The president of the University of Michigan gave a bizarre speech at halftime of the school’s football game against Nebraska last Saturday, prompting speculation that she was drunk.
At halftime, University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman had a “12” jersey retired in her honor, a tribute to her 12 years of service to the school. During the ceremony, she gave a speech in front of a crowd of 112,000 fans, extolling the virtues of the school’s storied football tradition.
However, the 70-year-old slurred her words, elongated certain syllables, and generally acted in a strange manner. Coleman’s behavior led some media outlets, including Deadspin, to suggest that she was drunk during the speech.
Despite the rumors, Coleman denied on Monday that alcohol had played a role in her bizarre halftime speech. University of Michigan spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said that Coleman only appeared to slur her words due to microphone feedback, and that alcohol or a potential health issue had not factored into the situation, the school’s student newspaper reports.
“She, absolutely, had not been drinking alcohol,” Fitzgerald told The Daily, via the Detroit Free Press. “I want to underscore that point in the strongest possible way. It was an unfortunate set of circumstances that led to the audio distortion.”
Coleman reportedly spent the hours before the game at various fundraising events, none of which served alcohol, according to Fitzgerald.
"She was on the top of her game all weekend," Fitzgerald said. "She was the Mary Sue Coleman we know and love entirely. There's no health issue. There was absolutely no drinking."
Fitzgerald added the bizarre cadence of Coleman’s speech was a result of her attempt to slow down her words to allow for an audio delay. "There was significant wind, feedback and, even under the best conditions, the sound is distorted in the stadium when a wireless mic is used," Fitzgerald said in an email to the Ann Arbor News. "She struggled with the feedback and tried to adjust to the sound delay and the reverberation by slowing down her words."
The video of Coleman’s alleged drunken halftime speech can be viewed below.