29. September 2014 · 6 comments · Categories: 2014

Say what you want about Dave Brandon (and everyone is saying what they want), but we know firsthand that he knows how to deal with a media crisis/circus.  His handling of the Rich Rod practicegate scandal was masterful.  I dubbed him ‘Super Dave’ and he deserved it.  What’s striking to me here is the complete lack of savvy in the handling of this issue.  Someone joked to me it is as if Hoke is being set-up.  As preposterous as that is, it would at least explain what is happening.  This doesn’t feel anything like a Dave Brandon Production.

The strategy since last night (and the basic Hoke talk track today) seems to be to separate Hoke from the medical diagnosis and decision to play or not play.  Fine.  But when asked today if the medical staff performed a concussion test, Hoke said, “I assume so.”  Huh?

Now, perhaps Hoke was so focused on trying to sell the “I’m-a-coach-not-a-doctor” strategy that he fumbled that answer.  But does anyone believe that Hoke doesn’t really know (by now) exactly what happened on the sideline with Morris?   It was probably reviewed with half of the athletic department by now.

How it Should have Gone
Based on my credentials as an unpaid US Senate intern (/Barney Fife sniff) two decades ago, if I’m running the talk track it goes like this.  After pointing out that student-athlete safety is of the highest priority, and that you have the full confidence in your medical staff:

1. Explain what the process is when a player comes out of a game for an injury.
2. Explain that you reviewed specifically what was done with Morris on Saturday with the staff. (This must have happened) 
3. Point out what was done correctly with Morris’s examination, and candidly what, if anything, was missed.
4. If anything was missed, explain why it was missed and what the staff is doing about it to ensure it never happens again. 
5. Explain the process to communicate to the coaching staff when an injured player can return to the field.
6. Point out what was done correctly with the communication process, and candidly what, if anything, was missed.
7. If anything was missed, explain what the coaching staff is doing to correct this communication process moving forward to ensure it never happens again.
8. Reiterate that U-M has the finest medical staff in the business.
9. Reiterate how seriously you take the safety of student athletes.
10. Take questions.

If you think this is too much detail and would expose Michigan to outside scrutiny and ridicule, I guess I’d ask: how’s the current talk track working out?  What time does Nancy Grace land at DTW?

Hoke’s Character
By the way, just to be clear:
1. I don’t think Hoke is lying – this is just being handled so poorly.
2. There is no way Hoke knowingly would put a player in danger.  He would never do it.

ugh.

Update: This is a Dave Brandon crisis management Production.  Full statement from U-M released this morning.  Full MVictors reaction here.

Statement from U-M Athletic Director Dave Brandon Regarding Student-Athlete Health and Welfare

Ultimate responsibility for the health and safety of our student-athletes resides with each team’s coach and with me, as the Director of Athletics. We are committed to continuously improving our procedures to better protect the health and welfare of our student-athletes.

I have had numerous meetings since Sunday morning to thoroughly review the situation that occurred at Saturday’s football game regarding student-athlete Shane Morris. I have met with those who were directly involved and who were responsible for managing Shane’s care and determining his medical fitness for participation.

In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline. Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes. I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made. We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first.

I have worked with Darryl Conway, my Associate Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Health and Welfare, to develop a detailed accounting of the events that occurred. Darryl is the person who oversees all athletic training personnel and serves as the liaison to the physicians we work with through the University of Michigan Health System and University Health Services.

It is important to note that our athletic trainers and physicians working with Michigan Athletics have the unchallengeable authority to remove student-athletes from the field of play. Michigan Athletics has numerous medical professionals at every football competition including certified athletic trainers and several physicians from various relevant specialties.

I, along with Darryl and our administrative and medical teams, have spent much of the last two days carefully reviewing the situation regarding Shane Morris. We now understand that, despite having the right people on the sidelines assessing our student-athletes’ well being, the systems we had in place were inadequate to handle this unique and complex situation properly.

With his permission, I can share that Shane Morris suffered an ankle injury during the third quarter of Saturday’s game. He was evaluated for that injury by an orthopedic surgeon and an athletic trainer several times during the game. With each of these evaluations it was determined that his ankle injury did not prevent him from playing.

In the fourth quarter, Shane took a significant hit and stumbled after getting up. From the field level and without the benefit of replays, medical and coaching staffs did not see the hit. Because they did not see the hit, the athletic training staff believed Shane stumbled because of his ankle injury. The team neurologist, watching from further down the field, also did not see the hit. However, the neurologist, with expertise in detecting signs of concussion, saw Shane stumble and determined he needed to head down the sideline to evaluate Shane.

Shane came off the field after the following play and was reassessed by the head athletic trainer for the ankle injury. Since the athletic trainer had not seen the hit to the chin and was not aware that a neurological evaluation was necessary, he cleared Shane for one additional play.

The neurologist and other team physicians were not aware that Shane was being asked to return to the field, and Shane left the bench when he heard his name called and went back into the game. Under these circumstances, a player should not be allowed to re-enter the game before being cleared by the team physician. This clearly identifies the need for improvements in our sideline and communication processes.

Following the game, a comprehensive concussion evaluation was completed and Shane has been evaluated twice since the game. As of Sunday, Shane was diagnosed with a probable, mild concussion, and a high ankle sprain. That probable concussion diagnosis was not at all clear on the field on Saturday or in the examination that was conducted post-game. Unfortunately, there was inadequate communication between our physicians and medical staff and Coach Hoke was not provided the updated diagnosis before making a public statement on Monday. This is another mistake that cannot occur again.

Going forward, we have identified two changes in our procedures that we will implement immediately:

We will have an athletic medicine professional in the press box or video booth to ensure that someone will have a bird’s eye view of the on-field action, have television replay available and have the ability to communicate with medical personnel on the sidelines. 

We are also examining how to reinforce our sideline communication processes and how decisions will be made in order to make sure that information regarding student-athlete availability to participate is communicated effectively amongst the medical team and to our coaches.

We have learned from this experience, and will continue to improve ways to keep our student-athletes’ health and safety our number one priority.

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6 Comments

  1. Exactly Greg. I cannot believe how ill prepared these reporters are. They should be able to formulate what the dialogue will be in a press conference and predict a follow up question to whatever Coach Hoke responds. In times like this, the press conference needs to be more of an interview/interrogation. Even if it having the reporters work in concert and agree ahead of time the probing questions that need to be asked.

  2. This whole mess is a stinking joke, some heads gotta role!

  3. This whole thing is making me sick, but your (/Barney Fife sniff) reference made me laugh, HARD. Thank you, Greg. I needed that this week.

  4. Greg,

    Thanks for a rational response amid the hysteria. You’ve won some serious credibility and loyalty from me.

    But that doesn’t mean I agree about everything: It’s not being handled great, but I don’t think there is anything Hoke can do. It’s a feeding frenzy and no matter what he says, it will be more fodder. If it wasn’t for the on-field problems nobody would be talking about it (as even Kirk Herbstreit has pointed out).

    Also, I want to emphasize that I agree with this: There’s no way Hoke would even consider putting a player at risk for any reason, ever. And in this situation … why would any coach want Morris on the field? Morris was essential to our victory?