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Posted on Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

Big House Big Heart coordinator 'baffled' by why race can't finish in Michigan Stadium

By Kellie Woodhouse


Runners enter the tunnel at Michigan Stadium during The Big House Big Heart run in Ann Arbor in 2011.

Joseph Tobianski I

When Andrea Highfield learned the annual Big House Big Heart run would have to go forward without half of its namesake —the Big House— she was "baffled" and discouraged, she says.


Joseph Tobianski I

University of Michigan athletic department administrators told Highfield, whose company Champions for Charity coordinates the charity run, the seventh annual race could not take place at the Michigan Stadium anymore.

"We were baffled... as to why Big House Big Heart can't continue because it is so very charitable and provides help and inspiration to so many people," she said. "I deal with these people every day and realize how compelling their reasons are for wanting to do an inspirational race that finishes in the stadium."

Highfield and her staff sent an email Tuesday morning informing supporters the 2013 race, set for April 14, would be canceled.

The event brought in more than 15,000 runners who raced and walked 10- and 5-kilometer and 1-mile paths throughout downtown Ann Arbor and University of Michigan's campus. Between an October 2011 run and March 2012 run, the events raised more than $2 million for more than 200 charities, according to Highfield.

Highfield said Champions for Charity rented the stadium for the event during prior races. The rate in prior years had been roughly $7,000 and for the 2013 race the department established a new rate of just under $16,000, according to Highfield. "I was a little taken aback," Highfield says of the change in rates.

Then, on Nov. 30, the athletic department told Highfield the race could not use Michigan Stadium.


Jason Yaeger of Ann Arbor jumps across the finish line hitting the "Go Blue" sign during The Big House Big Heart run in Ann Arbor in 2011.

Joseph Tobianski I

"They told me... their priorities have changed," Highfield recalls.

Dave Ablauf, U-M associate athletic director for media relations, said the decision to pull out of the race came "after months and months" of assessing the athletic department's charitable mission. In that evaluation, department staff decided to begin a year-long partnership with the Special Olympics of Michigan and drop its involvement with Big House Big Heart.

"We evaluated this organizationally. The Big House Big Heart run has become a challenge to fit into our stadium," he said. "We are very grateful for the six years we partnered with this group. We definitely hope that they're going to continue to have this run in Ann Arbor."

The Big House Big Heart run is one of several local runs organized by Champions for Charity, a for-profit company run by Highfield and her husband, who don't receive paychecks, according to Highfield. The company has one paid full-time employee and four part-time employees.

Highfield said while the company isn't a non-profit, it doesn't necessarily turn much of a profit. During the last fiscal year, Champions for Charity earned roughly $19,000 in surplus revenue, Highfield said.


Joseph Tobianski I

"It's just a little mom-and-pop organization," Highfield said.

Registration for the Big Heart Big House run historically cost between $32 and $36 per runner, depending on registration date. Depending on the year, between $6 and $9 of each the registration fee went to charitable organizations and the remainder went toward administrative costs and event costs, such as T-shirts and snacks.

One hundred percent of the money a team raised prior to the race went to a charity of their choice.

Rachel Dewees, director of the U-M Turner Senior Resource Center, was part of a team of five organizations for the elderly that raised money through the Big House Big Heart run. Last year her team raised $25,000 through the run, Dewees said.


Joseph Tobianski I

"It's a significant amount of money" that is "important to all five of our budgets," Dewees said.

Dewees said she felt "extreme disappointment" when she learned on Tuesday morning the race had been canceled.

"It was a chance to raise awareness of our program... and just be more involved in helping us sustain the program," she said.

Ablauf said the athletic department remains committed to assisting in charitable causes. Earlier this month "Be a Hero at the Big House," a blood donation event, took place at the stadium, and a Michigan Stadium polar plunge, the department's first event with the Special Olympics, is scheduled for February.

The department, he said, has to be selective about what events it allows at the Big House because it receives hundreds of requests each year.

"We have our own private rental program, we're doing stuff with the Special Olympics and we have a lot of things we do now in the that stadium," Ablauf said.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 2:54 a.m.

okay, so... U of M doesn't think that a not-for-profit "mom and pop" charity venture that would require them to open their gates for one day fits their priorities? and what ARE their priorities? I can't believe that they think that saying "oh we do another one, this is one charity too many" is a viable answer. Somebody at U of M is fast asleep at the wheel.


