Stories indexed with the term ‘UM athletics’

Column: The Aftermath of Brendan Gibbons

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The University of Michigan named a new president last month, and the football team landed another great class of recruits last week. But there’s another story that keeps eclipsing those two.

I’ve been reluctant to write about Brendan Gibbons, because so little is clear – from the incident that started this saga five years ago, to the various responses since.

A few things are clear, though, starting with this: the athletic department continually fails to follow the advice of legendary athletic director Don Canham, “Never turn a one-day story into a two-day story.”

This story starts back in 2009, when Wolverine kicker Brendan Gibbons had an encounter at a party with a female student. Ultimately, only two people know what happened, but we do know she contacted the Ann Arbor police, then decided not to press charges.

This put the university in a tough spot. In 2009, it was a tenet of university policy that it would not look into such situations unless the alleged victim came forward. But in 2013, the university revised its code, no longer requiring the alleged victim to start an investigation.

That’s why it wasn’t until November 20 of 2013 that the Office of Institutional Equity concluded that Gibbons “engaged in unwanted or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, committed without valid consent, and that conduct was so severe as to create a hostile, offensive, or abusive environment.”

From everything I’ve seen, the university played it straight, and the athletic department never attempted to interfere with the process. That’s the good news.

The bad news is, having gotten the hard part right, the athletic department seemed determined to get the easy part wrong.  [Full Story]

Column: Michigan’s Biggest Problem

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

I’ve often joked that some Michigan football fans aren’t happy unless they’re not happy. But after eleven games this season, even they could be excused for having plenty to be unhappy about. A week ago, the Wolverines were 3-and-4 in the Big Ten, with undefeated Ohio State coming up next.

The Wolverines had been surprisingly bad all season – until the Ohio State game, when they were suddenly, surprisingly good, falling short by just one point in the final minute. It was the first time I have ever seen Michigan fans feeling better about their team after a loss than before it.

Still, the heroic performance was bittersweet. The most common reaction I’ve heard this week: Where was that team all year? And which team will return next year – the one that got crushed by Michigan State, or the one that almost beat the Buckeyes?

But Michigan’s bigger problems are off the field, not on it. In just four years, the athletic department’s budget has expanded from $100 million to $137 million – and that does not include the $340 million earmarked for a new building master plan.  This rapidly growing empire could be threatened by a perfect storm of a bad record, skyrocketing ticket prices, and next season’s horrible home schedule.

This brings up two questions: How do they increase the budget by 37%? And where do they spend it? [Full Story]

Column: The Hope for Hoke

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Moments before the Michigan Wolverines introduced Brady Hoke as their new head football coach in 2011, Michigan fans had lots of questions. Why not hire a national star like Les Miles or Jim Harbaugh, who both played at Michigan? Who was Brady Hoke? Was he up to the task of taking over the Wolverines, and returning the team to glory?

Hoke answered these questions by nailing his first press conference. He won over more Michigan fans in just a few minutes than his predecessor, Rich Rodriguez, had been able to capture in three years, for a variety of reasons. When a reporter asked Hoke if the Wolverines would be rebuilding in his first season, he famously replied, “This is Michigan, for godsakes” – and a star was born.

It’s hard to remember a happier honeymoon than Hoke’s. In his rookie season, the Wolverines beat Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State – the latter for the first time in eight years. They won their first BCS bowl game since a young man named Tom Brady did the job in 2000, en route to an 11-2 record. From the fans in the stands to the team in the trenches, the love for Coach Hoke was universal.

But then a great senior class graduated, the schedule got tougher, and Michigan’s amazing luck finally ran out. Hoke’s second team went 8-5, but most fans gave Hoke a pass, and I believe rightly so.

