You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 7:30 a.m.

University of Michigan spent $124,159 on athletic director search

By Dave Birkett

The University of Michigan spent more than $124,000 on its search for a new athletic director - a search that resulted in the hiring of Dave Brandon, a former university Regent in Michigan’s own backyard.

Spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said the university was “very pleased” with the work of consulting firm Spencer Stuart. Funds for the search were provided by donors and did not come from the university's general fund or athletic department budget, he said.

“The decision to use a search firm, whether it’s an athletic director search or another search, is really up to the individual unit using the search firm,” Fitzgerald said. “In this case, the university believed that the use of a search firm would really help us get a diverse pool of candidates and really identify top talent. And it succeeded.”

According to records obtained from the university, Michigan paid Spencer Stuart $75,000 in retainer fees, a $25,000 incentive bonus and $23,545 in expenses. The bonus was payable at Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman’s discretion.

Expenses included $7,621 for a “candidate background check,” $2,779 for an unspecified number of “candidate hotel rooms” last Dec. 5, and $2,319 for a “banquet” the same day at a Hyatt Regency hotel.

Michigan also paid $614 for use of a local hotel meeting room and mileage, parking and toll expenses for two members of its five-person internal search committee, executive vice president Tim Slottow and executive vice president for academic affairs Teresa Sullivan.

The total cost for the search was $124,159.

According to their consulting services agreement, Spencer Stuart and consultant Jed Hughes, a member Michigan’s coaching staff from 1974-75, began working for the university on Nov. 30, about a month after Bill Martin announced his retirement as athletic director.

Michigan introduced Brandon as Martin’s replacement Jan. 5, and Brandon officially took over as athletic director March 8.

Fitzgerald declined to say how many or what other candidates Spencer Stuart vetted.

“Part of the reason to use a search firm is also to keep any candidates who may want to remain confidential, to keep them confidential,” he said. “And we’re really not going to speak to any other specifics other than there was more than one candidate identified.”

Hughes’ responsibilities, according to the contract, included developing a search strategy; researching, screening and evaluating prospective candidates; providing comprehensive reports on the most qualified and attractable individuals; and acting as a facilitator in the final negotiation and reference-checking stages.

In meeting with candidates, Hughes was to act only as an observer/facilitator.

Brandon, a former Michigan football player, has made a strong impression in his three-and-a-half weeks on the job.

Last month, he secured the first night football game in Michigan Stadium history, Sept. 10, 2011, against Notre Dame, and he drew praise for how he handled a February press conference outlining allegations of NCAA violations against the football program. The press conference came when Brandon was still CEO of Domino’s Pizza.

Martin said last month that Brandon was a strong choice as athletic director.

"No. 1, he has a true passion and love for Michigan," Martin said. "His whole life has revolved around this place one way or another. And secondarily, he’s a very capable and qualified administrator and business leader, so I think he’s got the right tools to do the job. I am so excited that he is succeeding me. I feel very, very comfortable with him in that seat."

Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.



Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 2:35 p.m.

Stadium bridge! Stadium bridge!


Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 2:29 p.m.

Johnnya2: If I were a potential candidate who participated in a sham process just so the university could satisfy so protocol or I would not want my name released at all either. I would not want my employer or anyone to know that I was taken so lightly or used in such a manner. A2miguy: If everyone agreed from the git go that Mr. Brandon was the top choice, why even bother to hold interviews? Does it take $124,000 to vett a potential employee? No I was not a candidate for the job, but I find your personal attack quite insightful. Why are you people being so defensive if the process was done correctly? I have no doubts that Mr. Brandon is an excellent choice. However, I think the process does not meet the standards that Michigan employment and labor policies outline. It doesn't matter that private donations was provided for this search. Once the funds are received by the public body even for a specific this case the hiring of an employee to the university, fair labor standards still apply. No matter how defensive you guys are, the process was a sham.


Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 12:08 p.m.

