President Mark Schlissel said he was “deeply disappointed” with the athletic department’s initial response and handling of quarterback Shane Morris’ mild concussion, but he also said he would focus on four key goals as he takes the time to understand the broader issues affecting athletics.
“We must be accountable for the facts, with response that is timely and takes responsibility for errors. Without this we break trust with our stakeholders,” Schlissel said as he opened Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting on the UM-Flint campus.
Following the president’s remarks, Board of Regents Chair Katherine E. White said, “The board looks forward to working together with you on meeting and solving the various challenges you have articulated. We support you in your efforts. Through this process we value competency, integrity, transparency and accountability.”
The president said he has talked with many stakeholders about athletics in recent weeks and those conversations have led him to concentrate on four goals moving forward:
• “We must thoroughly address player safety, which I’m confident we are doing.
• “We must continue to operate all of our athletics programs with the highest levels of integrity and with a focus on the best interests of our student-athletes.
• “We must continue to listen to the concerns of those who care so deeply about achieving the right balance for Michigan Athletics.
• “Our athletics program must work to build a stronger, more positive connection with our university community and all of its stakeholders.”
Schlissel said it was clear to him “how important intercollegiate athletics are to the university community; how important it is to our culture; how it binds our students, alums and fans together in Ann Arbor and around the country.
“We have a very passionate community that cares deeply about our wonderful athletic traditions as well as the sense of connectedness our athletic programs have long provided for us. I value that connection highly, and want to preserve and enhance it.”
He said the injury to Morris during the Sept. 27 Minnesota football game led to a serious conversation about player safety and, for some groups, it raised or heightened concerns about the values and priorities of the U-M athletic department.
“My first and most immediate concern in response to this situation was to take the steps necessary to improve student-athlete safety, and those steps have already been taken.”
Schlissel said he instructed the athletic department to conduct a full review of in-game player safety procedures, and the department is completing that review. He said the review would include benchmarking with peers and an external review by experts.
“This will be a thorough process. Any findings or recommendations will be shared with the regents and the public at the appropriate times,” Schlissel said.
The president also said there are a number of additional issues facing the athletic department “that will require a longer-term approach as we work to establish the right balance between competitiveness, financial stability and the athletic traditions we hold dear.
“I am being thoughtful and deliberative in examining these issues. This university deserves nothing less than my careful, deep consideration.”