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Michigan's Dave Brandon dilemma

On Monday, Michigan donor Stephen Ross told the Wall Street Journal he will not interfere in president Mark Schlissel's decision to fire (or not fire) athletics director Dave Brandon. “I don’t think alumni should control universities,” Ross told the WSJ. “We have a great president and he is running the university and not me.”

A Michigan alum and the owner of the Miami Dolphins, Ross had previously been a (and perhaps the only) influential Brandon supporter, telling the WSJ last month that Brandon is “as qualified to be an athletic director as anyone could be."

There are a number of layers to the onion that is Michigan athletics these days, but this is a significant one.

Schlissel came to Ann Arbor from the Ivy League, and is admittedly unschooled in matters of big-time athletics. With popular opinion trending strongly against Brandon and one less pro-Brandon supporter in Schlissel's ear, it stands to reason the Michigan's president just became that much easier.

On top of that, Brandon's uncertain status is affecting the thinking around the Michigan job within the coaching industry.

Those we have spoken to within the industry say Brandon's continued employment stands in the way of prime candidates' interest in the job, should it come open. We've heard from sources close to top-level coaches, coaches Michigan should be speaking to, that they would be much more likely to listen if Brandon is gone. They're simply not going to cast their lot with Michigan without knowing who their boss is going to be.

Changing regimes takes time. Texas provided a precedent a year ago for the situation Michigan finds itself in right now. DeLoss Dodds announced his retirement as athletics director on Oct. 1, and Steve Patterson was hired Nov. 5. The Longhorns' touch-and-go coaching situation, with Texas in contention for the Big 12 title down to the final day of the regular season, delayed the inevitable coaching search. Mack Brown announced his resignation on Dec. 15, and Charlie Strong's hiring was announced on Jan. 6.

Coaching and athletics director searches take time. And with the calendar approaching November, the Wolverines fall further behind every day Brandon remains employed.