But the Wolverines don’t look much better this year, and might even be worse. [Full Story]

UM: $200M Donation

The University of Michigan announced it will name the athletic campus after developer Stephen M. Ross, following a new $200 million donation from Ross to the university. Of that amount, $100 million is designated for athletics and $100 million will fund the business school, which is already named after Ross because of a previous donation. [Source]

UM: Winter Olympics

Charley Sullivan, the University of Michigan associate men’s rowing coach, is quoted in an Associated Press article about how anti-gay laws are impacting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Sullivan – described in the article as “one of the first openly gay coaches of a major-college sports team” – suggested that athletes could protest the Russian laws by wearing gay pride pins and carrying rainbow flags to the closing ceremonies. Sullivan said athletes have “a moral imperative not to let their efforts, their body, the images of what they do, their names, to be hooked to legitimizing of the host country without their consent.” [Source]

Column: UM Football Policy A Bad Bet

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

For decades, students at Michigan football games were assigned seats, with the seniors getting the best ones. But last year, according to the Michigan athletic department, roughly a quarter of the 22,000 people in the student section were no-shows. So, athletic director Dave Brandon decided to switch the student section from assigned seating to general admission – first come, first seated – to get them to show up on time. Or, at all.

In fairness, growing student apathy is not unique to Michigan, nor is the move to general admission seating. And not all top programs allow every student who wants season tickets to get them, as Michigan always has.

Nonetheless, the students, who were accustomed to starting in the end zone as freshmen, then moving year by year toward mid-field, went ballistic. They gathered more than 2,000 signatures for a petition, and 1,500 “likes” for their movement on a Facebook page, just three hours after the announcement. In an admittedly unscientific poll conducted by The Michigan Daily, 85 people said they “love it” while 497 said they “hate it.”

Yes, some students can display a breathtaking sense of entitlement. And they won’t get much sympathy from the average fans, who have to pay two or three times more for their tickets, plus pay out a Personal Seat Donation – and that’s only after they get off a wait list, which costs another $500 just to get on it.

But before we bash the students too much, perhaps we should ask why they’re not showing up. Getting mad at your paying customers for not liking your product as much as you think they should, then punishing them for it, is probably not something they teach at Michigan’s Ross School of Business. [Full Story]

Column: The Legacy of Eddie Kahn

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Editor’s note: A version of this column was originally published in the Feb. 18, 2013 issue of Michigan Today.

In the Michigan hockey program’s 90-year history, some 600 players have scored more than 10,000 total goals. But the man who scored the team’s very first goal, 90 years ago, might still be the most impressive one of the bunch.

He was the son of legendary American architect Albert Kahn, who built the most recognizable buildings in Detroit and Ann Arbor, almost all of which still stand. He pioneered the new discipline of neurosurgery, serving 22 years as chief of the department at the University of Michigan Medical Center. In his free times, he liked to fly planes, speak half a dozen languages, and hang out with folks like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Lindbergh.

But to his teammates, back in 1923, Eddie Kahn, MD ’24, was simply an exceptional college hockey player.

When he was in high school, however, you would have been wise to predict none of this. Certainly, his famous father didn’t. [Full Story]

UM: Catfishing

Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Bill Shea writes that officials with the University of Michigan athletics department are saying they did not “catfish” their athletes, contrary to recent media reports. The column quotes UM associate athletic director David Ablauf: “It was the media jumping to the use of the word cat fishing … not Dave [Brandon] or Brady [Hoke]. They did not use the term and that is not what we were doing with our teaching session for student-athletes.” [Source]

Column: The True Cost of Football Tickets

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

This week, the University of Michigan announced an increase in the cost of “seat licenses” for football season ticket holders.

Before I dive into what all this means, let me explain what a “seat license” is, because, if you’re a normal person, it won’t make much sense.

A “seat license” is a fee that teams make their fans pay just to reserve the right to buy the actual tickets. They call it a donation – which is a stretch, since every fan apparently decided to donate exactly the same amount, or lose our tickets. But that allows us to claim it as a gift to a state university, and a tax deduction.

It’s hard to call that honest. Thanks to the latest hike, it’s hard to call it cheap, either.

In fairness, Michigan was the last of the top 20 programs, ranked by attendance, to adopt a seat license program, in 2005 – even though Michigan always finishes first in attendance. And the seat licenses started gradually: $250 for the best seats the first year, then $500 the second. They were nice enough to spare the folks in the endzone.

