It’s no secret that University of Michigan’s athletic director currently finds himself in a less-than optimal position. Let’s recap some of the events of the past 10 days. On September 27, the Wolverines lost at home to Minnesota by a score of 30 – 14 marking their second straight home loss and third loss of the season. “Fire Brandon” chants emerged from the student section towards the end of the contest. After the game, the Michigan Athletic Department was criticized nationally for their apparent lack of regard for the safety of quarterback Shane Morris. On the following Thursday, students at the University held an anti-Dave Brandon rally that was nationally televised. To cap things off, Michigan lost their third in a row on Saturday to a mediocre Rutgers team.
Much of what looks to be Dave Brandon’s downfall as athletic director can be understood by examining Machiavelli’s The Prince. In this text, Machiavelli expressed his belief that it is better to be feared than loved. He also, however, believed that princes must avoid being hated at all costs. Essentially, Machiavelli believed that a ruler should be able to firmly rule over his people in a way that is not overly offensive to them. Dave Brandon has not been able to accomplish this which is why he is facing a rebellion.
Since Dave Brandon is an athletic director and not a prince, Machiavelli’s advice must be adjusted slightly. For our purposes, let’s consider the Michigan fan base to be Dave Brandon’s subjects. This seems like a fair comparison since the fans have no power over the team yet are helplessly bound to it. (The athletes and coaching staff would be considered his nobles since they do possess some power). Mr. Brandon has no real way to instill fear into Michigan fans, nor should he want to. He should, however, desire something that comes with fear: respect. As long as the fans respect him, there is a low chance that they will rebel against him, especially if they do not hate him. Therefore, a Machiavellian athletic director should have two main goals: 1) Earn the respect of the fans, and 2) Avoid being hated.
Dave Brandon is currently failing on both of these fronts. On game day fans chant for his removal, while during the week they protest against him. A particularly harsh sign held up at the rally read “Buy two cokes, get a free athletic director” in reference to the recent ticket promotion fiasco. Michigan fans seem to have no respect for Mr.Brandon and although hate may be a strong word, the fans certainly have strong feelings against him.
Does Dave Brandon deserve this? According to Machiavelli, yes. Machiavelli believed that a ruler will stimulate hatred from his people if he violates their honor. It can definitely be argued that Mr. Brandon has violated the honor of the fans, as well as the program as a whole. While fans are accustomed to seeing their team on the news, it is usually for their great victories, not for concussion scandals, or unprecedented losses. Michigan students, alumni, and fans have always taken pride in the success of their football team. Nobody is proud of a 2-4 record.
Because Mr. Brandon is losing the respect of Michigan fans while simultaneously gaining their hatred, Machiavellian principals indicate that his time in power is limited. The fans have already began to rebel against him and it is only a matter of time before Dave Brandon is finally overthrown.