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Posted on Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 6:03 a.m.

Former star Michigan running back fired from athletic department for 'willful deception,' letter alleges

By David Jesse


Jamie Morris talks about his old coach, Glenn "Bo" Edward Schembechler, as he reflects at "A Celebration of Bo's Life" at Michigan Stadium in 2006. - File photo

Longtime Michigan football star Jamie Morris was a natural fit as a major gifts officer for the University of Michigan. His prominence as a player segued nicely into dealing with athletic boosters and made him one of the department’s most visible faces.

That is, until April - when without notice, Morris disappeared from public view, quietly dismissed by the department he says he still loves.


Newly released documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal what happened behind the scenes last spring, with accusations that Morris was guilty of “willful deception” and “an unethical effort to engage others in an attempt to cover-up the truth.”

Neither the university nor Morris will discuss the specifics of the allegations, which are outlined in personnel records and a fiery termination letter written by athletic director Dave Brandon.

According to that letter, Morris was fired for allowing a football quality control staff member to drive a courtesy car normally reserved for a coach or administrator for nearly a month without authorization. And when that vehicle was involved in a crash, Morris told multiple stories about what happened, the letter says.

“You have been discharged from the University of Michigan for work misconduct which includes a failure to appropriately manage a significant aspect of your work responsibilities, the demonstration of extremely poor judgment, willful deception, an unethical effort to engage others in an attempt to cover-up the truth, and a deliberate misrepresentation of facts to your direct supervisor,” Brandon wrote just over a month after he took over as athletic director. The three-page letter says Morris will not be recommended for rehire.

Morris declined to talk in detail about the incidents.

“I tried to help someone out,” Morris said. “The people who were in charge made a decision.”

Morris was hired last month to be the customer development manager for Randy Wise Chevrolet Buick of Milan. According to a press release from the car dealership, part of his responsibility will be to develop a “stable, mutually beneficial partnership with the University of Michigan.”

“I love the University of Michigan,” he said. “I love Michigan football. I left it with my heart still there. I came in when things were going well and when I left they were going better. I’m very proud of my time (at U-M).”

Athletic department spokesman Bruce Madej said the university won’t comment on personnel matters.

During his playing career in the mid-1980s, Morris was a prolific running back. He still ranks as the third all-time rushing leader in career yards and has the third-highest single-season rushing total.


Jamie Morris ran for 234 yards and three touchdowns in his last game for Michigan in a 28-24 victory over Alabama in the Hall of Fame Bowl. Morris is scoring a 14-yard touchdown on this play.

His career in the NFL was cut short by injuries. Morris made his way back to the university in the late 1990s, working in a variety of roles for the athletic department - all dealing with donors and involving public appearances.

Morris was often seen at high-profile events and was closely linked to his former coach, Bo Schembechler. When Schembechler died, Morris was among a handful of former players and athletic department personnel who attended a press conference at the hospital. He also was one of three former players to speak at Schembechler’s public memorial service held at Michigan Stadium.

During his time at the university, Morris served as the department liaison to various booster organizations and was in charge of soliciting gifts from boosters. He was earning about $73,000 a year in salary when he was fired, university records show.

“His background provides a unique perspective and his knowledge of Michigan’s athletic tradition and history has been a great asset to our efforts,” his supervisor, Joe Parker, wrote in the only performance review in Morris’ file, dated Aug. 15, 2004. “He has had an immediate and positive impact on our efforts and goals. He has effectively managed and coordinated the department’s car program; served as a key liaison to the M Club and Alumni Association and grown his involvement with athletic donors.”

It’s unclear whether Morris was still managing the car program when he was terminated.

That car program is at the center of Morris’ firing, Brandon’s letter says.

According to Madej, about 75 cars from local dealerships are given, free of charge, to the department to be used by coaches and senior department staff. The dealerships get publicity and access to various coaches in exchange for providing support to the athletic department.

The exact number of cars the department has at any one times varies, depending on the week and the needs of the department, Madej said. An athletic department website lists more than 40 dealers from across the state that take part in the program. Most other major colleges have similar programs.

The letter from Brandon summarizes the findings of a disciplinary review conference held on April 23. The committee found that:

- Morris allowed a football quality control staff member who didn’t have insurance to drive an unassigned courtesy car for a month.

- On April 14, the staff member was involved in a car crash. The letter doesn’t identify the driver or say what happened in the car crash. An review of crash reports for that date in the city of Ann Arbor failed to find any reports with the names of any quality control staff members.

