Brandon Looking To Schedule Games of Interest

Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon took some time to answer a few questions this afternoon in Ann Arbor. Brandon touches on the new non-conference games in 2014-2016, the PAC-12/BIG 10 scheduling moving forward, and the challenges of facing tough opponents early under the new playoff system.

Just one day after Michigan officially released portions of their non-conference schedule for the 2014 through 2016 seasons, Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon explained one of the most compelling pieces of news to come out of the release: Michigan will open up the 2015 season at Utah in the first Thursday night game in Michigan football history.

"Well, first of all Utah is the one that secured the game," said Brandon. "They had a Thursday night game already on their schedule and planned with the networks. And when the opportunity came for us to fill that spot, we looked at the following factors: number one, school isn't in session yet so it's not an impact to our student-athletes. Second, it's the first game of the season. We like being in those situations. I think the college football world will be anxious for action and anxious for excitement and we're going to be there to provide it on national television. Tthe third thing we looked at was we get an extra two days rest before we play the next game. And so when you think about traveling west and sometimes the complications of that with time changes and the like, Brady and I talked about it and he just loved the fact that we'd be able to travel back and give the team an extra couple days rest and preparation time for the next game on the schedule."

"When you look at all of that, we thought it was terrific. I've said all along we're not going to do this in Ann Arbor, we're not going to have 110,000 people on a Thursday night in Ann Arbor, or a Friday night."

"Part of the objective is to create contests that are interesting to people that, are fascinating to people, and contests that people want to talk about," continued Brandon. "So I don't know why those games kind of came to the tip of your tongue, but they probably did because they're out there and people are talking about it: should we play Appalachian State, and a Thursday night game, and a neutral site game? Those are all ways that we're out there doing some innovative things for us that create a lot of interest in our football program, and a lot of attention for our football program. I would think every Michigan fan would enjoy that and feel good about it, cause that's part of what we want to accomplish."

Once the 2014 season arrives, details of the new four-team playoff system will already have been ironed out and will make its debut to the college football world. A selection committee should be firmly in place to hand pick the teams that will represent their various conferences on a national level. Here in 2012, the future of that four team playoff, including details of the selection committee are still a bit of an unknown. A conference championship and strength of schedule should weight heavily in the committee's ultimate decision, but uncharted territory is still being explored in this process.

"I can't be confident of anything. I don't even know who the selection committee is," said Brandon about the playoff. "What I have read and heard was that a couple of the things the selection committee is going to weight are conference championships and strength of schedule, and I think that's terrific. Now how that translates and gets operationalized in terms of who the committee is and how they ultimately arrive at who the top four teams are, that all remains to be seen. But I like what I'm hearing because I do think strength of schedule. We, nor should any other team in America be penalized because we take on a really tough opponent at the beginning of the season in the non-conference and maybe lose a close game. That should not be a death blow to a program that wants to compete at the national level, and hopefully that'll be the case."

With the new PAC-12/BIG 10 agreement set to get underway across the board in 2017, the Wolverines already have the aforementioned Utah Utes, plus Oregon State Beavers and Colorado Buffalos lined up as early season opponents beginning in 2014. Will the conferences look to create an even playing field and competitive balance among their elite and lower-tier teams moving forward, possibly setting up Michigan match-ups with some of the best teams the PAC-12 currently has to offer?

"The first thing you have to understand is that this collaboration is still being weighed and measured," Brandon explained. "It was announced and both conference commissioners are very committed to it. A lot of us think it's a great idea, but at some point you have to transition from a great idea to how do you operationalize it, how do you truly schedule it. What I've said, and have said all along, is that early on the concept from a scheduling football perspective was to try to do a tier match-up to keep those games interesting and competitive. I still think that's out there on the drawing board as it relates to how you may take football scheduling and apply it against the collaboration. We're at a moment now where we simply have to wait for this collaboration to take shape and get into some of the details for how that all happens, before I can really tell you."

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