Less than three years into his tenure, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has already made some innovative moves for the football program. Between the night games and high-profile matchups, Brandon has marketed the Wolverines as well as any athletic director in the nation.
And with the recent release of the Wolverines 2014-16 nonconference schedules, he continues to show that he fully intends to keep scheduling those types of games.
“Part of the objective [of scheduling] is creating contests that are interesting to people, that are fascinating to people, that are contests that people want to talk about,” Brandon said after a news conference to introduce Michigan's new baseball coach. “People are talking about them.”
One game people are talking about is Michigan’s 2015 season opener at Utah. The game will kick off college football that year and be the Wolverines’ first-ever Thursday night game.
“Brandon said there were several factors that made the game attractive to the Wolverines. First, since it’s being played on Sept. 3, it’s before classes have started, so players won’t miss any school. Second, Michigan liked that it could play in the first game of the 2015 season. And third, by playing on a Thursday rather than a Saturday, it gives the Wolverines 48 extra hours for recovery and preparation for the following weekend’s matchup -- Notre Dame.
“When we looked at all of that, we thought it was terrific,” Brandon said. “I’ve said all along, we’re not going to do the 110,000 people on a Thursday night in Ann Arbor, or a Friday night. It doesn’t work for us. But in Salt Lake City? We thought it was a terrific opportunity.”
Brandon continues to look for those opportunities as he continues scheduling for Michigan athletics. But with the BCS’ new playoff model, season records and strength of schedule will play in to the selection committee’s decision on which teams make the playoff.
Brandon said he wouldn’t shy away from high-profile teams in the non-conference schedule because of the threat that a possible early season loss could have on a team’s postseason goals.
“We, nor should any other team in America, be penalized because we take on a really tough opponent early in the season in the nonconference and maybe lose a close game,” Brandon said. “That should not be a death blow to a program that wants to compete at the national level. And hopefully that will be the case.”
Between the season opener against Alabama in 2012, a rematch with Appalachian State in 2014 and everything in between, Michigan fans will have a lot to look forward to because of Brandon’s scheduling.
“Those are all ways that we’re out there doing some innovative things for us that create a lot of interest in our football program, a lot of attention for our football program,” Brandon said. “I would think every Michigan fan would enjoy that and feel good about it because that’s part of what we want to accomplish.”