Brandon’s tenure as the University of Michigan athletic director ended Friday, amid growing controversy over his attitude toward fans and Michigan’s traditions.
University President Mark Schlissel announced at a news conference that Brandon had resigned.
“I have appointed Jim Hackett to serve as interim director of athletics immediately.” Schlissel said.
— UM Public Affairs (@UMPublicAffairs) October 31, 2014
Schlissel told reporters that politics have nothing to do with how the athletic department is run, and that he did not know what the ultimate factors were that made Brandon “make this decision at this moment.”
The Free Press reported the expected resignation earlier Friday, citing people with first-hand knowledge. They did not want to be identified because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the departure.
Once seen as the perfect blend of businessman, Michigan Man and fundraiser, Brandon has been under intense fire since the summer, when the school’s Board of Regents took the rare step of publicly slapping down a request from the athletic department — for fireworks during football games — complaining that the traditions of Michigan football were being lost.
Brandon was facing more potential embarrassment this weekend. Fans have organized a protest — “White Out, Dave Out” — by wearing anti-Brandon T-shirts for Saturday’s homecoming football game against Indiana (3:30 p.m., BTN).
Some students, alumni and fans — growing more vocal by the month — have been upset with Brandon for some time. A survey of students early this month suggested that his relationship with them was irreparable.
Earlier this week, Michigan sports site mgoblog.com released a series of contentious emails it said were written by Brandon in response to fans. Brandon did not deny the authenticity of the emails but called the post “nonsense” when asked about it by MLive.com.
Brandon’s expected resignation also comes days after the University’s biggest donor, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, told the Wall Street Journal he would not interfere with or oppose any decision about Brandon’s future. This was a stark contrast from Ross’ comments in the wake of the Morris incident, where he backed Brandon strongly and said he should stay as athletic director.
Brandon’s successor likely will come after a national search, but several names — all with Michigan ties — already have been mentioned as front-runners: Boston College athletic director Brad Bates and Connecticut athletic director Warde Manuel, both former Michigan football players; former associate athletic director of development Joe Parker, now deputy athletic director at Texas Tech; and Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, a former Michigan assistant AD. If Michigan wanted Long and wanted to move rapidly, a complicating factor may be that he is the head of the College Football Playoff committee.
Brandon will be paid the bulk of the money remaining on his contract, receiving $3 million over the next four years, according to the settlement agreement released by the university today.
Brandon’s contract extension, signed in 2012, called for him to receive at least $3.8 million if such a settlement had not been reached.
The payments will be spread over four years, with $700,000 coming by the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year, $950,000 in the 2015-16 fiscal year, $750,000 in 2016-17 and $600,000 in 2017-18.
He will retain a number of perks, including two Regent Emeritus seats at football, basketball and hockey games, two dealer cars for the rest of the calendar year and COBRA benefits until the end of the fiscal year in July.
The university holds the right to reduce his compensation if he accepts another job.
Brandon will assist U-M President Mark Schlissel and interim athletic director Jim Hackett in the transition.