- The letter said Morris then lied about what happened: “You told your supervisor that the quality control staff member was driving a coach’s courtesy car to a car wash on South Industrial, to have it detailed for the coach when the accident occurred. This was a complete untruth.”

- The next day, Morris told another supervisor a different story, the letter said: “Your explanation for waiting a full day to inform your supervisor as to what had transpired was that you thought the CFO would ‘mozy down and tell him about it.’ On the morning of April 15th, you told your supervisor, Joe Parker, that the quality control staff member had been driving the vehicle for a couple of weeks and needed the vehicle to run errands for his wedding, and you told him he could use the car.”

- The letter accuses Morris of further attempting to cover up what happened. “You asked a coach to lie and corroborate your story about the quality control staff member borrowing the coach’s car and taking it to get washed,” it says. “You told the coach that you were going to say that his other dealer car was being serviced and that you had gotten this particular car for the coach to drive. The coach immediately contacted the quality control staff member’s supervisor to express his concern and discomfort over what you had asked him to do.”

- Morris repeated both the car wash story and the wedding errands story to other members of the athletic department’s administration, according to the letter.

At the April 23 committee meeting, Morris “attempted to rationalize that you had knowledge of other instances when things have happened where staff members have run errands for coaches and they may taken a coach’s car,” according to the letter. “Yet, you said you did not want to talk about those instances as you did not want to get anyone in trouble. Upon being pressed as to whether a quality control staff member has ever borrowed a head coach’s vehicle for an extended period of time, you finally, responded, ‘no.’ You then acknowledged that you were not aware of any situations in which a staff member had used a coach’s car for an extended period of time.”

Prior to that meeting, Morris tried to get athletic department boosters to intervene, the letter says. That didn’t sit well with Brandon.

“We find that your repeated attempts to imply that the athletic department has somehow propelled, perpetuated, reinforced and spread any rumors or innuendo regarding the circumstances leading up to your termination to be completely and entirely disingenuous and false,” Brandon wrote in the letter. “The reason this matter has been discussed beyond the appropriate university officials appears to be a result of your discussion with several people, in an attempt to encourage them to lobby on your behalf. You have apparently decided to make this a public issue for reasons I will never understand. It is neither in your best interest … nor in the best interest of the athletic program.”

David Jesse covers higher education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.



Mon, Sep 13, 2010 : 6:47 p.m.

A very difficult situation. The AD learned well from his coach. Remeber the siuation in the late 70s when several of the players failed to follow team rules. Nobody is above the rules!


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 10:33 a.m.

If this article included the circumstances around the car accident it might pass for investigative journalism. Until then it's useless prattle consuming too much bandwidth.

David Barker

Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 9:55 a.m.

Lets make "real easy". Jamie has been a good ambassador for M for many years. However, he lied, he tried to cover up the lie, he lied again, he tried to get others to lie for him....not only bad judgement but bad character. As I tell my sons, the lie you tell will always be punished to a larger degree than the act you commit. Jamie should and has been dismissed for his actions.


Fri, Sep 10, 2010 : 6:42 a.m.

Hey Tater, Since Jamie just helped erect another glass floor on your beloved sports program, maybe you can spend less time chucking rocks at the program in East Lansing? Just a thought...................


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 10 p.m.

I am a bit perplexed by those who are criticizing for printing this story. It's news. It gives us an insight in both Mr. Morris and Mr. Brandon. I think Brandon absolutely did the right thing. My buddies at the AAPD used to have to follow one specific policy, "You lie, bye, bye." I think that is appropriate in any organization, and in an ethical organization no one is above the law. I never did like this car program. Seems odd to me that those who can most afford a car can get one for free. Also I have noticed that those cars have dealer plates on them. An investigator from the SOS told me once that dealer plates can only be used for dealer business. Thus we could give tickets to the sons and daughters of dealer personnel who were using the cars when they went off to college.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 7:44 p.m.

I think Tater is trying to tell us that Mr. Morris is "Deep Throat".


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 5:44 p.m.

tater's first statement is a stretch - a mile long. This story has nothing to do with people allegedly trying to oust the head coach.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 5:18 p.m.

This is all foolish.. He is an Honest, Hardworking man & an amazing player too.. You know what my parents told me "If it doesn't concern you stay outta of it! " We have an amazing, high talented school that has other & BiGGER things to worry about.. Next opponent.. & My LiL one would say " Ya Get what Ya Get & Ya Don't Throw a Fit" i think We should all just but out Mind are OWN biz.. Besides accidents happen, sometimes it's not your fault.. No Body is Perfect but out & back off.. GO BLUE!