LRTROJAN said, "I could care less how much they spent on this search" This makes no sense. How much less could you care? We need to know the degree of your caring. Did you actually mean you could NOT care less? As for the search process. No person who was involved as a potential candidate would allow his name to be used that way. The only way anybody is allowed to even speak to them is through back doors and agents. It is considered bad form to announce those that did not get the job. It hinders the ability of the school well into the future. If I am looking for a new job, I definitely don;t want my new employer using that against me. Why would the AD at say the University of Texas (just an example, not saying he may have been contacted) want his name mentioned as somebody who was interviewed or was interested and was then turned down?


Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 12:08 p.m.

Mr. Birkett, I agree fully. Mr. Brandon was the candidate everyone hoped for. Using a firm for the search is about more than finding the right candidate; it's also about vetting that candidate. If it turned out a year from now that Mr. Brandon had a serious skeleton in his closet and UM hadn't used a firm, UM would be abused in the media. And rightfully so. I think you're spot on with your latest comment.

Terry Star21

Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 10:56 a.m.

Correction please... Spring Game is now 12 days and one hour away... too much coffee this morning!

Terry Star21

Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 10:53 a.m.

Although many commenters may rip me but, I agree with Mr. Birkett... the University always follows policy and procedure, and goes the most professional way in conducting business - its no secret that Mr. Brandon was a top choice... Birkett is right in concluding that (we) got the right person... now, lets get on... Spring Football game is now 8 days and one hour away - '....are you ready for some football...? Birkett showing composure and class - great..... Spring game - can hardly wait.


Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 9:59 a.m.

@ Zulu - Do you have one shred of evidence that the search was a "shame"??? (I think you mean "sham" there, bub.) More importantly.... WHY DO YOU CARE? Unless you're one of the candidates who was passed over (and I HIGHLY doubt that's the case), this search did not cost you one penny. It has no effect on your life whatsoever. So why all the fuss? @Anthony - I agree completely with your original point. While Mr. Birkett may not have said on his own behalf that $124K was "over the top," his use of those words at all opened the door for this story to be taken as negative and incendiary. The lack of any analysis, as you aptly point out, is proof of his intention. Mr. Birkett, if you care to do a follow-up whereby you list some actual data on dollars spent on other schools' AD searches, I will happily stand corrected.


Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 9:11 a.m.

Dave,LRTROJAN: So what the two of you are saying is that its ok to violate your own policies or state law that governs non-profit organizations when its convenient to do so. It seems the University abides by two set of rules; one that it sets for others and one for itself. The amount of money spent in the so-called "search' is not the issue. The University could have spent a million dollars as far as I'm concerned. The shame search is the issue.

Dave Birkett

Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 8:48 a.m.

I don't think $124,000 is out of line for a search of this magnitude when you use a firm. It's a lot of money only because Michigan hired the guy everyone figured they would all along (assuming Brandon wanted the job) and didn't need anyone to identify that candidate. The flip side, of course, is Michigan would have got ripped had it not gone through the process and just handed Brandon the job. They did it right by using discretionary fund dollars, and in the end all that matters is they got the right person for the job.


Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 8:46 a.m.

I could care less how much they spent on this search. Especially since it came from private donors. But even if it did come from the athletic department budget it wouldn't matter. The University of Michigan is one of the very few schools in this country that actually makes money from athletics. Most departments are in the red at the end of the fiscal year and since Martin took over this department has made money for the school. Also studies have shown that when our teams excel applicants for the school are up. So this is kind of a big deal. This is a very important position that will have a huge effect on not only this department but this university. It is the second most important hire you can make (the other being the president). Therefore it is vital for us to make sure we hire the right man and I believe they did. Bottom line folks it doesn't matter how much they spent (especially since it was private money) as long as they hired the right man. And don't kid yourself, for every important position that becomes available in any industry the person in charge of the hiring already has a list of ten people on it in his or her desk. If you don't like the process do better at your job and maybe someday you will make that list in your respective field. That is life.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 11:09 p.m.

Mr. Birkett, You got the discussion. The twitter post seemed negative (at least I thought). I took it as you thought it was a bit over the top. I may have been mistaken. Either way, what's your opinion?