But this week Michigan pushed the seat license for the top ticket up to $600 each, and even the folks in the endzone will have to pay $150 per ticket, just for the right to buy them. In the past decade, the total cost of my two tickets on the ten-yard line has more than tripled, to over $1,700. But my seats are no better, and the schedule keeps getting worse.

It makes you wonder how we got here. [Full Story]

Next Steps OK’d for Schembechler Hall

A major renovation to the entrance of Schembechler Hall at 1200 S. State moved forward, with University of Michigan regents authorizing staff to issue bids and award construction contracts on the $9 million project. That action occurred at the board’s Dec. 13, 2012 meeting. Regents had previously approved a schematic design at their July 2012 meeting, and had signed off on the overall project in January.

The building was constructed in 1990 for UM’s football program. It contains locker rooms, meeting rooms, medical treatment rooms, training areas, weight rooms, and administrative offices. The project will add about 7,000 square feet to the building, renovate an additional 7,000 square feet, and integrate the Margaret Dow Towsley Sports Museum area. The main entrance will … [Full Story]

Column: Enjoy Denard Robinson’s Time at UM

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Last week, the University of Michigan football team beat up University of Massachusetts, 63-13. Okay, U-Mass was pretty bad. Even the lowly Indiana Hoosiers crushed them the week before. But the Wolverines did exactly what they were supposed to do, and they did it very well.

Many Michigan fans complained anyway. This is not uncommon, or even unexpected. A few years ago, Michigan blew out 15th-ranked Notre Dame team 38-0, the first time Michigan shut out over the Irish in over a century. The next day, I challenged listeners on a sports talk show to find something to complain about. I thought I was joking. They did not, and had no trouble filling two hours with a steady stream of original complaints.

Michigan backers are intensely loyal, and they do not believe in winning at all costs, but some act more like opera critics than fans, less interested in cheering the team on than pointing out where the coaches and players could have done better. They are not happy unless they are not happy.

So, the day after Michigan slaughtered U-Mass, I was not surprised to hear fans complain about quarterback Denard Robinson’s performance. Mind you, Denard ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown, and passed for almost 300 yards, and three touchdowns.

And that, to one caller, was the problem: “I’m tired of living and dying with Denard.” In other words, Robinson was too good for that fan’s taste. [Full Story]

Column: Forever Olympians

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The University of Michigan has sent 226 athletes and coaches to the Olympic Games. Wolverines have competed in every modern Olympics since the first in 1896. The numbers are impressive, but the individuals in those numbers, past and present, are far more interesting.

In the opening ceremonies next week, when the United States flag bearer declines to dip the Stars and Stripes for Queen Elizabeth, he or she will be following the lead of Ralph Rose, a Michigan alum who refused to lower the flag in the 1908 London Olympics, for King Edward VII. Rose explained, “This flag dips for no earthly king.”

Wolverines have also made their mark on the podium, winning 138 medals, including 65 gold. This year, Michigan is sending 26 athletes and coaches to London, who will compete in nine different sports.

The list includes Betsey Armstrong, a graduate of Ann Arbor Huron High – widely considered the greatest high school in the history of Western Civilization (which also happens to be my alma mater). She will play goalie for the water polo team. [Full Story]

UM Regents Approve Stadium Blvd. Marquee

Installation of a $2.8 million marquee – located at Michigan Stadium, adjacent to the Crisler Center and visible from East Stadium Boulevard – was approved by the University of Michigan board of regents at their July 19, 2012 meeting.

UM athletics director David Brandon spoke briefly to describe the project. Calling it an exciting communications tool, he indicated that it’s not uncommon to find this kind of marquee at other institutions. The marquee will be used to display video, graphics, logos and other images to highlight upcoming events, programs, accomplishments and initiatives of the UM athletic department and its student athletes. [map showing location of marquee (yellow dot)] [view of marquee looking east on E. Stadium Boulevard] [view of ... [Full Story]

Design for Schembechler Hall Entrance OK’d

The schematic design for a $9 million renovation to the entrance of Schembechler Hall, which will integrate the Margaret Dow Towsley Sports Museum area, was approved by the University of Michigan board of regents at its July 19, 2012 meeting. Regents had initially signed off on the overall project in January.

