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Posted on Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8 a.m.

Stadium should not be the deal-breaker for Big House Big Heart

By Guest Column

Like many, I was saddened to learn that the Big House Big Heart race was canceled. When the event was introduced six years ago, I applauded the innovation.


People line up for late registration during The Big House Big Heart run in Ann Arbor in 2011.

Joseph Tobianski I

I had worked with many nonprofits which used small running events to raise funds for charitable purposes. Time and again I heard concerns about the resources required to produce even a small run, and the relatively modest payoffs for the charities. BHBH offered the opportunity to raise funds without the burden of actually producing a race. Others would do that for them. It’s not surprising how popular this event became among local charities.

What is surprising is the cancellation of this event — apparently based solely on the decision by the U-M Athletic Department to withdraw access to their stadium as the finishing line.

Some have compared athletic director Dave Brandon to Scrooge for this decision. I’ll reserve judgment on that. But if the analogy is apt, then, like Scrooge, he has taken away the trappings of Christmas. He has taken the tree.

But that is all he has done.

Dr. Seuss made a more important point. On Christmas morning the good people of WhoVille gathered around a tree that was no longer there. It was not the tree that caused Christmas to come - it was the hearts of the people.

I know many runners, and running event organizers. I know most of them to be good people, and I want to believe that Michigan Stadium means no more to them than that tree in the Seuss classic. Charities, runners, and the organizers at Champions For Charity would all do well to find another finish line to gather around. The enormous good this event generates in our community demands it.

If upon witnessing that, any hearts grow bigger on South State Street, then maybe someone will bring the tree back.

But if they don’t, Christmas will still have come. As a community, we can still make that happen, with or without the Big House.

Jeff Herron is the publisher of Outdoor Athlete Magazine.



Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 2:58 a.m.

How much does it cost to rent the big house for a wedding these days?


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 2:57 a.m.

I have run in charity races all over Michigan and Indiana, and I appreciate that some of the money goes to the charity sponsoring the event. To think that these events could run with no overhead and all charity is crazy, but that's what some of you seem to think. The BHBH gave ample opportunity for local charities to receive much needed funds, including U of M Hospital charities. "Destination" races always attract larger crowds of runners and thus, more dollars to charity. The BHBH was a great destination race with runners from all over the country. Champions for Charity have done a great job running the event, and every event that I have attended. Will I continue to run charity events, of course... However, I am skeptical that Mr. Brandon and the U will ever put this event on again. When the first article came out, Dave Ablauf said, " We evaluated this organizationally. The Big House Big Heart run has become a challenge to fit into our stadium...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." Only after the heat was turned up, did Mr. Brandon talk about the U running this event at some nebulous future date. From that same article... The department, he (Ablauf) 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." Well, It seems to me that at this point, unless otherwise shown, the BHBH is dead, and Mr. Brandon and his staff killed it, either because it's a "challenge to fit into the stadium" or because, as Mr. Brandon said "we can get more money routed to the charities because there isn't a profit motive" God forbid there be a profit motive, except in College athletics..How much does it c


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

I couldn't agree more. U of M's reasons for canceling this race are murky. I seriously doubt they will dedicate the staff and resources to organize a race of this magnitude themselves. I, too, am baffled at why so many folks find the modest profit of $19,000 that CFC earns to be so objectionable. Meanwhile, thousands of runners are disappointed and dozens of charities are cut-off with an economy that will make those counted-on funds difficult to replace.


Mon, Dec 10, 2012 : 2:25 a.m.

I think both sides of this are behaving a bit foolishly. There is not reason why this race could not be held. Take the 7,000 dollars donate it to charity and have the race end in the Diag or something. Would you have a few fewer participants? Maybe, but I think most people are not going to find running into Michigan Stadium to be a huge deal killer. While I understand that the business hosting this only gives 25% of race fees to charity, I imagine the other 75% is split betweem race costs and perhaps a 10-15% profit for the owners (if that.) These races are ridiculously challenging and expensive to put on which is why there are so few race managment companies that do them. Could U of M do it better, more efficently and with a greater percentage going to charity? - Absolutly! But wait.... Its not going to held at all???? Both the race company and the U are acting like selfish little children.

Terry Star21

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

I agree with this article. The original idea of a fundraiser is to help funding for people and sometimes animals that need it the most - that should not be lost. David Brandon has all rights to make decisions like this for the good of the University and other groupd involved. The race should go on, albeit a different name. One simple thought; Why not start and finish at another famous stadium, which pretty much covers the same exact course - 'Ann Arbor Pioneers Hollway Field Stadium'.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

Brandon is showing himself to be very shortcited and not very bright. Brady hoke is not ready for prime time and never will be, now this horrible decision on a needed and growing revenue source for local charity. All about money for this guy and mary sue. I bet they voted for romney too. Not a good fit for this town.

