Friday, November 7, 2014

Michigan football and Domino's

Recently, Michigan athletic director David Brandon resigned (see ousted). It likely resulted from a combination of a lot of things. As Sports Illustrated writer Andy Staples pointed out, jacking up the price of student tickets wasn't exactly a popular move. Nor was offering free tickets to a game with the purchase of a couple bottles of Coke. Hard core fans who had spent big bucks on tickets likely weren't thrilled to discover John and Jane Yahoo could get them free if they bought a couple liters of pop. Bad idea.

Throw in the obvious blunder of originally hiring Brady Hoke as the head football coach. Incredibly, as Michigan football continued its spectacular fall from respectability, after a loss to unranked Utah less than two months ago, Brandon extended Hokes contract for 7 more years -- money guaranteed through 2021. At a whopping $6 million a year, making the cluesless Hokey Pokey man the highest paid college football coach in the country. In a show of how much Hoke is respected elsewhere, the AD at arch rival Michigan State allegedly offered to pay his salary if only he would PLEASE stay on as Michigan's head coach. Rodney Dangerfield, anyone?

But the real problem? Pizza. Especially Domino's. Michigan football and Domino's honchos have a very strange and not so good track record together.

Harken back to the founder, and original Grand Poobah of Domino's -- one Tom Monaghan. He would make billions in the cheese and pepperoni business. He was also likely responsible for clogging up a few million miles of arteries along the way, but hey, after a few beers, guys will eat damn near anything.

Monaghan would go on to buy the Detroit Tigers in 1983. It was a team chock full of talent reaching their collective peaks, and indeed the Tigers would win the World Series the following year. But then they quickly unraveled over the next few years.

Along the way, Monaghan fired long-time and super-beloved play-by-play man Ernie Harwell. Public outrage in Detroit would force the pizza man to rescind that decision and take Ernie back -- but a certain amount of PR damage had been done.

In 1990, in Monaghan's infinite wisdom, he hired former Michigan head football coach and athletic director Glenn "Bo" Schembechler as the President of the Detroit Tigers.

Bo was known for a lot of things, and definitely an icon in Ann Arbor, home of the Michigan Wolverines. Their athletic building remains named after him to this day.

But not all those things were necessarily good. If one was a big fan of arrogance, three yards and a cloud of dust, and regular season winning records -- Bo was your guy. And let's not forget, back then the only two good teams in the Big 10 were Michigan and Ohio State. The other eight were typically cannon fodder.

And it was Bo's refusal to adapt to the changing game of football that caused him and his teams to have such a poor bowl record. 5-12 overall, including 2-8 in the cherished Rose Bowl. Beef and brawn are good -- but speed kills.

Despite what one thinks of Schembechler's college football prowess -- the obvious question remains. What in the hell was Monaghan thinking when he hired a career long college football guy to run a professional baseball team? Mercifully, that experiment only lasted three years, from 1990--1992. Cumulatively, the Tigers would finish 10 games below .500 on Bo's watch.

Back to David Brandon. He inherited the throne at Domino's as Prez, CEO, and #1 mucky-muck. Evidently, the man knew pizza, or least how to market it. So that leads to a similar question. What in the hell was Michigan thinking when they hired a pizza guy to oversee their athletics deparment?

Was he handing out free bread sticks to the women's volleyball team if they won a match? A buy one -- get one ice cream coupon to any hockey player that scored a goal?

Worse yet, Brandon's at least temporary replacement is guy named Jim Hackett. He's the former CEO of an outfit called Steelcase. That company is into office furniture. This qualifies him to run an entire college athletic department? And what's HE going to come up with as his signature accomplishment? State of the art swivel chairs in the locker room of the rowing team? Please.

Alas, Bo is now running his three yards on clouds in the sky and, the aging Monaghan, being a devout Catholic, has seen fit to give much of his fortune to religious causes.

Brandon's next stop is unknown, but former CEOs typically find a way of landing in another rose garden, whether they know what they're doing or not.

As for Hoke, he's just gotta go. This man was the answer to solving Michigan's football problems like Tim Tebow was going to lead an NFL team to multiple Super Bowls. Some things just aren't going to work out.

But in the meantime, until at least 2021, the still proud but clueless Hoke, that never won anything, will make $6 million a year, while the humble former Heisman winner and national champion scuffs around looking for work.

The Lord (and the Michigan/Domino's connection) works in mysterious ways indeed........

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