"You can't get your picture taken with the Block M. Mascots are really embraced by the youth demographic and we want to take advantage of that, for all the reasons that are obvious."Athletic Director Dave Brandon on having a mascot at Michigan
In many ways, Michigan AD Dave Brandon is one of the primary reasons the MZone is again part of the U-M blogosphere. And that's not a compliment.
After 2+ years of cyber silence (and no intention of returning), I came out of hibernation last August when, in the midst of Big 10 divisional realignment talk, it was revealed that the Michigan-Ohio State game was almost certainly going to be moved from its traditional season ending spot on the schedule.
Now, it's one thing for Jim "Yes, the Tat 5 should play in the Sugar!" Delany to whore out to network wishes and advocate moving The Game. Or Barry "We want to sit at the big table!" Alvarez getting behind changes that will keep many folks across the country from thinking first of the Wolverines and the Buckeyes when they think of the Big 10. But Michigan's own athletic director supporting something that would dilute and detract from what arguably is the greatest rivalry in college football?!
Brandon should have been screaming from the rooftops in protest. Instead, the former Domino's CEO didn't even seem to realize what an appallingly bad idea it was, talking about preparing for change and saying such things as:
“I think there’s a distinct possibility that game will be a later game in the season but not necessarily the last game of the season. That’s simply because I don’t think the coaches or the players or the fans or the networks or anyone would appreciate that matchup twice within a seven-day period.”
This after voicing the misguided (and still misguided!) assertion that it's better to have Michigan and Ohio State in separate divisions "because we’re in a situation where one of the best things that could happen, in my opinion in a given season, would be the opportunity to play Ohio State twice. Once in the regular season and once for the championship of the Big Ten."
No, that's not one of the best things. Really. It's not. And for Michigan's AD to not understand that was actually sort of scary.
Yeah, I know he played under Bo. But that doesn't mean his leadership of The Leaders and Best is always correct or beyond reproach. Sometimes Brandon's boardroom background needs to take a back seat to lessons learned in The Big House locker room. Because if Bo had still been alive and heard that crap about The Game, he'd have kicked Brandon's ass right back to Domino's.
Those were the answers of a man more concerned with television than tradition, seemingly more interested in appeasing advertisers than alums. At a time like that, Michigan fans needed and deserved their team's old QB/DE, not the former pizza CEO.
Unfortunately, Brandon only changed his tune (along with the B10, and OSU's president and AD) after - holy shit, locusts! - U-M and Ohio State fans teamed up to voice their unified outrage at the asshattery.
But that wasn't the end of Brandon's questionable calls.
Earlier this month there was the "retro jersey" controversy. And just last week, Brandon created another stir when he hinted that he was exploring the possibility of adding a Wolverine mascot to The Big House sidelines, talking about it in terms of "youth demographics."
"I'm struck by the fact that when opposing teams come to our stadium, and they bring a mascot, all of our young fans are lined up to see if they can get a picture taken with it, whether it's the Penn State Nittany Lion or Sparty," Brandon told Michigan Today. "That's a little annoying to me.
You know what's annoying to me? Not realizing you don't need some fur ball on the sidelines to get kids hooked on Michigan football or to become lifelong maize and blue fanatics. It's been working pretty darn well the last 130+ years without one.
|"Picture time, Youth Demo! Go Blue!"|
But this isn't about pictures with mascots, or even "youth demographics." It's about mom and dad's money. Because college football is big business. And slapping some furry creature on toddler tees and sippy cups will bring in a couple extra bucks. But doesn't being at a school which has sold out the biggest college football stadium in the land each and every game since 1975 - with seat licensing fees tacked on to ticket prices to boot - buy a program at least a little bit of a buffer against shit that sounds like something bandied about in a marketing meeting and thrown against the wall (or sent out with 2-for-1 coupons) to see if the idea sticks?
Look, I realize that traditions need to evolve. That's why I supported The Big House renovation and upgrades but hated the ring around the stadium. That's the reason I love the idea of a night game but hate the cheesy-ass "retro" jersey money grab that was tacked on to it. Being able to tell the difference between upgrading tradition and upending it is the key.
And how does one know the answer to that? I liken it to the old supreme court definition of pornography: I know it when I see it. But most importantly, Michigan needs its AD to know it.