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Michigan AD reiterates Rodriguez's job is safe now

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Dave Brandon joked there's no place to hide in his new office — a second-story, window-filled space on the corner of a busy intersection near campus.

He likes it that way.

"I'm really exited to be here," Brandon said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Brandon had a lot on his calendar Monday, his first day as Michigan's athletic director, but acknowledged nothing on his list of things to do was more important than his plan for Rich Rodriguez and college football's winningest program.

"It's critical," Brandon said. "If you look at the annual revenues that drive this department, football is three-quarters of who we are. It's essential for that program be successful if our entire athletic department is going to be successful.

"I will continue to spend a lot of time with Rich and all of the people associated with the football program to understand it really well and to hopefully make an impact in terms of how we precede going further."

Michigan's once-proud team has been embarrassed on and off the field lately.

The NCAA notified Rodriguez and school officials two weeks ago that the football program is facing five potentially major rules violations in part because its report said Rodriguez "failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program" in regards to time spent on practice and football-related activities.

Brandon backed his coach then and on Monday reiterated his support for Rodriguez.

"He's our coach for this season," Brandon said. "There's nothing within the framework of the NCAA allegations that led me to believe that it should change his status as our coach."

Michigan was given 90 days to respond and is scheduled to appear at an NCAA hearing on infractions in August. Brandon said he is "very" involved in formulating the school's response, but declined to comment much about it.

"We're going to continue to be in a quiet period as all of this evolves," Brandon said.

Rodriguez lost a school-record nine games in his debut season two years ago, then finished 5-7 last year after a 4-0 start.

"Rich knows football, he's passionate and his track record for success — winning everywhere he's been — is there for the world to see," Brandon said. "He's feeling very good about the upcoming season."

Then, Brandon paused and simply said what many in Ann Arbor and around the country are saying.

"It's a big season ahead," Brandon said. "A big season."

It was a big day Monday for Brandon, walking into his new office at 7:45 a.m. after stepping down as the CEO of Domino's Pizza Inc. The first-time athletic director — with his autograph monogramed on his blue dress shirt — was clearly fired up about his new challenge a couple hours later as the sun poured into his office.

"There's no place to hide up here, especially at night when the lights are on and that's OK," Brandon said. "I can't wait to get started."

Brandon replaced 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.

"Dave is going to be an outstanding athletic director because he knows the university inside and out and he has a great passion for Michigan," Martin said. "When I was driving to the hockey game the other night, I saw him up in the office."

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