- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Dave Brandon called the perception "pretty silly." The Michigan athletic director, speaking Monday with WDIV-TV in Detroit, said he's confused as to why some think he's the one calling the shots with Michigan's football program.
He reiterated that head coach Brady Hoke made the decision to fire offensive coordinator Al Borges following the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and that Hoke identified and hired Doug Nussmeier as Borges' replacement.
"I'm not angered [by it], just confused as to why anybody could draw that conclusion," Brandon said. "I'm not a football coach. I have no experience as a football coach. I've never run a football program. How that conclusion was reached is beyond me."
Some reached that conclusion when Brandon spoke with reporters after Nussmeier's introduction while both Hoke and Nussmeier did not. Brandon addressed the state of the program, the standards Michigan football must uphold and denied claims that he's the one pulling the strings on major decisions.
Some reached the conclusion when Brandon somewhat surprisingly gave Hoke a vote of confidence in November, in the form of a 1,059-word post that appeared on Brandon's blog. It wasn't like the short statements we typically see from ADs that basically say, "Coach is safe. Move along."
And yet others reached the conclusion after learning how hands-on Brandon is with the football program. He watches game film on Sundays with the coaching staff, a practice that didn't sit well with former coach Rich Rodriguez. Brandon, who played football at Michigan, certainly isn't the only AD with a keen interest in football, but does his involvement go too far?
Some believe it has. Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp recently likened Brandon to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, always putting himself in the spotlight.
That might be pushing it, but Brandon once again on Monday had to defend his involvement with the football program.
Brandon in some ways is more of a front man than Hoke. He's a better public speaker and more comfortable in front of a microphone than Hoke, who is great to deal with one-on-one but doesn't thrive in group settings.
Brandon is undoubtedly a high-profile athletics director with a unique back story as the former Domino's Pizza CEO. He has been mentioned as a Michigan gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidate. He's a big deal, he has made Michigan a boatload of money during his tenure and grown the school's brand despite continued mediocrity in its signature sports program. Hoke leads a famous football program but doesn't have the ego or the glitz seen with some of his coaching peers.
It creates an interesting dynamic around Schembechler Hall. Few athletics directors outshine their football coaches in this day and age. Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez is the only current example in the Big Ten, and that's because he used to coach the Badgers and transformed the program to national prominence.
Brandon made a good point Monday when he said, "I can't hold Brady Hoke accountable for his results if I'm telling him who to put on the staff." Ultimately, Brandon is Hoke's boss, and he must evaluate Hoke's ability to lead Michigan football.
He might be best served doing so from a bird's-eye view.