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 10:42 p.m.

Couldn't sleep and was pleasantly pleased by Mr. Birkett's response, he has taken a lot of critisizm in his articles, but cares enough to respond once in a while... he wouldn't read these comments if he didn't want to get a better understanding of how we feel... he is not going to respond to utter nonsense commenters, but keep it constructive - and we'll see.......

Dave Birkett

Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 10:14 p.m.

Anthony, I never said the spending was over the top. On Twitter, I asked the question whether spending $124,000 for the search was over the top or simply the cost of doing business these days, with a link to the story hoping to prompt more discussion here.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 9:59 p.m.

Kalkaland, teldar and others. Is the athletic department a part of the university of Michigan. Is the university a public nonprofit organization and is the athletic department a subset of the university which also makes it a public entity, thus subject to policies of the University? As one blogger points out, the university spent a fraction of the cost it would have spent had a legitimate search been conducted. This leave me to believe that a legitimate search was not conducted..that Mr. Brandon was the choice hands down from the very beginning. The issue is not whether the money came from private sources, but did the university followed its own hiring policies and procedures and whether these donors had undue influence on the hiring process. If the athletic department is so wealthy, doesn't it have the resources within its own budget to cover the cost of conducting a first class search and hiring and not have to rely upon donations for such. The university function so much as like a private entity, it should approach about changing its status from public to private thus saving the taxpayers of Michigan millions of dollars annually.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 9:14 p.m.

I wished the university had the good sense to use a search firm a couple of years ago when the U had to hire a football coach. Sounds like money well spent!!


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 8:09 p.m.

People, Scooter, sonofscoot and zulu have no intention of being rational or logical, or least of all, truthful about the funding of the athletics department at U of M. He doesn't understand self-funding and contributing millions back to the University each year. He may point out an article that showed the athletics department actually DOES take "money" from the university. They allow work-study students to do stuff for the athletics department and due to the rules, that work-study money has to come from the University. So due to a different way of bookkeeping, the a.d. is "not" self-sufficient. It got $50k worth of work-study from the U while giving back 7 figures. Obviously these trolls care nothing for logic and are going to cry and bash the university, athletic department, and state for completely illogical hateful nonfactual reasons.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 8:09 p.m.

Another non news worthy article.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 6:23 p.m.

Why does this surprise anyone? I dont even understand why its news worthy. We are talking about UM here. The school throws around money like it grows on trees. The school doesnt even know the word "recession." Too bad they cant throw some of that money the City's way.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 5:25 p.m.

A typical executive search firm charges 1/3 of the annual compensation of the hire as their fee. Based on the recently published salary of the AD, this one was on the low end of the scale. But then, it was an easy search...


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 4:26 p.m.

Mr. Birkett, I'm confused to what the issue is here. I understand that your story here is not overtly negative but your comment that the spending may have been "over the top" on twitter leads me to believe that you think this was a misuse of funds. What part bothers you? The money used is not public money, but it is money that the athletic department has created for itself (donations, ticket sales, licensing agreements, etc.) If it were public money, then, as a taxpayer, you may have at least the standing to gripe. Beyond the issue of standing, is $124k too much to spend on this search? I have NO idea. But, neither do you. There is no comparison to peer athletic departments. And there is no comparison to past AD (or executive-level employee) job searches. There is ZERO analysis. My main complaint is that this is a complete non-story. I rarely come across your stories, but each time you leave me disappointed.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 3:24 p.m.

I'm puzzled by objections to this. Given the amount of money Michigan athletics brings in, do you really want to spare expense in finding the right person to hire? A bad hire (like Rodriguez, for example) could easily cost the athletic department 100 times the amount of this search.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 2:32 p.m.

As reported by last year, "Most other schools athletic departments run in the red and bleed funds from the overall school budget. Not only is Michigans athletic department self-sufficient, it expects to transfer $1.6 million to the general fund next year."


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 12:43 p.m.

