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Donald Canham (April 27, 1918-May 3, 2005) served as athletic director at the University of Michigan from 1968 to 1988. There, he became nationally-renowned for his ability to market and sell products bearing the name or logo of the school. In December 1968, he hired Bo Schembechler as head football coach, beginning an era of dominance for Michigan's football program that continues today. The combination of Canham's aggressive marketing efforts and Schembechler's winning teams helped Michigan set many national attendance records at Michigan Stadium. From 1975 onward, the school has sold over 100,000 tickets for every home game — a string of nearly 200 contests.

One of Canham's first priorities upon being named athletic director was to address the dwindling attendance at Michigan home football games which by 1967 had declined to an average of 67,000 fans per game. Don's good friend, Notre Dame athletic director Moose Krause, knew a sure-fire way to fill Michigan Stadium - by playing Notre Dame. The Irish and Wolverines had not met on the gridiron since 1943, when then-coach Fritz Crisler became so incensed at Frank Leahy's intensity that he never scheduled Notre Dame again. The two sat down and worked out an agreement to renew the series which resumed in 1978 and is scheduled to continue until at least 2031.

In 1969, Canham had AstroTurf installed in the stadium to replace its grass playing surface. The school continued to use similar artificial fields until 1990. This accounts for Canham's entry in Michigan radio sportscaster Bob Ufer's phrase for the stadium: "The hole that Yost dug, Crisler paid for, Canham carpeted and Schembechler fills up every Saturday!"

Canham himself was an athlete for the Wolverines, earning All-America honors in track and field by winning the 1940 N.C.A.A title in the high jump and was both the indoor and outdoor Big Ten Conference champion in both 1940 and 1941.[1] From 1948 to 1968, he served as the school's head track coach. He was known for his smarts when it came to coaching, his teams won 12 Big Ten Conference championships (seven indoor and five outdoor).[1] He left the post after 21 seasons to become the school's athletic director.

Michigan's swimming, diving and water polo teams compete in the Donald B. Canham Natatorium, named for Canham upon his retirement in 1988.

Canham died May 3, 2005, in a compact car accident after rupturing his abdominal aorta. He did not die due to the accident, he had been feeling sick the day before and was on his way to see a doctor. It was not known to Canham that he had an abdominal aorta problem. He was 87. Canham is preceded in the death of his first wife, Marilyn, and is survived by his brother Robert Canham (Donna); his son, Don Canham Jr., daughter Clare Canham-Eaton (Don); and grandchildren Amelia and Don Eaton.

See also


  1. ^ a b Hergott, Jeremiah, ed (2008). Two Thousand Eight Michigan Men's Track & Field. Frye Printing Compamy.  
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Fritz Crisler
University of Michigan Athletics Director
Succeeded by
Bo Schembechler

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