Thu, Dec 6, 2012 : 3:16 a.m.

This is interesting. I'm thinking there is more to this story than the reporter discovered. As a runner I guess I'm disappointed though I never thought of this as a "well run event" but then I wouldn't say that it was terrible. Just a bit over priced but then you figure the money is going to charity. The year I ran it they ran out of water.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 11:12 p.m.

Coming next: The big bucks relay!

Lets Get Real

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 10:14 p.m.

Gave up my tickets. I can think of better ways to spend $100 than to watch UM students clobber Akron, especially when I can pay for an entire year of cable - where I can be warm and dry, not pay to park, not have to drag food, and have friends over for a great party - with what I paid for season tickets. Cost/benefit analysis. It is not rocket science.

Lets Get Real

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

Beomg a Professional Event Planner is not a shameful profession. There is a certification for it with the nationally recognized trade association. It takes study, years of experience, and excellence to achieve the designation. Some Professional Event Planners focus on a niche: golf outings, gala's, balls, casino themed events hire professionals: dealers, golf pros, theme designers, etc. With the competition for the charitable dollar, nonprofit organizations - whose core competencies is NOT event planning, have enjoyed significantly enhanced revenues from professionally run events. Champions for Charity have focused on running events. Should thier staff not be paid? Should their rentals not be covered? What makes you think someone should spend the hours of planning, organization, and physical work it takes to run such an event and not be paid, Do you? Will you? They do a good job, they give to worthy causes, they have expense. The timing equipment, the set-up, clean-up, trash hauling, transportation, food, shirts, staff time for registration, rental for tables, tents, sound equipment, on call ambulance, police, rental for runner's parking, signage, marketing, website, recruitment of volunteers - lots of volunteers for marshalls, food preparation, water distribution stations, first aid providers . . . . . . . . . . . getting the picture. Ever run an event for 15,000 people. And, oh yes, let's not forget the field rental - previously at $7,000. Do people think the business should not be able to pay for their leased office space, personal business property tax to the city, electricity, heat, marketing, etc. Clearly people who comment here don't have a clue about cost of doing business. Put them out of business and deny $2million dollars to local charitable organizations - including some University divisions. One article says UM Athletics want to run their own events. How much do you think they will donate to local charity?

Kyle Nemmeyer

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

UM spends a lot on construction. Not on A2, just UM. The bridge project got $0. When the city asked to put a sidewalk on the south side of Stadium, at the golf course, UM said no. Last time I looked there was a major high school across the street. UM can't afford 10 yards for a public walkway? And it's not the Michigan Difference, it's the Michigan Indifference.

Lets Get Real

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 10:10 p.m.

And, although they contributed nothing to the bridge project, the University charged property rental to the city & contractors for putting their construction equipment on "their" property to erect the bridge. Let' not mention how the heavy construction equipment used to renovate the stadium and arena projects degraded the Stadium Blvd roadway. Are they contributing to fixing that? No you are, Ann Arbor tax payers.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 5 p.m.

Kudos to the Michigan Daily staff for seeking out further comment from the athletic department. From their article posted here:,0 Associate Athletic Director Dave Ablauf said there were multiple reasons the department severed its ties with Champions for Charity. He noted that the department looks for certain principles in a charity. "We desire a mutually gratifying experience, transparency regarding how funds are being handled, strong management structure and the opportunity to be a true partner in aspects ranging from operations, scheduling and risk management," Ablauf said. "We believe there is a better way to activate Michigan Stadium for a race of this magnitude, one that includes greater potential to raise money for charities who were involved with CFC." Comments seem consistent with those already stated- an uncertainty in the way CFC operates- not necessarily a retreat from charitable principles.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

Thanks for the updated info. Hopefully, does the same follow up work and more regarding CFC's financials. I really feel like CFC attempted to turn this into a huge PR mess for UM in an attempt to force their way back in. BOOM goes the dynamite. Let the light of day shine brightly on CFC's books.

Mark Wilson

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

Rename as the "Homeless Big Heart Run"?

Nikki River

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

Dave Brandon is only interested in money. Since he's still collecting a check from Domino's, maybe the event should be renamed "The Dominos Pizza Big House, Big Heart Free Delivery Spectacular" ... it would also help if the runners wore the Dominos logo and maybe delivered a few pies while they were running.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

There is a lot more to this story the average person without connections to high profile UM administration or regents will never know. The reasons provided by Um doesn't pass the smell test. I suspect this is about politics and/or regents have an ax to grind with the organizer. David Brandon and his staff are just the messangers. They didn't make the decision. Focus your anger on the Regents people. They are calling the shots.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

Another a "for profit" company their financial records are kept private and FAR away from any kind of watchdog group...


