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Posted on Wed, May 26, 2010 : 5:45 p.m.

Quick response to NCAA should help Michigan limit damage done to reputation

By Jeff Arnold

Over the past 130 years, Michigan's football reputation was built on tradition, a track record of success and for always playing by the rules.

How much of hit that reputation sustains after the university admitted to four major violations of NCAA rules and self-imposed sanctions remains to be seen.

Sanctions don’t damage Michigan’s brand, argued athletic director Dave Brandon. Instead, he says they provide a sign the university is committed to integrity.

"I don't think this is a black eye - it's a bruise," Brandon said Tuesday. "We did some things wrong, some systems failed. But I refuse to believe it detracts from who we are and what we're about.

"Our history, our tradition and our value system is out there for the world to see. We've been in the business of football for 130 years and we'll allow our brand and our integrity and our merit stand on our history and our beliefs."

His open-book approach is one Farmington Hills-based marketing specialist Matt Friedman said will aid in the athletic department's efforts to maintain the reputation of honesty Michigan's fan base expects.

The NCAA sanctions are not Brandon’s first experience in damage control.

Last year, as the CEO of Dominos Pizza, he spearheaded the company's response to a YouTube video prank in which a pair of employees in a North Carolina store sneezed on pizzas, stuck cheese up their nose and performed other unsavory deeds to the company’s food before shipping it to customers.

Within days of the video's release, Dominos went on the offensive. It put company officials in front of cameras, addressed the situation and detailed steps taken to rectify the matter. The two employees were fired and criminal chargers were brought.

Friedman called Brandon's response the best example of crisis control he's ever seen, one that sets a precedent for the newly appointed athletic director's actions in addressing the NCAA allegations at Michigan.

"He made no bones about the fact that what happened was not acceptable - to him and to the university," said Friedman, a partner in Tanner Friedman public relations firm. "The fact that the athletic department and the university took this very seriously from the beginning is a very good sign to maintain the brand that has been established over the years."

Friedman said an organization's initial public-relations effort is often critical to how much damage is done to the brand in the long run.

Results at Michigan may have been different if more serious allegations, such as academic impropriety or criminal action was involved, but Friedman expects Michigan’s response will help buffer whatever minimal damage was done.

It may not be the overall consumer base that needed addressing.

Until 2008, Michigan ranked No. 2 nationally in NCAA-licensed material, trailing only Texas, according to the Collegiate Licensing Company. In the past two years, though, the school has dipped to seventh nationally, it remains the top Big Ten merchandise seller.

The key constituency that must be satisfied, according to Friedman, is the school’s corporate sponsors, especially when there are still luxury suites to sell after a $226 million renovation of Michigan Stadium.

"The stakes are very high now," said Friedman.

While accepting responsibility for Michigan's violations, Brandon asked people to consider the program's entire body of work rather than focus on issues dealing with compliance and practice hours.

"Yes, we made mistakes," Brandon said Tuesday. "We are being transparent about it. We're accountable, we're doing something about it, we're going to be sure they don't happen again, but beyond that, I don't know what else we can do."

Jeff Arnold covers sports for and can be reached at (734) 623-2554 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @jeffreyparnold.



Thu, May 27, 2010 : 10:55 p.m.

Why do you continue to scold athletes for taking money and cars when you know the NCAA is basically slavery? They gave slaves food, water and housing too! Should they have been grateful? I bet the same argument was used back then.


Thu, May 27, 2010 : 8 p.m.

Why comment multiple times about a college sport? Matter of fact..why read the article? Why be on a college sport site?


Thu, May 27, 2010 : 2:24 p.m.

PortageLKBlue, thank you, someone has a brain. However, this charade called amateur sports is anything but. The organizers are making billions off these kids. These kids are getting a scholarship for school that many of them really can't benefit from because they really aren't intelligent enough for the school, and their first job at school is football. Many would honestly prefer to not be in college. So depending on that, the value of the degree and housing is around $40-60K OVER FOUR YEARS. That's MINIMUM WAGE for playing football, even if you are the star quarterback on a team playing in the Rose Bowl! How in the world can anyone condemn a star player for taking money? That's the real injustice. You people need to put the numbers on paper! I hate to say it, but college sports is a cartel that needs to be broken up. Alumni need to grow up and stop talking about the "tradition of winning". It's really lame.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 11:19 p.m.

The fellow that thinks college players should be paid may have something there boys and girls. Now if I may add my two cents worth. I think the athletes should start getting paid in high school and I think that high school players should be drafted to college teams and given huge contracts and let's not forget golf, bad mitten and tennis well these are just a few but if you stop at football then your discriminating. I've detected a few bites here from people that don't sound like they like football in fact for whatever reason it sounds like they despise football. Now if I didn't like football I don't think I'd waste my time on these sites would you? As far as all football programs being crooked well, hell yes that goes without saying what the heck do you guys think America is based on at this particular time and let's not stop with college ball this includes big business in general and our fearless leaders. I'm not naive or shocked by any of the current problems facing us in fact I think it's a good thing before something serious gets thrown at us I look at this little fly as a wake up call and a timely one. Look boys and girls America runs on high octane greed and that's just how the cookie crumbles at this particular time now let's get down to business and win some games that's what the big boys are getting paid to do and in reality that's what this little ol mess is all about. Come on boys and girls play time is over your in the real world which is about winning and to win at a high level school like Mich. you play with the big boys or you don't win and your fine with losing and that's under the tutelage of any coach you can think of. There is nothing wrong with losing if you don't mind losing and don't try to tell me that any coach Mich. ever had was squeaky clean the trick is not getting caught when your trying to do the same stuff that other big time schools do for instance out here it's widely known that Pete Carrol got out of dodge while the gitten was good. I have nothing against losing hell it's easier than winning but don't try to convince me that any coach is a saint. With all this being said I say RR stick with your game plan start winning and you'll be a home town hero before ya know it and that boys and girls is how the game is played.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 10:50 p.m.

