When Michigan announced last summer that Frank Beckmann would retire from doing radio play-by-play for football games, most thoughts about successors were conventional.
But as with many decisions by U-M athletic department, today's announcement was anything but. Longtime color analyst Jim Brandstatter will move into the play-by-play chair, and Dan Dierdorf will sit in Brandstatter's former seat.
There are many reasons it's an interesting choice, from the pair being 64 and 65 years old when the season starts this fall to Brandstatter having little play-by-play experience to Dierdorf having just retired from CBS last year, after 30 seasons as a pro football analyst. He cited the physical burden of traveling.
IMG refused to discuss the selection process and what other candidates were considered. "IMG and Michigan worked together in partnership to select the radio team," a spokesperson responded in an email.
As for the pairing being unconventional, with both previously having been color commentators, the IMG spokesman said" "Jim and Dan both have experience calling games. We believe they'll make an excellent team."
The pair know each other well, having played together at U-M — Brandstatter backed up Dierdorf on the offensive line in 1969 and 1970 — and share a passion for the program.
"First of all, I'm going to have to get over hyperventilating at the very beginning, because that's probably what will happen when I'm in the booth for the first time," Dierdorf said today on WWJ-AM (950), U-M's flagship station. "I'm just so excited."
Dierdorf, who worked on "Monday Night Football" for years and received the 2008 HOF Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for excellence in broadcasting, explained that he has been jealous of Brandstatter's connection to Michigan. Brandstatter knows what the job means to his longtime friend.
"What's exciting for me is Dan Dierdorf is coming back to Michigan," Brandstatter said. "I want people to understand this. He's coming back to Michigan because he loves Michigan and he loves Michigan football. You can relate this to a term they use about seniors who play football. They came back for their senior year because they're playing for the name on the front of the jersey and not the name on the back of the jersey. That's why Dan Dierdorf's back in Ann Arbor, doing Michigan football, and I couldn't be more excited."
Both will have to adjust in their new roles.
Dierdorf mentioned the challenge of adjusting his critiques, because "a guy who makes $6 million-$7 million a year is held to a different standard than a sophomore in college that's 19 or 20 years old."
Brandstatter's role also will shift, trying to follow in the footsteps of Beckmann and Bob Ufer, who held the play-by-play spot for more than 60 consecutive years.
"They are huge shoes to fill," Brandstatter said. "Dan and I have talked about this, and both of us have said, after two guys doing the games for over 60 years, to walk in there and do that, I'm not going to try to be either one of them. Those two guys were separate, they were complete, they were unique, and I'm just going to try to be me and fill in and be the caretaker of that position."
Brandstatter said he does not expect the change to affect his role as the Detroit Lions' radio analyst, alongside Dan Miller.
Both men today also shared their belief in U-M football coach Brady Hoke.
"I know the last couple of years, the record has been disappointing," Dierdorf said. "Jim and I, we were there when (the modern era) started (in 1969), and there's a standard that's expected to be met by Michigan football, and I don't think anyone would argue that, in the last couple years, that standard it hasn't been met. I know Brady is excited about this team. I've got a lot to learn about this team, but I've really got faith in Brady Hoke. I think he's a good football coach; I think he's a very good football coach. The recruiting classes are supposed to be good — now it's time to find out."
The focus of two offensive linemen, obviously, will be in the trenches.
"Clearly, Michigan had difficulties last year on the offensive line," Brandstatter said. "Watching them this spring, I think, defensively, they'll be better; they're deeper. But offensively, they struggled a little bit, and that, to me, is where we're going to have to improve. But like Dan, I believe in Brady Hoke, big time, that this is the guy that should be the coach at Michigan and will be the coach at Michigan for years to come. He'll get it righted. And I'm just delighted Dan and I will be along for the ride, because I think it's going to be a wonderful era in Michigan football."