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

Apparently, a lot of people can't read. Champions for Charity is not a charity organization. They are a for profit company. They organize races and make money from them. In addition to that income, they give a portion of the proceeds to charity. They also work with local charities to put together teams to raise money from non-entry fees. To those of you questioning where the transparency is...they're a for profit company. They do not have to release their financials! I've run races before that had $75 entry fees and nothing went to charity, so stop complainging that they're only giving approximately 25%. To those commenting about hefty profits, you obviously have no idea what it takes to put on an event of this size. They obviously had to pay to rent the Big House according to the article. Then you've got permits, police, paramedics, timing (generally charged per entrant), food and drink (for 15,000) people, t-shirts, awards, and more. None of these things are free. I'm sure they get sponsors to help out with some of these costs, but they no doubt still have major expenses. I'm sure they still make money, but that's not really the point. The point is that the AD decided that 2 million dollars for local charities over the last couple years wasn't that important.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:21 p.m.'re going to DEFEND them.....really? At the end of the day....being a for-profit when doing what they do is ONLY for one reason....PROFIT. That's not a charitable thing. In fact how many for-profit charities do you know of? On that same note, how many for-profit companies do you know of that organize charitable events? By being a middle man in all this they can skim whatever they want by declaring "operating costs." This still happens with non-profits....but because their FINANCIALS are made public so it doesn't get abused. Also...MASSIVE tax incentives for being a non-profit. I personally know a couple unscrupulous individuals that have BRAGGED how much money they've made through their non-profit ventures. If I had more investment capital...and lacked ethics of course....I could easily do the same thing.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

Of course theres is a good and clear reason, the race does not contribute to the bottom line of the Athletic Department. It represents only a cost not revenue. The deparmtent is interested in boosting cahs flow and its balance sheet not community service.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

Champions for Charity also puts on the Ann Arbor Marathon. That race was controversial in its first year because of its timing (too close to the Dexter-Ann Arbor for many runners) and the massive disruption to traffic, churchgoers, neighborhood residents who like to sleep past 6:00 a.m., and so on. There was, I seem to recall, some discussion about the fundraising element then, too. Irrespective of who is at "fault" here, CFC is obviously shifting its focus to a more profitable race in June.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

"Highfield said while the company isn't a non-profit, it doesn't necessarily turn much of a profit. During the last fiscal year, Champions for Charity earned roughly $19,000 in surplus revenue, Highfield said." Because of what the company should be a not-for-profit...period. The money saved in taxes alone could go right back into the charitable causes... That surplus by the $19,000 made ON TOP of paying the salaries of those 5 employees.....and what are their salaries again? ANY for-profit company that is involved in charity work should raise an eyebrow.....

Lets Get Real

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 9:48 p.m.

Perhaps you haven't been involved in a nonprofit golf outing lately. A huge task, not at the core skill set of competency of most charitable organizations, private event planners are hired to insure participations have a positive experience at a well run event put on by professionals who focus on that type of event. They do a professional job and are paid well, but not exorbantly. Just like nonprofit gala's hire professional designers to maximize the attendee's experience, run by pros, the revenue generated for the charities is enhanced as compared to poorly run events run by amateurs. With the competition for charitable dollars, hiring pros is the norm, not the exception


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

I would also note that Notre Dame manages to "fit" the Sunburst races into their stadium every year. And those include a half-marathon and marathon, and a lot more runners. Those races have been going on for nearly thirty years. They're beating us in football again, and now they're beating us in this area too.

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

Perhaps the "charity" that is behind that race is truly "non-profit". The amount of money actually going to the charities is pitiful, compared to what is collected.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

Can you tell by their web addresses listed below what the difference between the two organizations is?


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

Total B.S. move by the athletic department, and the explanation provided is another heap of B.S. It's one day out of the year. Last time I checked, years have 365 days. Sometimes 366. To claim that "[t]he Big House Big Heart run has become a challenge to fit into our stadium" is ridiculous. "[W]e have a lot of things we do now in the that stadium." Really? Every day? You can't set aside one freaking day per year for this race? This decision is going to come back to bite Dave Brandon in a place where it really hurts.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 3:01 p.m.

