Dave Brandon was named the Athletic Director at the University of Michigan in March, 2010. Since then, he has been widely criticized by Michigan students, alumni, and fans, which culminated in a rally calling for Brandon’s firing. This disdain for Brandon is mostly because he has treated Michigan athletics totally like a business, and has shown little regard for the happiness of fans and the actual success of Michigan athletics, specifically the football team. All Brandon seems to care about is making money, and this line of thinking is not acceptable.
Or is it?
After all, while Athletic Directors have many duties, the number one job of the Athletic Department is to promote the athletic programs at the university, and most of all, make money for the university. It isn’t Brandon’s job to recruit top football players or make sure they are prepared for the game that week; that falls on the coaching staff. Brandon’s most important function is to make money for the university and athletic department, and he has done that, even though he has drawn the ire of many supporters of the athletic program.
In Brandon’s eyes, he believes he is doing a good job overall. In conjunction with Machiavelli’s theory of “ends justifying the means”, Brandon has been doing a good job. In his famous book The Prince, Machiavelli states his belief that the ends justify the means, which means that achieving your final objective justifies any step you take to get there, disregarding any ethics or morals.
In Brandon’s view (and Machiavelli’s, if he were alive today), the “ends” for the Michigan athletic department is making a profit. While there are many ways of going about this – not all of which Brandon has done well – he has increased revenue and profit for the athletic department overall. Many people believe a successful athletic department comes about only from having a winning football or basketball team. While these definitely contribute to a successful athletic department, it is not a necessary nor sufficient condition for a successful athletic department. If a school has winning football and basketball programs, but the athletic department is constantly losing money, they are not very successful, are they?
While Brandon has angered many by raising ticket prices, brushing aside some Michigan traditions, poorly communicating messages to the students, running poor promotions, and sitting idly by as the football program has fallen into shambles, Brandon has done one thing very well – make money. Since that is the number one goal for any athletic department, and Brandon has done that extraordinarily well, Machiavelli would approve. The means of earning a profit have not been appreciated by many Michigan fans, but he has achieved his end goal, arguably, better than any athletic director in the history of college sports.
Personally, I am not an advocate of Brandon, as I believe he treats the athletic department too much like a business and does not care enough for the happiness of the fans. With that said, an Athletic Director’s number one job is to promote the Athletic Department and make money for it, and Brandon has done an incredible job at both of those in his tenure as Michigan’s AD. Despite the means to obtaining this profit alienating many fans, Brandon’s ends – the large amounts of profit – justify any actions he took to get there, according to Machiavellian principles. So, with these principles in mind, arguments could be made (not that many people would make these arguments right now) that Brandon is a top-notch athletic director in today’s world.