Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Michigan Students, God Love'em

Although I've been unable to look away from the Michigan athletic train wreck this week, I must admit I'm not really in the mood to analyze the latest carefully crafted message from the administration, University President Dr. Mark Schlissel's press release about player safety and the Shane Morris affair. At the rate of 1.5 press releases per Michigan win, all within the last 4 days, I'm a bit burned out on it all. Let's just say it read almost exactly like I thought it would (meaning nothing like I hoped it would.) No major departure from the Brandon release, just a general commitment to implement the changes and recommendations outlined in the AD's statement earlier in the day. I was hoping for more than Schlissel's "extreme disappointment", but should have known no heads would roll today regardless of how many people begged for them on social and traditional media. A shiny new president is not going to jump rashly into action in a university arena he has little experience managing - athletics. I'm fairly certain the Brown Athletic Department and its AD never once troubled Brown's president. I can feel for Dr. Schlissel; he went from a place rather "chill" about major intercollegiate athletics into a frying pan of athletic passion when he came to Ann Arbor. The poor guy took office on the day the Brendan Gibbons story was at its peak and he hasn't had much of a reprieve from the distraction of Michigan sports since then.

The high point of this day for me actually came from the actions of Michigan's students. On Monday, the Michigan Daily called for the immediate firing of Brady Hoke. Students started online petitions to get Dave Brandon fired and within hours the petition, boldly hosted on an *.umich domain, had over 9,000 signatures. The students then used social media to quickly organize a Fire Brandon rally on the Diag that reportedly drew about 500 people and plenty of local and national media. After marching on the Diag, they moved to the steps of Dr. Schlissel's house and peacefully continued. It wasn't violent or ugly. No one was hurt. Nothing was set aflame. As one student tweeted:

How cool is that? Students, protesting to protect something they believe in. Fighting against something see as a threat to an institution they love and respect. Social media helped start the process and social media got them the attention they needed, but in all other ways, they did it just like their parents and grandparents did it "back in the day". Feet on the ground. Voices in the air. Gathering on the Diag. The cause is new. The methods more modern. But it was classic Michigan all the way. Those kids aren't glued to the couch playing Assassin's Creed. They do care about things and when it comes to Michigan Football, they know how important they are to the game day atmosphere now and to the bottom line later as alumni with families that form the next crop of season ticket holders and students. They reminded me of Apartheid shanties lining the Diag in the 1980s. They reminded me of how much I love the crazy place no matter how much I may hate the way it operates at times. 

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