Today is the 200th post for Bakers and Best (thanks again Kati for the idea) and I wasn’t quite sure how to celebrate. For my 100th post I baked a cake but this time I decided to go the ‘act like you’ve been here before’ route and not make a big show of it (except, you know, for these last two sentences). Brian Cook of MGoBlog published a long piece on former AD Dave Brandon on Wednesday at the same time I was considering who to photoshop this week. That made me want to give some space to the man who set the standard for modern college athletic directors, Don Canham.
As a Michigan student in the late 30s and early 40s Canham made a name for himself on the track and field team, winning a NCAA title in 1940. After four years in the Air Force he would return to Ann Arbor and in 1948 became head coach of the track and field team. He had great success there but is most known for his twenty year tenure as athletic director at Michigan. In his second year he hired Bo Schembechler as the football coach and it would be the only time he’d have to hire one.
Canham revolutionized the way college football was marketed in that he was one of the first to market it at all. Under his leadership Michigan would start the attendance streak of 100,000 that continues today. A great deal of the pageantry fans have loved about Michigan games for decades resulted from Canham’s ideas. He also realized that just about anything could have a block M stuck on it and be sold. But while Canham was focused on making Michigan sports a profitable enterprise he understood the value of good PR, and that the end goal was not necessarily to squeeze every possible dollar from your customer. Canham, who passed away in 2005, often had people waiting outside his office each day hoping to get freshly baked simit.