Terry Star21

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8:57 p.m. shouldn't speak or give opinions.....


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 8:19 p.m.

oops, no wonder if continued to look wrong. thanks A2


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 7:24 p.m.

I think you meant shortsighted.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

I meant shortsited


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

Brandon is planning the Michigan Dominos Big House Big Heart Attack Charity Pizza Fling for next spring. Why would you expect more from someone who made millions selling cardboard pizzas?


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

Although I did not condem the Athletic Department for cancelling the BHBH race I understood the big dissappointment epressed by the running community. One happy median is to have one race distance, not two. Too many running events offer two or more races these days such as a 10K and a 5K. The bigger and older races like Dexter to Ann Arbor offer three (5K, 10K and half marathon) while the Crim in Flint has four (10M, 8K, 5K and fun mile). A future BH race might be a 5K run only. That would allow one start time and an event will should last more than 90 minutes. (Hard to imagine taking 90 min to complete a 5K) This would allow Michigan Stadium to clear out a few hours after the start. If the CFC were to put this event on ever again, they would have to agree with the Athletic Department to give a much larger portion to the charities. Maybe thay can donate the sum to the charities the Athletic Department wants. Maybe none of this will happen but is one proposal that would remedy the situation. The BH race should also take place duting the fall (Sep, Oct or Nov).

Rick Stevens

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

I think what David Brandon said here said it all. 'The University's Athletic Department withdrew from the 2013 Big House Big Heart charity run because it would prefer to host a similar event independently in the future, Athletic Director Dave Brandon said in an interview on the 1290 WLBY radio station Wednesday morning. Brandon told WLBY that the race is "a good idea," but monetary donations to charitable organizations can be increased if the University's collaboration with Champions for Charity, the group that has organized the event for the past six years, is ended. "If we can get more money routed to the charities because there isn't a profit motive, we're always going to prefer to go that route," he said. He added that the Athletic Department considers various aspects of a charity's organization when considering a partnership, including management, finances and cooperation with the department.'


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:37 p.m.

If someone wants to give money to a corporation, fine. I believe that the organizers should reveal how much of their gross is actually used for charity. Why pay for some executive's second home (or third) just so you can run on to a famous football field. Dave Brandon will get this up and running again with the charities receiving a much larger chunk of the gate.

Elaine F. Owsley

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

I couldn't agree more. If raising money for charities was the focus of this "for profit" race, then you would think they could accommodate the change. I guess the folks who called a halt to the whole thing are not as dedicated as one might have hoped. Do we have a "little girl or boy Who" out there to save the race?


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

Many commentors are criticizing CFC for not having a high enough percentage of revenue going towards the charities. I can't speak to that but what I do know is that I am personally involved with 2 charities who counted on several thousand dollars from this event. They were happy to be beneficiaries and I never heard any complaint about not getting "enough."


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

I'm a longtime runner. Fortunately for us Ann Arborites there are a lot of races throughout the year. What made this race unique was the opportunity to run through the tunnel and onto the football field. Both places are off-limits the rest of the time. Hopefully all the charities will hook up into other races or efforts. Hard to imagine another Ann Arbor location that allows access to a place where almost all of us can't go and would like to go.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 5:43 p.m.

Actually, I've been on the field and in the tunnels plenty of times, and with kids, too. There are several open houses available for that opportunity.


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

"The enormous good this event generates in our community demands it." What was it again? I think someone mentioned that only about 25% of the fee actually goes to a charitable cause....the rest is for "administration costs." I mean who knows if that's actually true or not.....we can't find out because they are a FOR-PROFIT company and keep their records hidden. Wonder if that had much to do with the event being canceled....


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 9 p.m.

It's a bit confusing how this has been worded. Of the $36 entry fee, Champions for Charity gave about $9 to charities (that's where the 25% figure comes in). What CFC provided, however, was the structure of the race. So other charitable (and many/most of them nonprofits) would have runners sign up for the race and those runners would use the race as a fundraiser for their own charity. CFC describes this as "100%" of those funds going to charity. So, the idea is if you are a charity and don't want to take the trouble of throwing your own race, you tag along. CFC, in the meantime, makes a profit (you're right - we don't know how big) and that's capitalism. I think there is more than meets the eye with all of this and, although I enjoy the race, I'm not convinced now that a for-profit company is the best manager of it. Perhaps U of M was worried about that perception as well (even if it is not a real problem).


Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

You make an excellent point. People flocked to the Big House run because of the uniqueness. Hopefully, someone can plan a race with a different but just as cool feature that will appeal to thousands of runners and draw them from out of state. This news has really been a stunner for local charities, big and small, that are reeling from the loss.