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Published: 11/11/2013 - Updated: 5 months ago

UM: Coleman not drunk for halftime speech

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman. University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman.
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ANN ARBOR — Remarks made Saturday by the outgoing president of the University of Michigan didn’t just go unnoticed.

They also went viral.

During a presentation at halftime of the football team’s 17-13 loss to Nebraska, UM President Mary Sue Coleman made warbling, slurred remarks after the school honored her departure.

“I thank you so much,” said Coleman, who will retire in July after 12 years as the school’s president. “And one of the things that makes me so proud is the tradition of Michigan, the great cultures that we have at Michigan, the great athletic director that we have at Michigan."

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By Monday afternoon, a 48-second video of the speech posted on YouTube.com had received more than 171,000 hits. It also triggered speculation on several national Web sites, including Yahoo.com’s college football blog "Dr. Saturday," Deadspin.com, and thebiglead.com, as to whether or not she had been drinking prior to taking the microphone.

Michigan’s office of public affairs and athletic director Dave Brandon released a joint statement Monday in regards to those reports.

Coleman, Michigan representatives said, was not drunk, nor was she experiencing any health problems when she spoke. Instead, technical difficulties were a factor.

“The awkward audio of University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman’s remarks during the halftime of Saturday’s football game resulted when she attempted to slow her speech to deal with significant feedback from the stadium public address system,” university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in the statement.

“She, absolutely, had not been drinking alcohol. I want to underscore that point in the strongest possible way.”

Brandon also refuted accusations that Coleman had been drinking.

“I was with President Mary Sue 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.”

Fitzgerald blamed Coleman’s delivery on the fact that her remarks were improvised, given that she did not expect to be recognized.

“The wireless microphone she was using is not one with which she had any prior experience. There was significant wind, feedback, and, even under the best conditions, the sound is distorted in the stadium when a wireless mic is used,” Fitzgerald said. “She struggled with the feedback and tried to adjust to the sound delay and the reverberation by slowing down her words.”

AnnArbor.com reported that Coleman left Monday for India and was not available for comment.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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