Jay is new to me, but Redceder and salineblue are repeat offenders on this blog. None of you are Michigan fans and we know your opinion is only meant to stir the pot. Nothing better to do I guess. As for the "slave" comment, that is a fanatical thought based in anger. While I think college players should have some type of compensation, the fact that they get a degree (if they want it), and they get thier room and board paid is better than most college kids.

Robbie Webb

Wed, May 26, 2010 : 9:30 p.m.

Yes it will.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 9:25 p.m.

With RR the rep will never be any good.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 8:50 p.m.

Redcedar, you are way off base on this one. Brandon has handled this situation tremendously. Running a multi-national company and spearheading a damage control marketing campaign obviously qualifies this guy to handle an athletic program like Michigan. Michigan didn't just look at the accusations and casually decide on a punishment. The reason they took the full time (ALLOWED by the NCAA) was to complete a thorough investigation and look at previous precedents set by other programs that found themselves in similar situations. Believe me, David Brandon has decades of experience as well as RIch Rodriguez, any rational person knows that there is no way that this situation is out of their control or that they are "way over their head". Get a clue. As far as Jay, getting a full ride scholarship to one of the finest Universities in the country is reward enough. The connections and degree student athletes get at Michigan allow them to flourish professionally/financially well beyond the average college graduate. "Slave Labor", you have to be kidding...nobody is holding a gun to their head to play a kids game. The quality of posts from haters has really gone down, which means one thing, there is nothing meaningful left to critique but football (which is what these blogs are supposed to be about, the game of football). This isn't page 6 of the New York Post. Denard will push Tate like never before...

Robbie Webb

Wed, May 26, 2010 : 8:48 p.m.

Jaxon5, way to stay positive...! They wont get a post season ban.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 8:47 p.m.

I am thinking no post season play for 2 years will be the NCAA add-on to these self-imposed sanctions. That will be 4 straight years with no bowl game. Not that they would have gone to a bowl anyway.

Robbie Webb

Wed, May 26, 2010 : 8:46 p.m.

Wrong, they handled the situation very well. The whole thing has been blown out of proportion and it does not call for the death penalty.

Robbie Webb

Wed, May 26, 2010 : 6:58 p.m.

Jay, do some homework. Then you may come back and argue.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 6:40 p.m.

All the best teams in the NCAA are crooked. There is no integrity. The NCAA probably covers up for them too. You can't kill the goose that lays the golden egg. I believe they are crooked because they promote modern-day slavery, more than anything else. It's easy for a well-off suburbanite with a great corporate job to say, "oh, the athletes are getting an education free, why should they take money?", when in reality, they should look through the point-of-view of an impoverished kid, who doesn't have a wealthy family to fall back on.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 6:29 p.m.

I'm not sure our response was a good strategy. Focusing on the 130 year history of a clean football program may back fire and open the door for the NCAA to bring up the fab five area. Our institutional controls should have been in place to ensure these problems never happened. Also the response identified multiple individuals from various departments which shows a lack of controls and oversight from the University. If the NCAA found that RR was aware of and followed the requirements at WV then he lied to the NCAA and that my friends will be the kiss of death for RR and severe penalties for us.


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 6:07 p.m.

Michigan is a crooked program. You people need to give up your juvenile obsessions with college sports. It's always a big scandal whenever players are found out to be taking money, yet the coaches can get paid $5 million a year, the universities and the networks can make billions from television rights, tickets and merchandise and they raise your tuition every year. Most NCAA fans are supporting modern slavery, and you know it. Pay the players, or form proper minor leagues for these guys and keep them out of college. It is utter arrogance for a college program to state that it has a tradition of winning, lol. No wonder there is so much pressure to cheat!

Robbie Webb

Wed, May 26, 2010 : 5:48 p.m.

Absolutely! You can't keep Michigan down. Never can, never will. And it'll be great fun reading the comments from the bandwagon fans speaking as if they never doubted Rich Rodriguez. GO BLUE!!!


Wed, May 26, 2010 : 5:18 p.m.

Mr Brandon is doing a fine job handling this situation he has my respect. We are not perfect never have been never will be. Our perfectly clean record was based on the fact we just never got busted for violations. No person or company or team is perfect the trick to a violation or as some of you describe our violations the sins is that we adjust the problem and try, I repeat try to avoid it happening again. There will be other violations that will need to be corrected in the future. Now, the real problem is the win loss record and that has to improve Mich. has very spoiled fans so RR if your listening get those wins and this thing drys up like an old fart.