“…There was no question that from the minute I met JP he was on a mission and had a passion for getting his program to the DI level. But truthfully, as much as I admire and appreciate that, that isn’t going to carry the day. What carried the day was the analysis. Some of that was included in his proposition, but some of that was just work that we went off and did to really get a sense for where is this sport in terms of the youth market, where is it in terms of high schools, where is it regionally, geographically, where is it on television…”
Dave Brandon, who was named Michigan’s athletic director in January 2010, believes. His more than optimistic outlook on the future of lacrosse oozed with nearly every word he spoke when he sat down Tuesday for a Q&A in his Ann Arbor office.
“There is this big boom that’s going to be out there related to this sport,” Brandon said among other responses, as students and cars passed outside his window, overlooking the corner of busy State Street and East Hoover Avenue.
The fact that Brandon has become enamored with the actual game of lacrosse is not unique – people are turned onto the game seemingly every day. But the fact Brandon, first and foremost a businessman with no previous ties or roots to lacrosse, saw enough potential in the game to add two varsity sports in a tough economic climate is somewhat historic.
He is the former CEO of Domino’s Pizza and once made an appearance as a judge on the “The Apprentice,” sitting on the same side of the board room table as Donald Trump. Brandon is also a former Michigan football player who took a pay cut to take over as the university’s AD and wasn’t going to make the commitment to add two sports without knowing for sure it was worthwhile and sustainable.
Paul met with Brandon within days of Brandon’s arrival on campus, and Paul presented a 20-page document titled, “University of Michigan Men’s Lacrosse: NCAA Division I Varsity Proposal.” Afterward, Brandon further researched trends, demographics and growth potential of the sport. He concluded lacrosse was “a sport of the future.”
In May, after a group dubbed the “Project Lacrosse Founders Club” raised between $5-6 million in five months to start up the programs, Brandon held a press conference and announced the addition of men’s and women’s lacrosse to Michigan’s varsity lineup, giving the school 29 varsity teams.