Brandon's Blog: Something Special for Fans, Student-Athletes
Ice hockey's Brennan Serville signs an autograph

Oct. 8, 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.

A burst of athletic events hit the small screen in the 1980s when ESPN started rolling. Television's power scale was just starting to create athletics as a premium entertainment event. Made-for-TV time slots and specials grew exponentially through the next couple of decades.

Sports have changed, and this isn't the '80s anymore. Penny loafers and neon lights are gone, and so is the day when the average spectator is engaged in just the competition.

The University of Athletic Department understands there sometimes needs to be something special to bring fans to our events and, in some cases, to introduce our fans to the 29 sports we have on this campus.

As we work to grow in every way, fun for the fans and for our student-athletes is instrumental in growing our department. It is not the 1980s; it is the second decade of the 21st century.

The renovated Michigan Stadium has produced amenities for fans beyond the club area. Much improved concession areas, hand rails, restrooms and a wider concourse have created a better individual experience for our football fans. The new scoreboard and theme-accented games allow spectators to enjoy more than just a game and the Michigan Marching Band with the fellow Wolverine faithful.

Now the renovated, modern Crisler Center and Yost Ice Arena will become not only venues U-M fans will want to visit, they will also become facilities our current and future student-athletes will enjoy for years to come.

And it will not stop there.

On Thursday night (Oct. 4) there was a packed house at the Wilpon Complex, home of Alumni Field, to watch our softball team play the National Professional Fastpitch All-Stars. On Saturday afternoon, the Michigan men's and women's swimming and diving teams put together the first Michigan Water Carnival at Canham Natatorium. Then on Sunday evening, the Wolverine ice hockey team added an American Hockey League exhibition game to its Blue/White Alumni game to kick off the new season and showcase the exquisite, renovated Yost Ice Arena.

These are not made-for-TV specials. These are specials made for fans. These are specials made for our student-athletes.

It is imperative that the Michigan Athletic Department strive relentlessly to give every one of our sports and their fans the best possible experience when they attend an event or visit our campus.

These three special events were successful promotional events to introduce fans to a new and fun experience. It is also a great way to remind the traditionalists of what our department has to offer.

At the softball game, Nikki Nemitz, one of our great All-America pitchers and current U-M volunteer coach, took to the circle for the NPF team. Our softball team has only played as a varsity team since 1978, but already they have built a tradition of great student-athletes and championship teams.

At the Michigan Water Carnival, Mike Bottom, our innovative new head of the men's and women's swimming and diving program, brought together teams from the University of Minnesota and Oakland University to try something new and fun. He also invited back Olympic medalist Peter Vanderkaay for the fans to see plus to help highlight our great swimming tradition that goes back to 1921.

When Red Berenson knew the Blue/White Alumni game needed a lift, our athletic department team invited the Grand Rapids Griffins with last year's Wolverine captain Luke Glendening to open the renovated Yost with an exhibition game against Lake Erie. It might have been called an "old barn" years ago, but the new-look Yost impressed many, and maybe the traditionalists didn't realize it when they walked in, but this is the first time ambient light has come into the building since shortly after the days of Cazzie Russell.

We cannot forget that the excitement of the individual sport is the main reason student-athletes play their game and true fans watch it.

The special incentives keep our student-athletes and fans excited so that we can continue to develop new fans for future generations to keep our great Michigan tradition alive.

Go Blue!

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