you.'  They're tracking some airplane with a Block M on it (laughter)."

Question:  There is a theory that there was one candidate in particular that she did not want hired.  Can you speak to that and was there any like, I don't want this guy to be the next coach?

David Brandon:  "That theory and I've heard that rumbling out there and it is complete baloney.  Complete and unadulterated baloney, capital letters underscored.  See me after class and I'll give you another word (laughter)."

Question:  Specifics of the contract, how many years and how much money are we talking about?

David Brandon:  "It is a six year contract.  We put it all together yesterday morning in a very rough term sheet format.  The best thing, because I'll get something wrong and I don't want to do that.  The best thing is obviously that will be a matter of public record when it is in a form that can it be made available to you and you can pour through it all you want."

Question:  It has or has not been signed?

David Brandon:  "A definitive contract has not been signed because it takes a little longer than a few hours.  Coach Hoke is not worried about that and neither am I."

Question:  You mentioned that you had talks about other quarterbacks in the program.  Can you confirm Tate Forcier's status, is he still with the program?

David Brandon:  "No Tate is not with the program.  It is difficult for me to confirm and I really hate acting like I'm dodging questions, I'm not.  It is just that there are certain limitations in terms of what I can talk about relative to any student's academic status at the university.  I just refer you back to what was said at the time that Tate was removed from the team down in Jacksonville.  I would rather leave that up to somebody else, because I do not want to be in a position where I'm speaking where I shouldn't be speaking relative to someone's academic status."

Question:  You mentioned that you had about a dozen things on your checklist that you were looking for in your new Michigan man, you mentioned a couple of them.  Can you share the rest of them with us or some of the other things that you were kind of judging?

David Brandon:  "No you will have to buy that from me (laughter)."

Question:  When's the book come out?

David Brandon:  "Yeah I will probably come out with some coaching selection seminar and you'll have to pay to attend."

Question:  Can you at least give us another one?

David Brandon:  "No."

Question:  Where there whether it be successful hires at Michigan with Coach Schembechler or other successful hires in the Big Ten or around the country, any kind of template that you looked at and said this type of coach, this resume, this fit for the university that you considered in trying to evaluate these candidates?

David Brandon:  "Yeah.  I actually went back and there was a lot of data pulled together, someone really was a good friend and supporter from another institution who had worked with the Big Ten office and did all the correlations as to what constituted success and failure in like the last 25 years of coaches being hired.  It was really interesting stuff.  I like data and I like making decisions based on objective data and it was really interesting.  People do not think this way because they are out there following who is the darling in the media.  One of the greatest correlations to someone who has no connection to the region, conference or area that they've been dropped into.  If you think about it, they have no relationships with high school coaches, they have no recruiting roots.  They have no awareness of the conference and the competition of the conference and that was one of the major dislocations in a great number of misfires as it relates to coaching decisions.  There were people, believe me I got plenty of help with this search via the email.  There are people who would suggest someone who has never spent a day of their life east of the Mississippi and truthfully when you start digging in and finding how easy or hard would it would be for that person to parachute in and turn the program around it, it just wasn't going to work.  A long answer, but the question is a good one and I want you to know that I looked a lot of different factors and tried to learn from other people's mistakes so hopefully I would not make the same ones."

Question:  How did this compare to big decisions you've made in your corporate life and how glad are you that it is over?

David Brandon:  "Listen, I've done two initial public offerings that were at the time the largest of their kind on the New York Times Exchange.  I've done billon dollar transitions.  I've hired a lot of really high level people and so I'm not unfamiliar with doing national searches.  I'm not unfamiliar with interviewing people who are high profile and at the top of their game.  None of that was particularly unusual.  I've just never had anybody follow me around while I did it.  In some cases, worked with great earnest to undermine the process.  Because the reality is that if I'm out there putting on some kind of a side show, I'm not going to be able to talk to people that I want to talk to.  There are people that are afraid of it and they are going to shy away from it.  I'm running around in camouflage gear trying to set up opportunities to meet the people that I wanted to meet with to make sure that I got to the right decision.  That made it tougher.  The level of difficulty was made tougher, but I'm proud of what we did, I'm proud of the way we did it and most importantly I'm really proud of the results."

Question:  Now that the process is over, the sort of pulling together and getting behind and maybe even healing process of everyone involved and around and interested in Michigan football. 

David Brandon:  "The first thing I'm going to do now that this process is over is I'm going to get more than three hours of sleep tonight.  Then I'm going to wake up tomorrow and we're going to go to work for Michigan.  Those people out there that love this place and care about this place and understand this place, they're going to love this football coach and they're going to love the way this team plays.  Those people out there who like to tear apart and like to criticize and like to find fault and all that stuff, their out there and let them be out there.  Let them be out there, but they are not going to detract me or this coach or our team from getting on the path that we all want to be on.  That man is walking around with a diamond national championship ring on his finger and several Big Ten Championship rings from Michigan in his jewelry case and those players know it.  Those players commented on it and they know it and that's what those players want.  In this game, a lot of people lose track of this, this game is about the player.  Yeah we need fans, we want fans, yeah you're all important, we need the coverage that you bring and the visibility that you bring, but this is about football players.  This is about changing young men's lives.  This is about bringing leadership in here who makes a difference in the lives of young men.  They leave here with a championship ring and they leave here with a great education and they go out and do great things in life – that's Michigan.  Michigan men do that, they create other Michigan men.  The guy you've just met is all about that, he is all about that.  He didn't spend as much time with a PR machine as others may and he may not be dressed up and polished in the toaster master general like other people and I don't care.  I want a football coach.  I want a football coach who is going to do with these young men that we want them to do, teach them what they need to learn and win.  That's Michigan."

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