Brandon's Blog: More Than Just a U-M Shirt

Aug. 25, 2012

University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page,, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.

In the world of preseason college football, it is not uncommon to see the names of Denard Robinson, Taylor Lewan and Roy Roundtree touted in the daily media reports. Then there are the freshmen whose names surface as having the capabilities of becoming contributors once the season starts.

However, every once in a while another name comes out of the blue. Sometimes it is a player, sometimes it is a coach or department team member, and sometimes, even a fan makes news.

This past week, an even bigger surprise made its rounds in today's viral media platform. From his hometown, throughout the United States and even into England, five-year-old Cooper Barton of Oklahoma City has become a Wolverine cult hero.

It started when his kindergarten teacher told Cooper that he had to turn his Michigan Big House t-shirt inside out. It seems apparel from universities outside the state of Oklahoma is a violation of a student dress code.

The resulting media coverage and support the Barton family has received from Michigan (and yes, even Ohio) fans has turned an embarrassing moment for Cooper into his moment of fame.

While the issue and possible review of the dress code have made for some interesting spin off stories, one point seems to have been lost in the media shuffle.

Young people should be encouraged to understand the importance of education, and following a college team is a wonderful way to get and keep a young person interested in school.

At first, it may just be about their favorite team and the sport they are most interested in following. As they grow up, they are still fans, but now they are thinking about getting a college education and planning their career. We want it to be a goal for many of these young men and women to earn the right to attend the university of their choice.

The t-shirts and souvenirs one receives when they are young and impressionable can go a long way in creating positive thoughts and feelings. Instead of telling young people they can't wear a shirt representing their favorite school, we should be encouraging it.

Wearing Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tulsa and other state school colors sets a positive tone for those not only in Oklahoma but in other parts of the country. Having that block 'M' in Oklahoma can also set a positive tone about education.

Cooper Barton not only started a viral story that has gone international, he has also helped the Oklahoma City School Board. They now plan to review the student dress code.

Cooper and his family will be guests of the U-M Athletic Department for the Massachusetts home game. When they arrive at Michigan Stadium, he along with his family will hopefully be wide-eyed and appreciative.

We need to recognize what this young boy and his family accomplished. Not just because he wore a Big House shirt in Oklahoma City, but they started a review process and potential change in an outdated rule -- a rule that could go a long way to remind young boys and girls that it is great to follow your school -- all the way from kindergarten through graduation from the college of their choice.

Thank you Cooper and Go Blue!

Dave Brandon Home Page