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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman had not been drinking alcohol before making remarks at halftime of a football game, the school said in a statement today.
“It was an unfortunate set of circumstances that led to the audio distortion,” spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said.
The “awkward audio” was a result of Coleman attempting to slow down her speech, according to Fitzgerald, because of the significant feedback she was hearing from Michigan Stadium’s public-address system.
“She, absolutely, had not been drinking alcohol,” Fitzgerald said. “I want to underscore that point in the strongest possible way.”
Coleman was honored at halftime of Saturday’s game against Nebraska because she is planning to retire in July.
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“We were trying to do something thoughtful to honor President Mary Sue Coleman for her service to the university and athletic department and unfortunately the sound system backfired on us,” athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement. “We rarely use live wireless microphones at Michigan Stadium because of the way that sound is distributed; it travels from the north scoreboard across the field to the south. There was significant wind that caused the sound to be delayed and distorted and created feedback during President Coleman’s speech.”
Fitzgerald said Coleman didn’t have experience using the wireless microphone provided to her and she wasn’t expecting to be recognized during the game.
“She struggled with the feedback and tried to adjust to the sound delay and the reverberation by slowing down her words,” he said. “She had hoped to communicate her gratitude for the recognition and her enthusiasm for Michigan.”
Coleman attended non-alcoholic events before the game and hosted one during the game, Fitzgerald said.
The Deadspin.com sports website posted a video Sunday night of Coleman’s address that has gone viral with a headline: “Did Michigan’s President Deliver A Drunken Halftime Speech Yesterday?”
Brandon answered the question in his statement.
“I was with President Coleman and the current social media speculation is without merit and 100 percent inaccurate,” Brandon said. “We were together at multiple campus events throughout the day and I walked with her from the suites to the field prior to the halftime recognition.
“I have sincerely apologized to President Coleman for the failures in our sound system and the difficult situation this has caused for her.”