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 5:04 p.m.

Is this not the same as the head coach that said he always followed the rules... sorry I forgot he said he did not understand the rules even though his players did. Jaime should have said the same thing


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:56 p.m.

you break the rules or the law and you get served your walking papers. plain and simple! Yes, even for the beloved Jamie Morris. I too wonder if football was involved in this. Hate to keep seeing tis happen to UM...we need to get some positive news soon!


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

The majority of personnel records are not exempt from FOIA requests for anyone employed at a public institution, such as U-M, other than personal information such as social security numbers and "Specific personal information about an individual if the release would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of that individual's privacy." The bottom line is, if you work for a public institution, such as a public university, nothing you do that is recorded in any form is private. Read this summary of Michigan's FOIA:,1607,7-164-17337_18160-51242--,00.html


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 3:44 p.m.

Maybe.......... It's a another fall guy in the RR experiment. Maybe it was a player driving. Something just does not add up


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 3:18 p.m.

"I think this article is a new low for" Completely agree.

John Q

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 2:38 p.m.

The accident probably didn't happen in the city of Ann Arbor. I'm not one to bash Jamie Morris. As others have noted, he was fired and that's his punishment. But let's not make excuses for him. In this case, he compounded bad judgment by lying to his bosses. For that, you get fired.

David Jesse

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 1:56 p.m.

@Visha: We sent a FOIA request for all traffic accidents in the city of Ann Arbor for the date the accident occurred to the Ann Arbor Police Department. We got more than a dozen records back. None of them contained names of any quality control coaches at the University of Michigan.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 1:53 p.m.

people keep eluding that "the accident" will provide more clues. this story says there were no crash reports with a quality control staff named. could they find no crash reports for that date or just not the name of the person involved?

Stephen Landes

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 1:50 p.m.

Why are personnel records available through the Freedom of Information Act? I understand the need for public access to records of decisions that have a significant impact on the spending of public funds, but can't see a reason for personnel records to be available. What's next? Are we going to be able to "see" the academic records of kids who transfer from U of M to other schools to see if their performance was the reason they left? This need to know everything is improper and destructive. In this case Mr.Morris, who has done wonderful things for our University, is being dragged through the city square to be publicly humiliated for what was an internal department issue. His termination should have been enough. I think this article is a new low for


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 1:44 p.m.

Jamie Morris was a great football player, a loyal Michigan employee, and a good person. Upon meeting Jamie you could not help but feel better, he seemed always to be wearing that contagious smile. We as a society always seem to judge a person by the worst thing the have done, and easily over look all the good they have done, and Jamie has done a lot of good for Michigan. He made a mistake and paid a high price for that mistake. So I would hope we could all forgive him his mistake and move on.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 1:33 p.m.

"Willful deception" seems to be part of UM.

Carl Duncan

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 1:04 p.m.

What exactly does a "quality control staffer" actually do? Could it be have anything to do with the loss prevention department? Having never heard of a "quality control" position associated with an athletic department, one can only wonder. By the way, what ever happened to the "quality control staffer?"

Jay Allen

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 11:24 a.m.

The phrase "there is more to this story" is speaks volumes. As a few have said, this is actually common knowledge within the University. I am surprised it was not leaked earlier. I'll just make a few points. Jamie Morris tried to do a good deed and was guilty of poor judgment. None of which is a "fire-able" offense IMHO. Now trying to cover it up is where the lines become blurred. If nothing wrong or unethical had occurred, just tell the truth and move on. As others have said, look into the actual accident, what does that divulge. The athletic department in general is in a state of chaos. Some of which are public, some are talked about around the water cooler and some are attempted to be swept under the rug. Why doesn't someone ask Coach Hutchinson what she was told when she asked to use the new indoor facility when it first opened. That will make you laugh. Oh, and remember, Lloyd seemed to "mysteriously" retire at ~about~ the same time or just after the Jamie Morris incident.......Hmmm.......


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 11:23 a.m.

75K to babysit a pool of cars by handing out keys and log who has what ride. Is there a job opening posted for this position? If so, where do I apply? Sounds like a great gig. Makes a teacher who has a Master's degree and 25 years of experience making the same amount of scratch sound like a bargain to me!


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 10:52 a.m.

