Brandon's Blog: The Year in Review
Volleyball reached the NCAA semifinals for the first time

Dec. 26, 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.

As we approach the start of a new year, it allows all of us the opportunity to look where we have been and where we are going.

As the University of Michigan Athletic Department looks forward to the New Year, it is very easy to see why there is plenty of excitement.

After the completion of seven NCAA championships, Michigan holds the lead in the Division I Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings. A third-place finish in volleyball, fifth-place finish in women's cross country, ninth-place finish in both field hockey and women's soccer, 17th place in men's soccer, and 23rd in men's cross country placed our department in the No. 1 spot.

The release of the current Directors' Cup fall standings also gave me an opportunity to review the entire year and reflect on 2012.

It started with the Wolverines defeating Virginia Tech on Jan. 3 in New Orleans with an exciting 23-20 overtime win. Not only was it the first BCS bowl game our football team played in since the 2007 Rose Bowl, it was our first BCS bowl win since the 2000 Orange Bowl victory over Alabama.

Our men's basketball team won its first Big Ten regular-season championship since 1986, and coach John Beilein's squad is currently undefeated in its new season. The women's basketball program is also off to a great start under new head coach Kim Barnes Arico. Last season they had a 20-win campaign and returned to the NCAA Tournament.

Other women's sports highlights included a softball team that advanced to the NCAA Super Regional and captured its 15th Big Ten title, rowing won the Big Ten championship and placed second at the NCAA Championships, cross country won the Big Ten title plus the NCAA Regional and finished the season with a fifth-place spot at the NCAAs, tennis advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 after tying for first place in the Big Ten regular season, soccer had one of its best seasons ever and went all the way to the NCAA Sweet 16, water polo won its 11th consecutive CWPA divisional title, while field hockey placed ninth in the NCAA and gymnastics qualified for NCAA Regional action.

More highlights on the men's side included the 36th Big Ten title for swimming and diving and a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships, ice hockey's 22nd consecutive trip the NCAA Tournament, a sixth-place NCAA finish for the gymnastics team, wrestling with an 11th-place finish at the NCAAs, a second-place finish for the cross country team at the NCAA Regional and 23rd in the NCAA Championships, soccer's strong showing under first-year head coach Chaka Daley that included advancing to the second round of NCAA Tournament, tennis making the second round of the NCAAs, and lacrosse playing its first season a varsity team.

Individually, Kellen Russell won his second consecutive NCAA wrestling title at 141 pounds, Sam Miklulak won his second NCAA title, this time on the high bar, while the second varsity eight rowing team of Kate Grimaldi (coxswain), Ariel Piotter, Chrissy Holm, Priscilla Livingston, Emily Idoni, Cristina Felix, April Newberry, Paige Heil and Taylor Schubert captured a national crown.

The 2012 London Summer Olympics provided even more great moments. Twenty-two athletes with ties to the University of Michigan, including current gymnasts Mikulak and Syque Caesar and swimmer Connor Jaeger, competed in the Games with six former U-M student-athletes taking home medals.

Tyler Clary, Charlie Houchin and Davis Tarwater won gold for the United States in swimming, while Betsey Armstrong helped the USA water polo team win gold. Swimmer Pete Vanderkaay added a bronze medal for the U.S., and Janine Hanson captured a silver medal for Canada in rowing.

While Mikulak did not win a medal, he became the first current U-M gymnasts to make Team USA, and the International Gymnastics Federation approved naming a pommel horse skill after he performed what is now known as the "Mikulak" during the men's qualification round at 2012 Olympic Games in London.

And the list goes on -- academic awards, All-Americans, coaching distinctions, and community involvement honors were additional accomplishments our talented student-athletes and coaches received.

We are off to a great start with our winter sports with both basketball teams, both swimming teams and both gymnastics teams starting strong and/or ranked in the top 10, while wrestling is ranked in the top 15.

And we look forward to the challenge of playing highly ranked South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.

The University of Michigan Athletic Department works hard to win championships on and off the field in pursuit of our mission of "Relentlessly Striving to Make Michigan Athletics the Leaders and the Best in Every Way."

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year and Go Blue!

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