The only thing that will bite Brandon is if alumni contributions slow down because of this decision and somehow I don't think that will happen.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

This is such sad news. I always loved seeing the big house from the field and selfishly one of the reasons why I put this race on my must do lists each year!

Jojo B

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

It can't finish in the BIG House because Brandon and the Athletic Department won't make millions of dollars off of the event. It's all about BIG money and national attention. BIG House BIG Heart just isn't BIG enough. I'm sure if some NFL/NHL/Olympic star and the national media was involved, U-M would suddenly have a change of (BIG) heart.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

How scrooge-like. This university is increasingly over-stepping its bounds and disrespecting the very city and community it claims to be a part of. I think Dave Brandon and Mary Sue better reel it back in a little bit, because a growing sentiment of DISGUST is breeding among the populace. This is a power and money hungry organization bent on permanent growth, self-preservation and gross consumption. I see little in the way of any real efforts towards compassion or sustainability - it's all about the money now. Pretty gross.

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

I have to say that 15,000 people stomping through my yard, no matter the size, would create an impact I might not want to deal with, either. Perhaps the cleanup from the past races is more than the athletic department cares to deal with. BIG or little, it is their house.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

"...and the remainder went toward administrative costs and event costs, such as T-shirts and snacks." I was disappointed to learn of the cancelation of the event, like most. It is puzzling and I think there must be more to the story. As some other commenters alluded, the stated amount in the article is about 25% of the entrance fee to charity. So let's do the math and figure this out: Assume $36 for entry fee and 15,000 runners. That's $540,000. Then $9 for charity leaves $405,000. We know that the rental fee was $7,000 last year, so that brings it down to $398,000. $10 per t-shirt leaves $248,000. $5 per runner for food (banana, water bottle, cookie, granola bar) gets it to $173,000. Now comes the hard part: how much does it cost for A2 permits, police, etc. Last year, A2 wanted $100,000 for traffic control for football Saturdays, but an article is A2 Chronicle said the current services cost $2,800 per game. So, for kicks, let's use $100,000. That leaves $73,000 for staff, decorations, transportation and other expenses (not including taxes). But that's the worst case scenario. The cost of t-shirts is like subsidized by advertisements and some of the food may be donated. Likewise, I doubt the $100,000 figure for A2 services and much of the staff are volunteers. So, CFC is probably making a tidy profit. I don't blame them for that, but it gives me a bit less sympathy for them and a bait more understanding for U of M's position. Maybe a bit more transparency from CFC would help here.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

I bet the discovery that the Champions for Charity is NOT a not-for-profit business had a LOT to do the UM's decision.

Tim Hornton

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

Why not run through Ypsi and finish at Eastern's Stadium. If it's for charity I'm sure all the people will still run it that ran this in Ann Arbor and the organizers would promote a run even if their profits aren't as much since it's for charity. Does a local run for charity have to begin and end with the greatest football school in the country's football stadium. Eastern could use a little good PR lately.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 11:44 a.m.

This is totally disgusting -- Big M, little Heart.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 4:10 a.m.

"The Big House Big Heart run is one of several local runs organized by Champions for Charity, a for-profit company run by Highfield and her husband" Hey, I would work a couple of Saturday for $19K too. - That is, of course on top of "expenses" (whatever those are). The other advantage to a business like this is that you get to live your life at 1/3 off. Write off the computer, gas, office, dinners out, trips, running clothes.......Maybe UM sees something we don't?


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 3:35 a.m.

Finish in the Diag, but hold the race.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 3:20 a.m.

I'm very disappointed in UofM's decision! The 'big house' is a Brand Name and they want to milk every penny for what it's worth. They no longer wanted Big House Big Heart involved, so they priced them out with an increased rental charge, and then decision to just pull up the red carpet. This is pathetic, greedy, and uncharitable.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:46 a.m.

I would like to see the accounting from CFC for prior races. They are a for profit business. Maybe their salary is only $19,000 but how much do they claim in profit from the business. Contrary to what some posters have said, most races are to benefit a charity. Not that all runners have that in mind when they enter a race.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:42 a.m.

I think UM should do this because it's a nice event and a good cause. But UM shouldn't take heat for not hosting the event. People can run another race and solicit funds for their respective causes. Maybe more people run because it's at the Big House, but I doubt people donate because it's at the Big House.

