Tuesday October 28th, 2014

Stephen Ross, the University of Michigan's largest donor, told The Wall Street Journal on Monday that he won't interfere with or oppose a potential decision to fire athletic director Dave Brandon.

Ross had said last month that he thought Brandon should keep his job. While he still expressed support for Brandon in his latest comments, he said he assured Michigan president Mark Schlissel he won't get in the way of Schlissel decides to dismiss Brandon.

“I don’t think alumni should control universities,” Ross said. “We have a great president and he is running the university and not me.”

Ross said that Brandon shouldn’t shoulder the blame for the woes of the football program, which is 3-5 this season after a 35-11 loss at rival Michigan State on Saturday. “There’s a lot more to the job than winning football games,” Ross said. “That’s the coach’s responsibility.”

Ross, the owner of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, has donated a total of $313 million to his alma mater, including a $200 million donation announced last year that will be split between the university's business school and an ongoing renovations and building project for Michigan's athletic campus. The business school and an athletes' academic center are named after Ross in honor of his past donations.

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Brandon has come under fire in recent weeks for unpopular athletic department policies and his handling of the Shane Morris concussion controversy. The sophomore quarterback was allowed to keep playing in and then re-enter Michigan's game against Minnesota on Sept. 27 despite later being found to have had a concussion, and Brandon was criticized for a delayed and underwhelming response to the incident, along with head coach Brady Hoke.

Students and alumni have also criticized Brandon for continually increasing ticket prices, failed marketing tactics and other unpopular athletic department decisions. The unrest led to a student-created petition and a rally on campus calling for Brandon's firing the week after the Minnesota game.

Brandon and the school's student government announced last week student ticket prices were being cut by nearly 40 percent for next season.

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Michigan's varsity coaches and the school's athletes council have expressed their support for Brandon.

At a regents meeting earlier this month, Schlissel said he was "deeply disappointed" with the athletic department's handling of the Morris incident and that he was reviewing the larger problems within the athletic department. 

Hoke said Monday he hadn't discussed his job status with any superiors this season and that any such discussions would occur after the season.

Brandon has been Michigan's athletic director since 2010.

Ben Estes

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