I recall an article a year ago or so about athletic programs and funding, if I remember correctly only a couple of universities had athletic programs that funded 100% of the all sports and Michigan was not one of them.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 12:38 p.m.

lets tell it like it is. If you are a troll, or a UM football hater, or a fanatical, then this money spent is an absolute outrage. If you are a UM football fan, supporter, or non-fanatical thinker, then this is just a few private individuals who have made financial fortunes with their UM degrees and are giving back to the program. The University does not suffer one iota. Would it be nice if these same individuals would pony up millions to offer scholarships?...maybe...but who is the judge and jury? If you think you are, then you are misguided.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 11:03 a.m.

The Athletic Department pays for all of the stadium improvements, utilities, athlete scholarships, practice facilities, etc. on its own. They run a budget surplus each year. They do this through ticket sales, donations to the Athletic Department, etc. Actually, the football program pretty much keeps the entire Athletic Department in the black each year, bringing in some $40 million+ in revenue annually.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 10:56 a.m.

So the program is not entirely self funded! In due time the taxpayers will do to the college level sports just as they are doing to the HS level. No longer can we afford to fund programs such as sports and stadium building when the roads and general education funds are being reduced. The city of A2 can not afford to fix Stadium Blvd and yet the taxpayers of the state are pouring money into the sports programs right up the road.

Terry Star21

Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 10:24 a.m.

Yes $124,000. is a lot of money, and they did do it with class and in the most professional way. You don't put and ad in the paper our call around other cities, this team albeit expensive, are pro's at this and save the University thousands of dollars and thousands of headaches - and yes thousands of words of bad press. Although people hate us when we can just come up with donations quickly, but most of these donations come from grateful University graduates who show much appreciation for their success. I for one am grateful... bottom line - WE GOT THE RIGHT/BEST PERSON!!!!! UM Football Donators - we are grateful........ Candidate Search Stuart Spencer, LTD - well done

scooter dog

Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 10:21 a.m.

Who pays for it all?,Look in the mirror.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

"Entirely self-funded, accepts no money from the University itself"? So who pays for the new stadium improvements, the new football practice field, the office space and the utilities?


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 9:49 a.m.

I'm very disappointed in Mr. Birkett here. Not only did he fail to figure out the other AD candidates, but he wasn't able to ask them whether they would have fired Rich Rodriguez. Also, he wasn't able to ask biased questions about whether they would have recruited Demar Dorsey. The public needs these answers! We have a right to know!!!

scooter dog

Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 9:36 a.m.

When you have UNLIMITED resources and pay ZERO taxes of any kind then you can blow that kind of money.This is chump change to them


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 9:25 a.m.

I'm sure Brandon, with his savvy marketing skills, will make that money back in spades.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 9:14 a.m.

It isn't really fair to call the Athletic Department positions "public." The Athletic Department is on its own. Entirely self-funded, accepts no money from the University itself.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 8:07 a.m.

Total misuse of funds? Who are we to say this is a misuse of funds when they come from private donors? I applaud them for not using university resources for this search as Brandon was a lock as soon as Martin announced he was leaving. BTW, a real search would have cost 10 times this amount. This is big time athletics.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 7:18 a.m.

What a shame. But, we the public are so stupid that we aren't suppose to be able to see through the "stuff." Why use private money to conduct a search for a vacant public position? Why use former members of Michigan coaching staff to conduct the search (seems like an inside hook-up)? Why the charade when all along everyone knew that Brandon was going to be the choice. Why can't a public university publish the names of other candidates who applied for the so-called vacant position. It seems to me that if these candidates were legitimately be being considered, it would be feather in their cap for their respective employers to know that such a prestigious university was interested in them. It's not to say Brandon is not a good choice, but the credibility of the whole process has been undermined by those involved, particular President Coleman and sets a bad example as President Coleman touts the University as an equal opportunity employer. College athletics has become such a corrupting influence at Michigan and we wonder why the programs are in the predicament they are currently in. I guess Ed Martin a private doner tried to make donations to the University but instead of funneling it through channels where everybody could legitimize it, he went directly to the players.