The building at 1200 S. State St. was constructed in 1990 for UM’s football program, and contains locker rooms, meeting rooms, medical treatment rooms, training areas, weight rooms, and administrative offices. The project will add about 7,000 square feet to the building, and renovate an additional 7,000 square feet. The main entrance will be moved to the north of the building, off of a parking lot, and will include a statue of Bo Schembechler, … [Full Story]

UM Regents Briefed on Athletic Budget

At their June 21, 2012 meeting, the University of Michigan board of regents were briefed by UM athletic director Dave Brandon on the athletic department budget. It does not require regental approval.

A surplus of $5.8 million is projected for FY 2013, after allowing for $4.5 million for deferred maintenance. Revenue growth is positive, budgeted for an increase to $130.32 million in FY 2013, he said, compared to anticipated revenues of $128.69 million in the current fiscal year. The largest individual line item comes from ticket sales, which are budgeted at $44.05 million, down from a projected $48.988 million in FY 2012. Brandon noted that the lower ticket sales reflect fewer football games this coming season – six, compared to eight games … [Full Story]

Column: Shawn Hunwick’s Impossible Dream

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Two years ago, Michigan’s hockey team was in danger of snapping its record 19-straight NCAA tournament bids. They finished seventh in their league – unheard of, for Michigan. So, the only way to keep the streak alive was to win six straight league playoff games to get an automatic NCAA bid.

Oh, and they had to do it with a back-up goalie named Shawn Hunwick, a 5-foot-6 walk-on who had never started a college game until that week.

It didn’t look good.

But the kid caught fire. Michigan won all six games, stretched its streak to 20 straight NCAA tournaments, and Hunwick won the league tournament MVP.

This never happens.

The next season, head coach Red Berenson alternated goalies until he had to pick one to play in the Big Chill game at Michigan’s football stadium – which was going to be the largest crowd ever to watch a hockey game, anywhere. He picked Bryan Hogan, but in warm ups, Hogan pulled a muscle, so Berenson put Hunwick in the net at the last minute. The kid beat Michigan State, 5-0, and a star was re-born. [Full Story]

Column: The Other Side of Fielding Yost

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Two weeks ago, I wrote about one of the University of Michigan’s lowest moments, when athletic director Fielding H. Yost scheduled Georgia Tech for a football game in 1934, which required Michigan to sit out its star player, Willis Ward, because Southern teams would not take the field against African-Americans.

The attention Yost’s decision received surprised and embarrassed him. In his limited view of the situation, Yost thought he was simply providing a courtesy for a friend, not making a racial stand. National newspapers, radio programs and even Time magazine featured the controversy prominently. It also sparked bitter debate among students, and created a morale problem on the team. By all accounts the players felt Ward was intelligent, hard-working and well-liked.

That was the bad news – very bad news. The good news, as I wrote, is that the press, the alums, the students, and particularly Willis Ward and his roommate on the road, Gerald Ford, had the courage of their convictions, and derived lasting change from the incident.

But I feel it necessary to fill out this story, to give it more depth, and perspective. [Full Story]

Column: Michigan Thanks Buckeyes – For Now

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The Big Ten basketball experts knew exactly what was going to happen this season before it even started. Michigan State would battle for another title, while Michigan would be stuck in the middle, fighting for a tournament bid.

And that’s exactly how it started. The Spartans jumped out to first place, and had it all to themselves with just two games left. The Wolverines spent most of the season in the middle of the pack.

