July 28, 2014

Brandon talks scheduling, playoffs

Michigan Athletics Director David Brandon found him talking football at the first day of the Big Ten meetings in Chicago. In this case, the talk centered on scheduling and the impending college football playoff.

Brandon pointed out that scheduling for football isn't like basketball, when non-conference slates can be set just months before the games are played. In that sport, how teams are shaping up for the following year is well known.

"In football, when you start scheduling out two, three, four years, you have no clue," Brandon said. "You don't know who the coach is going to be. You don't know who the strong teams are."

"You tend to go by brands, by tradition. I don't know how Oklahoma is going to be several years into the future. I just think they're going to be good, and it's going to be an exciting match-up. They're probably saying the same thing about us."

Michigan doesn't take on Oklahoma until 2025 and 2026, so plenty can change with both programs between now and then. They're still two historically elite football schools, though, and Brandon wants to add non-conference opponents with a decent track record.

"When we scheduled BYU, when we scheduled Oregon State, when we scheduled Colorado, when we scheduled UCLA, what we're basically saying is, those are storied programs that have had great success in football, that we think will make interesting match-ups," he said.

"Now, what the lines will be on those games when we get to those seasons, who the heck knows? We hope they'll be really interesting games and fun games for our kids, and in some cases, great campuses for our kids to visit."

Brandon expressed some frustration over the tepid Michigan fan response to Utah, team ranked in the top 20 in several pre-season prognostications.

"The Utah thing kind of drives me nuts," Brandon said. "As we look at our ticket sales for this season, Utah is kind of being treated like a ho-hum non-conference game. That's a good football team. It's a well-coached football team. We've been 1-1 against them in our most recent two games. Bringing them to Michigan Stadium, we feel, is a really, really challenging game.

"Next year, for our kids to travel into the Wasatch Mountains and play on that campus and in that stadium … believe me, they know how to put on football games. That's a terrific opportunity for our fans. We've probably got a lot of fans who have never visited Salt Lake City."

That trip to Utah features a Thursday night game, an event in which Michigan hasn't previously participated. The Michigan AD isn't opposed to such a game, obviously.

He just doesn't anticipate it happening at Michigan Stadium.

"We don't mind doing Thursday night or Friday night on the road," Brandon said. "We don't want to do it in Ann Arbor. We're working on, right now, another game that would be a lead-off game that would be on the road, that would potentially fall into that same category.

"We try to make it interesting. We try to make it highly competitive. We try to give our kids an opportunity to play teams and go places they otherwise wouldn't go, and keep our fans connected with the program."

Schedule will certainly impact the coming four-team playoff. Brandon can't anticipate how schedule will weigh with the committee selecting the teams, at least compared to a loss or two, but he insists Michigan will err on the side of strong slates.

"We have to play this out and see," Brandon said. "How long is it going to take before a one-loss team gets into that four-team playoff? Will that selection committee look past that double-overtime loss by a field goal from an undefeated team, or will that loss be the death blow? Who knows? We haven't been through this before.

"Before you know it, there will be the two-loss argument. Is that two-loss team better than this undefeated team over there? That's why the controversy isn't going away. It's just shifted to a different argument."

"Our view, though, is that you can't get there unless your schedule is formidable. So our view is, when we're filling these non-conference games, you can see every time we announce one, we're scheduling up.

"That's going to make it tougher on our kids. It's going to be tougher on our coaches. But it's the nature of the beast."

One aspect of the new schedules, Brandon pointed out, does work in everyone's favor when putting together stronger schedules.

"I really applaud and like these seasons where we've got two bye weeks," he said. "That really can encourage scheduling up. When you get those two bye weeks, you get a way to rest your kids up a little bit, one early and one later. That's perfect. I'd like to see that every year."

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