The athletic department is building a new electronic billboard which according to Athletic Director David Brandon, “…happens to be across the street from a golf course so it won’t annoy anybody.”
This is interesting on two counts.
First, if it’s not going to annoy anyone why build it? Isn’t the whole point of a billboard to get attention?
Critics from the community have questioned the need for such a billboard to which Brandon responded, “…It’s not at all unusual for athletic campuses … to have some sort of display board activity.”
Yeah, Dave, right. It’s not unusual for athletic campuses to have football stadiums either.
Of course, not many have a capacity of over 109,000.
Everything that Michigan does is over the top. And the Athletic Department is very successful. According to the NCAA, UM is one of the few athletic programs turning a profit.
And Michigan fans like it that way and so do many residents in the Ann Arbor area who live around the University of Michigan campus.
Hail the Victors! The Leaders and Best!
But success sometimes breeds arrogance and increasingly the Athletic Department is being perceived as being oblivious to the local community.
When a regent suggested that, “…Brandon consider allowing local non-profit organizations to advertise on the sign “so the community can feel part of the board that they will be looking at,” he shot the idea down.
Too hard! Can’t do it!
Now there are some amazing people working the athletic department, many of whom have come in under Brandon’s tenure. Surely one of them could figure out a policy and procedure to handle such requests.
But Brandon would have to make that a priority. And there’s the rub, the athletic director wants the community to support his sports teams and athletes (especially the so called non-revenue sports) but seems less and less open to community input.
You would think someone who had been voted out as regent would have learned to pay a little more attention to the public.
Brandon has brought much needed discipline from to the Athletic Department but it has come at a price.
You hear the term “metric” thrown around a lot.
The metric for loyalty is now measured in Priority Points rather than years as a season ticket holder. Fans who’ve had their seats for 20,30, even 40 years are losing out to deep-pocketed donors.
These long time fans are your core demographic, and they’re getting dumped on.
The Athletic Department leadership needs to understand that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
There is no Michigan Athletic Department without the University of Michigan, and the University is publicly funded by the taxpayers of Michigan. Upset enough people and you have a problem.
By most metrics the tenure of Athletic Director Dave Brandon has been a stunning success. The hire of football coach Brady Hoke, the Big Chill, and the first night game in Michigan Stadium history are all positive metrics.
The focus on the “Michigan” brand, while annoying to some, is a positive step to improve the overall marketing of the athletic department.
There may be no clear metric for it yet but there are people who are upset at some of the drastic changes.
Unhappy long time fans and a local community that perceives you as arrogant is a volatile mix that shouldn’t be ignored.
If the athletic department truly wants to realize its vision of “…Relentlessly Striving to make Michigan Athletics the Leaders and Best in Every Way!” it would be well served to be a better partner with its local Ann Arbor neighbors and be more receptive to the complaints of its fans.