Joe Mize

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.

so @DaveBrandonAD cannot spare michigan stadium for one day for this event to take place. I am a huge Michigan fan and have supported the school, athletics and honor of the institution since I was a little kid. Now I am beginning to see why so many people have a negative attitude toward UM. I am sad to be a Wolverine fan today. This event was fun and made a lot money for worthy charities.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:25 a.m.

There is more to it than what we all know. The charity behind this walk is a for-profit organization. Something tells me that there are things going on behind the scenes that we are not aware of.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:50 a.m.

Highfield and her staff sent an email Tuesday morning informing supporters the 2012 race, set for April 14, would be canceled. Really? They cancelled last year's race?


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

I thought the "Big House" was a prison for "Pedophilic College Athletic Personnel" and "Fake Charitable Organizers"?


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

My first 5k was the BHBH. I have worked in Ann Arbor for 25 years and have always supported UofM. This outrage falls right in line with an arrogant sports program that has been on a steady downhill slide for several years now, combined with the fact that they have ruined the Big House by turning it into some sort of demented temple. Now, they boot an exceptional charity event like BHBH? I for one have had enough of this school's arrogance. I will no longer support them, buy their apparel, tickets for any of their games, watch UofM games, or give any kind of discount to their workers and students in my business until they decide to change their mind about this. This is a total boycott! I urge the rest of you to do the same.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

Or maybe the rest of could wait for actual facts and find out a bit more about this private company that pretends to be a non-profit.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:38 a.m.

Maybe end the race in that area on the north side of the Huron River near Dave Brandon's house.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:29 a.m.

This is probably better for the Big Heart group. The Big House is way over rated! Why not use Gallop Park and call it "The Big Heart Gallop"?


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:18 a.m.

You can't buy this kind of bad press for $16,000. :) This isn't surprising to me at all. U of M owns Ann Arbor and they couldn't care less what anyone says. The management of the business that is the U of M all still get their money, perks, status, and they sleep like babies. I bet they are even laughing at these comments.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

I agree with Tesla. So what if the race organizers make a little money or not. Thousands of runner enjoy this race along with a chance to experience the Big House and they donate money to charity in the process. U of M always does what it has all the power and I'm sure they are in fact, laughing at all these comments.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

Who cares? It's still stingy and lousy public relations for Brandon and his assistant, Mary Sue.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:36 a.m.

look into the Champions for Charity company a little more before you jump to conclusions. They aren't a non profit, and hardly any money that they raise actually goes to charity. So if that's part of the reason the athletic department decided not to work with them anymore, I'm ok with that. They already support a large number of charities as it is, and student athletes are constantly involved in community service.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:17 a.m.

The Stadium is a revenue machine for U of M and needs to be protected. It is important that we remember that without the University we would be just another Ypsilanti or Saline. Chugu

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 11:11 p.m.

Sarcasm is "a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt", usually conveyed through irony or understatement.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:05 a.m.

This is not just a charity fundraiser, it's a race event. I don't think we should hold the organizers to the same standards we would for the Red Cross, for instance. No runner is paying the registration fee and thinking that the majority of his dollars are going to the charities. He is paying for the experience of running the race and having a fun time. The BHBH registration fee is on par with other races... races in which ZERO dollars go to charity. So I don't care what percentage the organizers give to charities. It's more than most races give.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

I disagree. I think many folks are drawn to the event because they think it is a charitable race event. But it is not, despite the name of the private company that runs it and despite the fact that they certainly bill it as a charitable event.

Ron Granger

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 11:58 p.m.

"The rate in prior years had been roughly $7,000 and for the 2013 race the department established a new rate of just under $16,000, according to Highfield. "I was a little taken aback," Highfield says of the change in rates." Please tell me they weren't denied because they dared to question the large increase and high cost? Or maybe the Michigan hopsital system wants to run their own "heart" race?

J. Zarman

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 11:47 p.m.

For charities that arrange their own events, the percentage the charity spends on administration and fund raising is the key measure. The Better Business Bureau suggests that this percentage should be under 35%. The federal government's charity drive (the Combined Federal Campaign) wants it to be under 25%. This differs, as a private corporation handles the finances and organizing. But, still, what is the charitable return on the dollar? For the Big House Big Heart event, 71.8% or more goes to administration and expenses, meaning 28.2% or less actually to the charities. (".....between $6 and $9 of each the registration fee went to charitable organizations and the remainder went toward administrative costs and event costs"). Universities and other organizations are requiring charities they coordinate with, to have low fund-raising and administrative costs, and an annual audit (source: Administrative costs over 71% absolutely should be scrutinized.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

The Michigan Indifference?