The experts were looking pretty smart – until Michigan started mastering head coach John Beilein’s unconventional system. The Wolverines beat Michigan State at home by a single point, then knocked off sixth-ranked Ohio State – just two of Michigan’s 15 straight home victories. With just a week left in the regular season, the Wolverines had a chance to win their first Big Ten title since 1986 – the longest drought in school history. [Full Story]

Player Center Named for Davidson

Following a donation of $7.5 million from the William Davidson Foundation to the University of Michigan athletics department, the UM board of regents approved renaming the basketball player development center in honor of William Davidson, who died in 2009. The unanimous vote was taken at the board’s Feb. 16, 2012 meeting in an item added to the agenda during the meeting.

Davidson, a UM graduate and businessman who owned the Detroit Pistons and other teams, had been a major donor to the university over the past several decades. The William Davidson Institute at UM’s Ross School of Business was founded in 1992 through a gift from Davidson’s business, Guardian Industries.

UM president Mary Sue Coleman described Davidson as a beloved man who had … [Full Story]

UM Regents OK Athletics Dept. Projects

The University of Michigan board of regents took action on two items related to university athletics at its Jan. 19, 2012 meeting.

A $9 million renovation to the entrance of Schembechler Hall, which will integrate the Margaret Dow Towsley Sports Museum area, was approved by the board. The building at 1200 S. State St. was constructed in 1990 for UM’s football program, and contains locker rooms, meeting rooms, medical treatment rooms, training areas, weight rooms, and administrative offices. The project will add about 7,000 square feet to the building, and renovate an additional 7,000 square feet. Funding will be provided from athletic department resources.

In a separate vote, regents authorized issuing bids and award construction contracts for a $14 million project at Yost Ice Arena. The overall … [Full Story]

Column: An Important Win for Michigan

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Just a few years ago, ESPN’s viewers called the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry the best. Not just in college football, or all football. But in all sports. Period.

Everyone knew this year’s game wouldn’t go down as one of the best. Michigan entered the game with a 9-2 record and a No. 17 ranking, but the Buckeyes hobbled into their annual finale dragging a 6-5 record behind them, their worst record since the 1990s.

But that just made the stakes for Michigan that much higher.

The Wolverines hadn’t beaten the Buckeyes since 2003, but the Buckeyes entered last week’s game reeling from just about every problem a major program can have – from an ongoing NCAA investigation, to coach Jim Tressel being fired last spring in disgrace, to their star quarterback Terrelle Pryor departing a year early for the NFL.

This Buckeye team was led by a freshman quarterback, Braxton Miller, and an interim coach named Luke Fickell. Making matters worse for the Buckeyes, just days before the game, reports surfaced that Urban Meyer would be named the permanent head coach after the game – which he was.

All this only put more pressure on the Wolverines. If they couldn’t beat the Buckeyes at their baddest, when could they? [Full Story]

UM Regents Criticize “Formula Funding”

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Nov. 17, 2011): A meeting that began 20 minutes late included two items that spurred discussion among regents: The possible use of a formula to allocate state funding for higher education, and the need for a more comprehensive housing strategy on the Ann Arbor campus.

Block M cookies

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman passed around a tray of Block M cookies before the Nov. 17 board meeting. Later, regent Martin Taylor objected to a potential “cookie cutter” approach to appropriating money for higher education, via formula funding. It was fairly clear that he wasn’t referring to these cookies. (Photos by the writer.)

This year, as part of the standard budget appropriations process, the state also has asked universities to provide suggestions for how to implement “formula funding” – a mechanism that’s being considered as a way to standardize appropriations for higher education. Martin Taylor and other regents expressed concerns over the approach, and asked for revisions to a letter being sent from the university to the state budget director that would explicitly state UM’s opposition to this kind of funding model.

Also on the agenda were two requests related to renovations at East Quad on central campus and Baits II on north campus. The topic prompted regent Andrea Fischer Newman to call for a broader strategy for student housing in the coming decades, saying that more attention needs to be given to that aspect of the university. Regent Larry Deitch noted that UM charges a healthy price, and he doesn’t believe there’s full value for UM’s lower-division students when some facilities aren’t up to snuff.

The child rape scandal at Penn State was mentioned at two points during the Nov. 17 meeting. Toward the start, board chair Denise Ilitch read a brief statement on behalf of the regents, saying that the board fully supported president Mary Sue Coleman’s Nov. 16 letter to the campus community. The university plans to use this tragic situation, Ilitch said, for thoughtful re-examination of UM’s values, culture and priorities.