There are two rules in life that should never be broken unless you want bad things to happen to you. 1. Never lie to the feds. You WILL go to jail. 2. Never lie to your boss. You WILL get fired.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 10:45 a.m.

Jamie was probably doing a good job. Just bad judgement, perhaps a letter in his file and he learned a good lesson...moving on with his life. Termination is pretty harse. Must be something else cooking here.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.

It is sad that a great Wolverine such as Jamie Morris would not only exercise bad judgment but he also gave the Athletic Department no option but to fire him. David Brandon has been cleaning house since he arrived and with all of the attention surrounding the football program, this was a very prudent decision. If Jamie felt so sorry for the guy, why didn't he let him use his personal car?

Lorain Steelmen

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 10:13 a.m.

I had wondered when Morris was released, what the real story was. Now we know. Brandon did what he had to do. I'm sure that he would rather not have to make these decisons, but he must keep the departments, and the university interest first. Morris had to go. I'm sure we'll get the ususal articles in the Freep, talkibng about how this was all Rodriguez' fault, and yet another reason why the NCAA should put UM on probation. Anything to bring UM down to MSU level.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 9:54 a.m.

Rodney T, you are absolutely right I couldn't agree with you more except for one little thing. There was policy in place that Jamie was aware of and a person usually lies when they are afraid of the consequences of breaking said policy. Jamie did not pick a particularly good time to break policies in the athletic department with the NCAA violations hanging over their heads.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 9:39 a.m.

@Rodney T - Players are broke?!?! Are you kidding me??? I've seen them (and heard them) all the time while staying with friends at Signature Villas blasting their $5K car stereo systems...where do you suppose they got the $$$???

just a voice

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 9:27 a.m.

@81wolverine, did you know Bo, or Jamie's dad to be in a position to know what they would say. I have also dealt with Jamie through a place of employment that dealt with UM, and he was probably one of the last guys around there who knew Bo well enough to know what he would say.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 9:18 a.m.

Everyone makes poor judgments in their life and that is how we grow as individuals. It can break us or make us stronger. Although I do not respect the dealership that he works for from personal experience, I do hope in the future that he is able to use his talents and knowledge of football again.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 9:09 a.m.

I hate to see stuff like this happen to a guy like Morris. I'd suspect that this QC staffer wasn't the first or only one to use one of these cars for personal errands and I'd bet that supervisors had been letting that happen for some time. Jamie was falling in line with the unwritten rules of the department. Did he err in carrying out his duties? Yes. And for that he should have received a reprimand, not shown the door. Brandon should have taken Morris aside and told him "look, I know this is how we've been doing things around here but the heat is on and so I need you to take a hit on this one for the good of the U. I'll write up a reprimand for your file and issue a public statement and we'll move on from there." That would have been leadership and taking care of our own and, as loyal as Jamie has been to the U, I'm sure he would have understood.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:51 a.m.

There is more to this story. Do people think Jamie Morris was fired for only one infraction?

John Q

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:50 a.m.

"Bad judgment" is what he did before the accident. Lying to or deceiving your bosses and trying to get others to lie for you and having alumni get involved on your behalf is enough reasons to get you fired. If you're willing to lie once, your boss is going to always wonder when you'll lie again. They may also wonder what else you may have lied about in the past. He's always come across as a likable guy but he did enough on his own to get himself fired.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:49 a.m.

I think he would still be on the job if he told the truth up front, admitted that he used poor judgement, and accepted any punishment. It's amazing how forgiving people can be with people who are willing to own their mistakes. Anyway, Jamie is a good man and I hope he continues to be passionate about U of M.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:45 a.m.

After all that Morris has done for the University, I just hope that Brandon is true to his nature across the board. In other words, anyone found guilty of this form of misconduct should receive the same punishment, regardless of their position.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:37 a.m.

ssAA, Maybe it's time to look at removing tax-exempt status for profit making athletic departments, run through a separate set of books than the school itself. Here's an old but still informative article about the perks for Michigan coaches.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:35 a.m.

The cars might possibly be considered income that would need to be declared on a 1040 form, since they aren't provided by the employer. Although, they can probably get in as a gift, but the dealership is limited in the amouint of gifts it can give away monetarily. I think the main problem people have is that people are buying access to a public university. But then again, honest graft has been around for a long time.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:29 a.m.

@tommy_t - The University is a tax-exempt organization and the use by coaches is excluded from gross income as a working condition fringe benefit. Any personal use of a vehicle by a coach could be taxable but is likely to be a de minimis fringe benefit, also excluded from gross income.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:25 a.m.