Seasoned Cit

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:37 p.m.

Looks like the Highfield's Priority Point total wasn't high enough to get the run again. I'd like to see a breakdown of all the expenses of these runs. Shirts, equipment rental, police overtime, barricade rentals and moving, etc etc... Just where does all the registration fee income go?

Lets Get Real

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

The timing equipment, the set-up, clean-up, food, shirts, staff time for registration, rental for tables, tents, sound equipment, on call ambulance, police, rental for runner's parking, signage, marketing, website, recruitment of volunteers - lots of volunteers for marshalls, food preparation, water distribution stations, first aid providers . . . . . . . . . . . getting the picture. Ever run an event for 15,000 people. And, oh yes, let's not forget the field rental - previously at $7,000. Do people think the business should not be able to pay for their leased office space, personal business property tax, electricity, heat, etc. Clearly people who comment here don't have a clue about cost of doing business.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:21 p.m.

Didn`t Brandon come to U of M via Domino`s Pizza and came to Domino`s via Bain Capital ? I think so.... but regardless this is a low life decision by the athletic dept. They need to remember they`re part of the university, not the other way around... and that because of the U`s tax exemption we, the public, own that stadium. Of course this is all about $$$.... first, more than double theeir rental fee... then kick them out so the dept came look for more lucrative causes to milk. Shame. Step up Mary Sue and take back your school !!


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

I almost can't believe it. Hard to believe 15,000+ runners are hard for the Big House to handle when every home game the stadium (insert athletic department) proudly proclaim record attendance of more than 100,000. Too bad the U is forgetting about what really counts here.....and it ain't the $$$$$.

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

But on other occasions the 15,000 people aren't running through the building and all over the grass.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:55 p.m.

This sucks! I looked forward to do the run every year and now it is not in Michigan Football Stadium anymore.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

If anything is struggling to fit into the Big House, it is the ego of the AD - and not the 15,000 runners in this charity event. I am eagerly awaiting my next solicitation call for an alumni gift to the University.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:48 p.m.

All of you so ready to bash the U about this decision, read the article. BHBH is a business, not a charity, and 25% or less of the registration fee goes to charity. That's 75% overhead and is abominable. So yeah, I could see how the U decided that a for-profit business that collects 75% of the registration fee, charges an 8% fee on donations made (per the BHBH site), and gets a tax break for all the 'grants' it makes isn't in line with their charitable mission.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

MRunner, I'm guessing they pay for a lot more than police/traffic control. They were paying $7K just to rent the stadium, and you acknowledge your 30% is just a guess. It would be nice for the CFC folks to better lay out their cost structure, but even if they do have higher admin costs, the event was always well-received. The crowds bear that out.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

I basically agree with you. There is the actual cost of putting on an event like the BHBH and that is te expense for police and traffic control. That portion could add another 30%, but I am only guessing. It would still add up to a 30% profit. The CFC folks are into mega events and they thrive on large participation (entrants). In this case, running onto the playing field at the Big House. as a drawing card. As I previously wrote, the first race to finish on the football field at Michigan Stadium was in 1980. and it did not make it more than a year or so. The finish was moved to Ferry Field.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:40 p.m.

So if a max of 25% of the entry fee goes to charities, another big bite of that goes to the police and some event workers. Most of the support staff are voluntiers. Sounds like a tidy profit for CFC at any rate. While many will disagree, the event got too big and last too long. Maybe EMU (from another poster per previous article) would be a better fit and would embrace this type of event. There should be better parking as well and a nice area for a running course in Ypsi.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

Yes it was too big (even last year in the rain), but that could be solved by limiting registration.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:40 p.m.

I enjoyed running the race earlier this year with a friend who came from out of town solely for the novelty of running a race that ends inside the Big House. This is a bummer.

Lou Velker

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:33 p.m.

Perhaps they got "Complaints" that the U of M was raising money for causes they don't politically agree with..religious organizations, this era of "One complaint" gets rid of Christmas carols, that wouldn't surprise me.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 11:16 p.m.

That makes so much sense, given that most of the concession stands at the stadium are run by religious organizations and charities, and that the stadium is cleaned on the Sundays after each home football game by a Catholic church group that actually holds services in the stadium.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:40 p.m.