At the end of the meeting, Douglas Smith spoke during public commentary, criticizing the university for not protecting alleged victims of sexual assault by UM athletes Brendan Gibbons and Jordan Dumars. Penn State was only an anomaly because the victims were children, he said. But it’s not an anomaly for university administrators to protect their athletic programs rather than the victims, he added – that’s the norm.

Two others spoke during public commentary. Stephen Raiman, founder of Students Against GSRA Unionization, lobbied regents to reverse their previous vote of support for the right of graduate student research assistants to unionize. And Courtney Mercier, founder of Michigan Student-Athletes for Sustainability, advocated for support to improve integration of the athletic department into the university’s sustainability efforts.

Student filmmakers also made a presentation during the meeting, highlighting video public service announcements (PSAs) they’d made for UM’s “Expect Respect” campaign. After they finished, Ilitch asked whether they’d be interested in making a PSA for the regents, too. [Full Story]

Column: Tribute to One of Michigan’s Finest

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Michigan football has produced a lot of big name coaches and players, but one of the finest men who played and coached for Michigan deserves to be a little bigger.

At last week’s homecoming game, Michigan had planned to honor one of its great alums, a man named Chalmers Elliott – which might explain why he goes by “Bump.” He was an All-American football player and a Big Ten champion coach, but earned greater fame as the athletic director at Iowa, Michigan’s opponent this weekend. Pneumonia kept the 86-year old legend from making it, however, so I’m going to honor him today.

He was born in Detroit in 1925, and served in the Marines during World War II. He returned to star for Michigan as a halfback alongside his younger brother Pete, who played quarterback. Their offense was so dazzling, seven players could touch the ball on a single play. That earned them the nickname, the Mad Magicians, plus the national title in 1947 – the same year the conference named Bump Elliott the MVP. [Full Story]

UM Tuition, Budget Increases Cause Concern

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (June 16, 2011): Despite dissent from two regents, the board approved tuition and fee increases for the coming school year, as part of its FY 2012 budget. Regents Denise Ilitch and Larry Deitch objected to the increase, saying it would become more difficult for middle- and working-class families to afford a Michigan education.

Denise Ilitch, Tom Partridge

University of Michigan regent Denise Ilitch, who was elected chair at the June 16, 2011 meeting, listens to local resident Tom Partridge, a frequent public commenter at meetings of various governing boards in and around Ann Arbor. He did not sign up to speak during public commentary at the regents meeting, but approached regents individually before the start of the session. (Photos by the writer.)

Tuition and fees will increase 6.7% for most in-state first- and second-year undergraduates at the Ann Arbor campus, for a total of $12,634 per year ($6,317 per term). Most out-of-state undergraduates will pay a total of $37,382 per year ($18,891 per term).

Voting against the tuition increases were regents Denise Ilitch and Larry Deitch. Ilitch has voted against increases for three straight years, but this is the first no vote for a tuition proposal that Deitch has cast in his 19-year tenure on the board. He objected to the higher percentage increase that in-state students were bearing compared to out-of-state students, as well as to the state-level budget process, which threatens additional state funding cuts for public universities if they raise tuition by more than 7%. He contends that the “cut-and-cap” approach results in tuition increases that are higher than they might otherwise be.

This is the second wave of increases for students this fall. At their May 19 meeting, regents had voted to raise residence hall rates at the Ann Arbor campus by 3%. The rate increase for Northwood Community Apartments – housing primarily for graduate students and families on UM’s north campus in Ann Arbor – is 1% for the 2011-12 academic year.

In presenting the budget at the June 16 meeting, university officials emphasized the context for these increases: The FY 2012 budget reflects a $47.5 million cut in UM’s state appropriation down to $268.8 million – a decline of 15% compared to FY 2011, and the lowest amount of state aid received since FY 1964, when adjusted for inflation. The budget attempts to soften the tuition hike by adding $9.2 million in student need-based financial aid.

