Don’t Let Hysteria Get in the Way of Deliberation

Some decisions take more deliberation than others. That thought comes to mind when looking at how athletic director David Brandon made his decision to terminate Rich Rodriguez as the head coach at the University of Michigan.

Some decisions take more deliberation than others.


That thought comes to mind when looking at how athletic
director David Brandon made his decision to terminate Rich Rodriguez as the head
coach at the University of Michigan.

While expectations for his hiring were high three years ago,
Rodriguez has been a disappointment winning only six games in the Big Ten
conference and going 0 for 6 versus traditional rivals Michigan State and Ohio
State. The team’s lone bowl appearance was a lopsided loss to Mississippi
State. Add to this Michigan being put on probation for three years for
violations committed under Rodriguez’s watch.

Fans wanted him gone the sooner the better, but Brandon,
former CEO of Domino’s Pizza, would not be pressured into making a hasty
decision. Hired last March Brandon made it his priority to look into the
football program. Brandon knows football; he played for legendary Bo
Schembechler at Michigan in the Seventies. Brandon said he would evaluate
Rodriguez after the 2010 season, a practice he keeps for every one of the 27 coaches in the Michigan athletic department.


The stakes were high. Football at Michigan, and at most major
universities, pays the bills. Revenues from it pay for the many non-revenue
sports that is providing scholarships for athletes in men and women’s sports
like field hockey, track, swimming, soccer and many more.

When the football team suffers it casts a pall over the
entire university, even one like Michigan that has an equally proud academic
and research tradition. Fixing football is essential to the university’s
collective psyche. [Laugh if you like but
visit Ann Arbor some fall afternoon in the wake of a football loss. Cemeteries
have more life.]

Even though alumni, supporters,
pundits and fans wanted swift action Brandon was not to be pushed. When he
finally announced his decision on January 5, five days after the bowl game he
explained his actions at a press conference.


Among his reasons for waiting were
that he wanted the players to go into the final game knowing they still had a
coach. He also acknowledged that recruiting players for next year was a
negative but in his mind six additional weeks of waiting did not matter. Most
importantly he wanted to give the team the opportunity to benefit from extra
practice prior to the bowl game.

There was something else that Brandon did that my wife a health care executive found refreshing. Brandon expressed
consideration for Rodriguez the employee, a chance to make a case for
staying on. Brandon said he couldn’t do that if he had already decided to sack
him. After a three and half hour meeting, Brandon went home and made his
decision: Rodriguez was history.

Brandon also acknowledged that he
will not have the luxury of time when hiring a new coach. “My timetable is to
go fast but do it the right way.” That is with alacrity and deliberation.


Going the extra mile before making
a final decision might give any future coach additional reasons to consider
Michigan. In doing so they would be working for an athletic director who values deliberation, especially when it comes to people.

John Baldoni is an internationally
recognized leadership development consultant, executive coach, author, and
speaker. In 2010 Top Leadership Gurus named John one of the world’s top 25
leadership experts. John’s newest book is
12 Steps to Power Presence: How to Assert Your Authority to Lead. (Amacom 2010). Readers are welcome to visit John’s website,