Or perhaps they got a complaint that Champions for Charity is not so charitable after all.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:32 p.m.

"Highfield and her staff sent an email Tuesday morning informing supporters the 2012 race, set for April 14, would be canceled." Kind of late notice.

Jacob Bodnar

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

So let me understand this. The athletic department advertises during football games the ability to have your wedding at the stadium, but a charity event makes them reevaluate the number of events they hold at the stadium? That is all sorts of backwards.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

Big House, No Heart. Nothing more exciting for a kid to run a race for a good cause and finish in the stadium while watching himself/herself on the Jumbotron. Shame on the UM, and shame on Mr. Brandon. Their arrogance usually does not rise to this level. $2 million to local charities in the last two years - gone because of branding / marketing.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

I agree about kids finishing and seeing themselves on the bigscreen, heck adults for that matter. It seemed like a great marketiing tool for the block M brand. Kids have more of a desire to be a part of it while they grow up and maybe go to college. Although, most of those kids would be paying a lower tuition than the out of state .....oh now I get it.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

I would suggest that everyone who is upset with this decision take it up with Dave Brandon's bosses, Mary Sue and the Regents.

Rob Pollard

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:13 p.m.

This was an informative story but as far as quotes from U of M's Ablauf, you could have just started & stopped with this: "We have our own private rental program..." Dollar Dave Brandon strikes again.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:18 a.m.

Well, dollars do pay for all that you enjoy. Apparently you think everything should be free.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

Big House Big Bully


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

As an Alumni of the Medical Center I have been a consistent donor to the University of Michigan. After reading about more than doubling the rental fee for the use of the stadium for Big House Big Heart and then not allowing it to be rented at all, I was most disappointed. What kind of a message is the athletic department sending to the community that supports them more than any program in the country? The message I'm hearing is that the athletic department is heartless (pun intended) and has no concerns other than it's own financial well-being. Unless the egregious decision is changed my donations will be going elsewhere. James R. Chenoweth, M.D.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:33 a.m.

They probably did it because Champions for Charity is a for profit organization that just tries to sound like a charity.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:39 p.m.

Please get some information about the for-profit Champions for Charity before rushing to judgment.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9 p.m.

This was a pretty big event for the community and kids in general. I remember my kids running in it with their elementary gym teacher. It is really to bad they won't be doing this nice traditional anymore.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.

15,000 people is "too big" for a stadium that can handle another 100,000? The excuses aren't adding up, as mentioned in many comments in the related article.

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

The 100,000 folks aren't running through the building and all over the playing field.

Ghost of Tom Joad

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

it holds 110,000 in seats...not on the field.

David Hardcastle

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

Shame on you Dave Brandon (Mary Sue, this should be something that gets your attention). Things like this do nothing to help your reputation as being all about the money. This was a great event and there is 0 reason why it should not continue.

Basic Bob

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

Federal crime doesn't merit her attention, why would this? They pay Brandon the big bucks to run this profit center.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

I am absolutely disgusted by this decision. A challenge to fit in your stadium? What about the challenges faced by the people and agencies receiving funds from Big House Big Heart...or for that matter any of the charities receiving money from Champions for Charity. The Athletic Department should be ashamed of themselves. This is a disgrace.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

I'm speculating here but I suspect the University contract with the Special Olympics organization calls for some exclusive rights usage to the Big House for charity events not run by the University. It seems that the Big House Big Heart people also want to make this a PR issue to force UM to let them back in. Ala Dave Brandon and sending the band to the Alabama game. What I'm more interested in is why the Big House Big Heart organization has such high overhead / administrative costs. The article states that only $6 to $9 from each $32 to $36 dollar registration goes to charity. That's a paltry 25% (approximate). With most charity run/walk events that I've been a involved in the: snacks, water and even T-shirts were donated (gift in kind) by sponsors. Don't put this all on the U of M yet and I really think BHBH donation ratio needs to be looked at especially for such a small mom-and-pop organization.


Fri, Dec 7, 2012 : 2:54 a.m.

I was wondering about that "snacks" comment as well - if those aren't donated outright they are certainly coming at a highly reduced rate, since the sources (e.g. Busch's) are listed as sponsors in all the materials.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

@CLX: Then why not just say this? The vague marketing-speak used by the U-M, including their wish that this wonderful event will continue in Ann Arbor, doesn't even hint at any concerns they might have had with the group's operation.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 3:11 a.m.