Tuition makes up a large portion of the general fund operating budget. For the Ann Arbor campus, the budget of $1.58 billion in FY 2012, which begins July 1, reflects a 2.2% increase from FY 2011.

Regents also approved the FY 2012 budget for the UM Hospitals and Health Centers – revenues are projected at $2.169 billion, with a $23.5 million operating loss. The loss is due in large part to $89.4 million in costs related to the new C.S. Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospitals, which open in November.

UM athletic director Dave Brandon gave a briefing on the athletic department budget, though it doesn’t require separate regental approval. The budget calls for a $11.4 million surplus and projected revenues of $121 million, including $45.5 million from ticket sales.

In addition to budget items, the board conducted other business during Thursday’s meeting, approving several construction projects – including a major renovation of Yost Ice Arena – and electing new officers: Ilitch as chair, and Deitch as vice chair. In her first action as board chair, Ilitch asked to enter a statement into the record. Though she didn’t read the statement or refer to its topic at the meeting, it was a response to a May 27, 2011 editorial in the Detroit Free Press about a resolution approved at the regents’ May 19 meeting. The resolution supported the right of graduate student research assistants to unionize.

That issue also arose at the meeting during public commentary. Dan Benefiel – a member of the Willow Run Tea Party Caucus and the Washtenaw County Republican Party executive committee – told regents he’s concerned that their decision will eventually lead to the unionization of college athletes. He called the vote a “leftist intrusion on American educational institutions.” [Full Story]

UM Research Highlighted at Regents Meeting

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Jan. 20, 2011): The university’s top research administrator, along with a faculty member who has successfully straddled the academic and entrepreneurial worlds, addressed regents at their January meeting about how university research is aiding economic development.

Stephen Forrest, David Lampe

Stephen Forrest, left, talks with David Lampe before the start of the Jan. 19, 2011 University of Michigan board of regents meeting. Forrest, UM's vice president for research, gave a presentation on the university's research efforts. Lampe is vice president for communications. (Photos by the writer.)

Stephen Forrest, UM’s vice president for research and chair of the board for economic development agency Ann Arbor SPARK, described the concept of an “innovation pipeline,” with the input of funding and ideas yielding an output of jobs, prosperity and expanded opportunities for faculty and students. The process has leaks and clogs, he noted, but the university has strategically applied patches – citing as an example the Venture Accelerator program that launched this month.

And Jim Baker, director of the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences, was on hand to embody the efforts of faculty who successfully translate research into economic development. Baker’s talk focused on the rewards of creating new businesses – he observed that one reason why students come to UM is to enhance their economic prospects and improve their lives. Baker talked about the importance of keeping those graduates in Michigan to aid in the state’s economic recovery – and doing that requires jobs. He noted that the four companies he has helped launch in Ann Arbor have brought in $160 million in investments and created 45 new jobs so far.

Regents took action on several items during the meeting, including approval of two projects related to the athletics department: A $52 million renovation and expansion of Crisler Arena – the second phase of a major overhaul of that facility, which was built in 1968; and a $20 million project to install video scoreboards at Michigan Stadium, Crisler Arena and Yost Ice Arena. David Brandon, UM’s athletic director, made a brief appearance at the meeting but did not address the regents publicly. And this month’s biggest athletic-related news at UM – that Brady Hoke was hired as head football coach – received only a mention as part of president Mary Sue Coleman’s opening remarks. He did not attend the meeting.

Seven people spoke during public commentary on a variety of topics. Among them were: (1) a call to reassess Fuller Road Station, a proposed parking structure and possible train station near UM’s medical campus; ( 2) questions about the medical leave of Ken Magee, executive director of UM’s Department of Public Safety (DPS); (3) thanks from the leader of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival for the university’s support of that annual event; (4) criticism of the use of live animals to train survival flight nurses; and (5) a plea for financial support for The Loyal Opposition to the Status Quo (LOSQ), a nonprofit launched to address disparities between African-Americans and Caucasians. [Full Story]