ANN ARBOR - The University of Michigan is counting on a pizza mogul to run its multimillion-dollar athletics department.
Domino's Pizza Chairman and CEO David Brandon, a former football player for the Wolverines, was announced yesterday as the school's new athletic director. The 57-year-old Brandon will take over in March with a five-year contract if university regents approve the move as expected on Jan. 21.
"I can't think of very many jobs in the world that I would leave that great company and great brand for, but this is one," Brandon said. "I'll work harder than any athletic director has ever worked."
Brandon will replace Bill Martin, who announced last year he was stepping down. Martin will serve as a special adviser to university President Mary Sue Coleman until his retirement in September.
"We won't miss a beat," Martin said in a statement. Coleman called Brandon the "ideal candidate" who will carry on the university's "tradition of excellence."
Brandon will face challenges in his new job.
The school launched an investigation in August into allegations that the football program regularly violated NCAA limits on how much time players can spend on training and practice. The NCAA also is investigating and a report is expected soon.
"I don't live in fear of that," Brandon said.
The athletic department also has to find enough well-heeled fans and corporations to fill the luxury boxes at renovated Michigan Stadium. The boxes can cost as much as $85,000 per season.
Of course, all the fans are hoping to watch college football's winningest team attempt a turnaround. In the first season under coach Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines lost a school-record nine games and then flopped to a 5-7 finish this past season after a promising start.
Brandon, who played for Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, gave Rodriguez what sounded like a vote of confidence.
"I am as concerned as everybody is, knowing we're a program that likes and needs to win," Brandon said. "We sing about being the champions, the leaders and best.
"No one wants to win more than Rich Rodriguez," he added.
Brandon has been chairman and chief executive of Ann Arbor-based Domino's Pizza Inc. since 1999.
Domino's said Brandon will step down as CEO March 7 and will serve as a special adviser until the end of the year.
Brandon previously was chairman and CEO of Valassis Communications Inc., a printing company. He spent 20 years at Valassis, including 10 as CEO.
A past finance chairman of the Republican Party, Brandon won a seat in 1998 on the university's board of regents and was re-elected in 2006.
Brandon said he is hoping to have a long career at Michigan, where athletics created "huge opportunities" after his graduation in 1974.
"I tell people I got two degrees from the university - and one was from the Bo Schembechler school of leadership," Brandon said.42.28188 -83.74848