No rooom for error at all in this world. We MUST be perfect all the time. I do not think Jamies 'error of judgement' rises to the level of instant termination for all the good he has done for the university. A letter of reprimand in his file would have been a better option. I disagree with this harsh level of punishment. I do not blame him for trying to mitigate the charges against him or trying to keep his beloved position. He was just trying to help a fellow Michigan Man out.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:19 a.m.

David Jesse, maybe I'll file a FOIA against you just to see what I come up with.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 8:19 a.m.

A couple of interesting articles related to the free car situation.,74920

Morris Thorpe

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 7:55 a.m.

Inside, the players are certainly not getting their 100K's worth. Not with the time that football requires. And, even if people want to use that figure, that's 25K a year. For a group of people that bring in millions and millions in revenue? Please.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 7:51 a.m.

Who pays the taxes on free cars?


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 7:46 a.m.

Let me see if i got this right. Jamie Morris was fired in part for "failure to appropriately manage a significant aspect of your work responsibilities"? I thought that's what the football coach was found guilty of?


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 7:28 a.m.

Rodney: You assume most players are broke. They also are getting a free education valued at about $100K. DDOT: Get off the high horse. Cars provided to coaching staffs in exchange for some free advertising is just smart business all the way around. Cars would have to be provided to coaches for recruiting, appearances, etc. by the school. Every school in America has a car deal and has had them for over 50 years.

Morris Thorpe

Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 7:18 a.m.

The coaches and staff, who are paid cash money for their work, get to drive free cars. Meanwhile, the players, who are broke, have to hoof it. And then Morris gets fired for unethical behavior. Ha!


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 7:04 a.m.

W, good article, informative and interesting aspect.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 6:50 a.m.

@DDOT1962 and Bubba: Please explain the issue with the current car program. It is a transparent, long existing program that you can learn more about by going to Do you think it is illegal and/or unethical, and why?


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 6:47 a.m.

It's so sad to hear this story. But, Jamie used very bad judgement in trying to cover up the situation. He probably would have kept his job if he had been honest and told his boss the truth like he should have. If his father or Bo were still around, they'd be pretty upset with him.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 6:46 a.m.

Morris - by everyone's account a fabulous guy - made a mistake. A relatively tiny one, which wouldn't have caused any problem at all for B.Martin or D.Brandon, in ordinary times. But he got caught in the buzz saw of the UM NCAA investigation and sanctions. This was a "Quality Control" staffer driving the car. Fully half of the NCAA charges which UM has admitted to concern these QC types acting as Coaches in violation of NCAA Bylaws. Brandon had to clobber Morris, to show that this QC guy was not driving one of these cars "like a Coach does." What's interesting is the suggestion that Morris may (understandably, because he's so loyal to UM) know more than he is saying about whether QC staffers in the past have had cars usually given to Coaches.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 6:38 a.m.

According to Madej, about 75 cars from local dealerships are given, free of charge, to the department to be used by coaches and senior department staff. The dealerships get publicity and access to various coaches in exchange for providing support to the athletic department.Wow. I'm sure many will say this is what other schools receive, but that doesn't make it right.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 6:29 a.m.

As a matter of course, the coaches and administrators of major universities receive the free use of cars from local dealerships?!?!??? This doesn't raise a red flag for anyone?


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 6:27 a.m.

Jamie Morris had a nice career at Mich and I found his game very entertaining. Years ago I was a manager at a major Co. in Los Angeles and I worked with a fellow that had played football for Nebraska. I told this guy that Nebraska will not stop Jamie Morris and they did not stop Jamie in that bowl game. I imagine that this firing will hurt Jamie more than any hit he took on the field but the kids got character and I think he'll be fine.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 5:55 a.m.

Jamie is subject to poor judgement at best. The bottom line is the dept. was headed in a new direction and Jamie was not part of that direction. Not sure why this hits the paper. This has filtered thru the A2 circles for the past couple months and is well known including the names of all involved. Again, not sure why this is being broadcast. People get fired everyday on ginned up charges. Hint: Research the accident that occurred and get the whole story.


Thu, Sep 9, 2010 : 5:25 a.m.

This is sad news. I have interacted with Jamie Morris at my job and he has always been friendly, helpful, and professional. He has always represented the U well and I have never seen a moment where he did not have the U's best interests at heart. It looks to me like he tried to cut corners to help someone out and things spiraled out of control. It's a shame that things had to work out this way.