The Worst: Michigan Football Made an Awful Marketing Mistake in 2014... and Then Made It Worse

By Johnny Ginter on July 10, 2020 at 8:35 am
Brady Hoke, bad coach

Did you know that former Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon was a backup defensive end on one of Bo Schembechler's teams during the 1970's?

I only point this out to emphasize that Brandon (probably) wasn't intentionally trying to destroy Michigan football's national reputation during his tenure at the school years later. It'd be a much more intriguing story if he was some kind of secret Buckeye double agent, but this is a story about incompetence, not espionage.

In 2014, Michigan football had a problem.

Actually, they had a lot of problems. Brady Hoke was still their coach, and was still trying to do his best Tressel impersonation but without the coaching acumen or athletic talent. It's not spoiling anything to mention that at the end of this drama, the Wolverines would finish the season 5-7 and Hoke would be fired.

The more immediate issue for Michigan in 2014, at least at the beginning of their season, was attendance. Specifically student attendance, per this 2014 article from

"We're projecting that number to be somewhere between 13 or 14,000 for student ticket numbers this year," Michigan associate athletic director of media and public relations Dave Ablauf said. "(That number was at) about 19,000 last year. We don't have a finalized number (yet), that's just an approximation because all the incoming freshmen haven't put in their orders yet.

"But we know that returning student numbers are down."

This was likely a combination of the slow realization among the Michigan football that Brady Hoke was less the heir to Bo and more like... well, actually, this dude:

But it could also be chalked up to Brandon changing up the ticketing system in an effort to make sitting through a Wolverines game seem like less of a chore and more of an exciting opportunity, like someone choosing a Domino's pizza over... literally anything else. In other words, how do you entice someone to willingly accept an item that they don't want and don't value? Like, say, student tickets to an unexciting midseason tilt against Minnesota.


Those two tickets had a face value of one hundred and fifty American dollars, which could be obtained for three bucks worth of Coke. Michigan would later claim that the promotion was a result of a "miscommunication" in the "approval process," which I assume means that something like Dave Brandon going "Hey I have a great idea" and no one else in the athletic department saying "No you don't you gigantic moron."

Michigan, predictably, got roasted alive for this, but don't worry, they fixed it!

Okay, ridiculously stupid product placement aside, I absolutely love how Hoke's (incredibly blasé) quote here is emphasized, as if he's trying to get people hyped up for something he really doesn't understand the meaning of and ends up yelling the wrong shit. "IF you CATCH on fire, stop DROP AND roll." "Early to BED AND early to RISE MAKES a man healthy, wealthy AND wise." "Rat poison: not FOR HUMAN ingestion." Etcetera.

Michigan, 10.5 point favorites against Minnesota, ended up losing that game 30-14. Neat!

The story doesn't end there. Dave Brandon, having lost the confidence of just about every human soul in Ann Arbor, was out of a job just over a month later. Brady Hoke would be fired at the end of the season, but frankly I'm still kind of pissed that he didn't get fired immediately after the Minnesota game; not because of his gross incompetence as a coach, but because his utter disregard for player safety.

At the end of a meaningless game in a meaningless season, an apparently distracted or uninterested Brady Hoke allowed his quarterback to get injured multiple times within just a few minutes, ultimately taking a devastating blow to the head. Then Hoke put the kid back in the game.

Shane Morris shouldn't have been anywhere near the field to receive that devastating blow to his head, but that all led to this completely unacceptable chain of events:

Asked if he saw his sophomore quarterback looking "wobbly" after the hit, Hoke said he did not.

"I did not," he replied. "I didn't see it. I can only answer for me."

Morris was taken out of the game in favor of Gardner, but then actually returned for one play later after Gardner lost his helmet following a run -- which meant he was forced, by rule, to sit out a play.

Rather than inserting third-string quarterback Russell Bellomy, Morris re-entered the game and handed the ball off to Justice Hayes.

Michigan later admitted that they had made "mistakes" in handling Morris' condition, which is both correct and infuriating at the same time. Brady Hoke tried to later explain himself with a defense that boiled down to "I'm dumb and thought he was fine." It worked because people believed him, at least as per the former claim.

Hoke survived until the end of the season, when he was promptly dismissed after another loss to Ohio State, and the Jim Harbaugh era began. But the internet doesn't forget, and especially not extremely embarrassing promotions to prop up waning student interest and especially especially not coaching negligence.

It is both The Worst and should serve as a reminder of the hard fact that a program can survive bad publicity or bad coaching or bad press, but when hit by all three at once, it might take a long, long time for it to fully recover.

If it ever does.

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