In their open letter Champions for Charity specifically stated that they offered to allow U of M to take ownership of the race in order to allow it to continue. Still think the university doesn't shoulder more of the blame?


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 11:25 p.m.

CLX: I would be interested in hearing specific reasons. I'm sure they would be eye opening to the noisy ones.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 10:38 p.m.

Thank you for being a voice of reason in a sea of judgment. Is it so shocking that the U doesn't want to deal with a for-profit that works in the guise of a nonprofit and therefore does not make its financials known?? Folks have been complaining about this particular group for a couple years, yet people on don't care to hear facts -- they just want to bash the U any chance they get. Our group looked into using them and ran the other way; maybe folks could get a little info before taking the word of a for-profit corporation.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:35 p.m.

15,000 runners x $32-$36 = $480,000k-$540,000 Subtract the $6-9 and you come up with $390k-$450k to buy some t-shirts with. I'd like to see their books.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

Champions for Charity, "the Big House Big Heart organization" you referred to, is not a charity itself. The race fees they were charging for the BHBH were not out of line with other area races. For example, the entry fees for Run Scream Run, put on by Running FIt, were $29-$35 this year, and they did not have the expense of renting Michigan Stadium. Beyond the $9 out of every BHBH entry fee that went directly to the three charities sponsored by the run, the BHBH was a great fundraising vehicle for many area nonprofits. Rachel Dewees described this eloquently in the article. Champions for Charity made it very easy for nonprofits to get teams together to raise money for their causes. The huge popularity of the run itself made it easy to attract people to the teams. There is no other local race that has anything like that potential for raising money for local charities.

Ghost of Tom Joad

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 9:03 p.m.

that's the elephant in the room that nobody wants to think about when ranting against the university. Perhaps it wasn't the best partnership, after all. Charities aren't supposed to have such high overhead costs, this is what got the American Red Cross in hot water a few years back.

Richard Carter

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

Keep an eye out -- it'll be interesting to see what actually is happening or being prepped for for April 14th which keeps the Stadium busy... I suspect it'll be something more on the order of "highly profitable."


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:54 p.m.

Classic case of The Michigan Difference.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:50 p.m.

I'm guessing UM found somebody willing to pay more than $16K to use their facility that day.

Stuart Brown

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

I'm guessing UM is knocking off a competitor. They saw how big the event was and now want to get their fingers on the money using a competing event.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:59 p.m.

I just came here to post the exact same thing.

Nick Danger

Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

The U gives little back to the community.Remember the Superball 3v3 basketball fundraiser held on the Crysler parking lot.It was totally staffed by volunteers and the money went towards enhancing school programs. The U upped the rental cost to the extent the event had to be cancelled.Just watch 60 minutes,it's all about the money at Michigan

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

Really? What about salaries for the thousands employed by the University, income for local businesses brought by the thousands of students who attend the school, come for football games and other events. Without the University, there would be no reason to have an Ann Arbor.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 12:30 a.m.

The athletic department has actually made a huge push to get the student athletes more involved in the community and charitable works. They have contests to see which team can put in the most charity hours, they go to Mott's every week to visit kids, and they host several fundraisers for Mott throughout the year.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

UM Athletic Department is a large corporation, Special Olympics is easily recognized a large charity, the Big Heart Big House is not-that is how they roll.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

This event is too "local" for an international university.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:42 p.m.

Use EMU's Rynearson Stadium and change the name to "Big Hearts in spite of big jerks".


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 3:21 a.m.

EMU would welcome them, and the fantastic PR!


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

sounds like bs to me.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

all about $$$$$ as is everything else these days at U of M.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 5:39 a.m.

You are right Blue1997. There will be a slight delay while Big Dave figures out a way to get his mitts on some of those charitable revenues.


Tue, Dec 4, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

Is there a real response from the University on this subject all? All I see is the same rehashed response from Ablauf. What's the root cause for the race getting kicked out? Money? Some disagreement? Some non-marketese from the University explaining their stance would be useful.


Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

So just come out and say that. Is it so hard to actually justify a decision?

Renee S.

Wed, Dec 5, 2012 : 5:29 a.m.

It might be related to the fact that the "charity" is for-profit. There are a number of complications that arise, mostly tax code related. I know that foundations, for instance, are only allowed to give money to other registered non-profits.