Officially broken at a press conference this past Friday at precisely 1:30 pm, the news that David Brandon will no longer serve as the the athletic director at the University of Michigan has since spread across both the campus, and the country. This marks the end of a four year era which produced mixed results across the board. Now many people had begun calling for Brandon’s head long ago amidst a football season that has failed to meet the standards of many associated with the university. However; in order to make a fair assessment of the situation, one must look the responsibilities that Brandon had, along with the actions that he took in various situations throughout his tenure as the head athletic director. The athletic director essentially governs the entire athletic program, overseeing 27 varsity sports and the logistics that accompany them. This is where can can look at the position from a similar standpoint that Hobbes looked at government in Leviathan.
Involving “a mutual transferring of rights,” the elected official must fulfill this contract or otherwise commit a”violation of faith” (Hobbes 7). In Brandon’s earnest to monetize the athletic program in order to generate maximum revenue, it appears as though he lost sight of the big picture. Through an overwhelming focus on the corporate nature of the collegiate athletics, he managed to alienate his fan base. It doesn’t require a thorough knowledge of Machiavelli in order to realize that once you lose the support of the people, your tenure is all but over.
As President Mark Schlissel stated in his press conference, the resignation of Brandon is “in the best interest of our student-athletes, the athletic department and the university community.” After raising prices to such an extent that students no longer filled the student section of the stadium, waffling back and forth about proper concussion protocol that led to an at-risk player being left on the field, and losing the support of the alumni base, it is hard to argue with Schlissel’s statement. As Hobbes writes “words alone…contain a bare promise” and Brandon’s actions failed to live up to expectations (Hobbes 7).
A popular Michigan football blog lays out nicely the the developments that ultimately led us to this moment. Citing a lack of communication and transparency between the department and the board of regents, an unwillingness to admit mistakes, and a series of public relations failures as the primary reasons why Brandon’s tenure as athletic director is coming to a close.