I find it strange how I am compelled against my will to click any post with CC in the subject line. Clearly, the likelihood that Jim Harbaugh is disclosing anything at all related to this topic on the day of his bowl game against Virginia Tech is zero. And the likelihood that anyone has heard anything of substance (since Harbaugh is out of circulation) is zero. Yet, I must look. Not only must I look, but these bits of fanciful opinion enter into my psyche and alternately excite and depress me.
The truth is that Jim Harbaugh is coaching Stanford in a lead up to the most important bowl for that school in many a year. For him, there was football over the weekend, not negotiations. Do I know this for a fact? Of course not, but even the rudimentary common sense argues that there has been limited contact between Brandon and Harbaugh before the bowl game tonight, and that there will be expanded contact after the bowl game.
"Jim, Dave Brandon here."
"Dave, how are you?"
"Well, Jim, after a 30 point loss to that sniveling little twit in a sweater vest, I'm not good."
"I hear you. I am glad Bo is not alive to see this."
"Are you ready to come back to Ann Arbor and put things right?"
"It's the call I've been waiting for, Dave."
"Good luck in your bowl in January. We'll talk after your victory."
"Sounds like a plan."
Again, common sense would suggest that the substance of this exchange if not necessarily the detail is what has taken place to date. It would provide a sound basis for explaining Brandon's behavior in letting Rodriguez twist in the wind at the expense of effective recruiting. Perhaps this contact took place through intermediaries, but again everthing indicates that Brandon, a smart man, is not stumbling forward into the first week of January on a hope that Harbaugh might want to return to Ann Arbor. Smart men don't hope, they know. This, of course, does not rule out that Dave Brandon could've had such a conversation with another coaching candidate of his choosing. Either way, I would argue that he has confidence in what he wants to accomplish this week or else he would have behaved differently in the month following the Ohio State debacle.
Furthermore, we would be wise to not forget that Jim Harbaugh is a hot commodity for open coaching positions in the NFL, and that, last I checked, the NFL is hardly a museum for saints. ESPN and Bleacherreport "sources" might reasonably include those that would like to create another Les Miles firestorm to tip the scales in favor of an undecided Harbaugh choosing the right NFL franchise.
In the end, do you agree or disagree that we can be fairly confident of the following?
- Brandon's behavior at the end of the season indicated that Rich Rodriguez would be terminated,
- Brandon waiting at the end of the season indicated that he had to wait until after bowl games to fully engage his replacement,
- There exist countless back channels of communication between Brandon and Harbaugh,
- The precedent of the Les Miles situation counsels discretion,
- Jim Harbaugh, also aware of similar precedents, would be exceptionally motivated to avoiding loose talk, opinion, Kirk Herbstreit, and anything else that might distract from him coaching his Stanford Cardinals football team with decorum,
- If Jim Harbaugh had interest in the Michigan job, he could discretely communicate this to the right people in Ann Arbor,
- Further to the goal of being discreet, if any communication were to take place between Harbaugh and Brandon, it would be succinct and not require the involvement of potentially leaky entities such as lawyers and agents,
- There is one piece of evidence that Harbaugh will be leaving Stanford: his refusal to sign an extension which would have comforted his team and solidified recruiting,
- Harbaugh has a special place in his heart for Michigan that he does not have for San Francisco, Denver or Carolina of the NFL,
- If he passes on Michigan, he would likely be passing on ever coaching at Michigan, both because the next coach has a decent shot to be at Michigan at least as long as his NFL career and because it is a rarity for successful NFL coaches to reenter the college game later in their careers.
I'm quite sure that the comments will reflect a large number of posters disagreeing with some of these points. We come here for the debate, so that's fine; the larger point is that I don't think anything has substantively changed between Dave Brandon and Jim Harbaugh in the last week. It's just not the appropriate time for those changes to be in play.
Do I hope Jim Harbaugh is our next coach? Absolutely. Not only to imagine him delivering this statement to a top recruit --
"So, you want to play in the NFL, Alan? I can understand why. The 15 years I spent there as a player were a phenomenal time in my life. I've coached in the NFL. My brother's a head coach in the NFL. All my assistant coaches are handpicked from the NFL. My teams play hard-nosed, smash mouth NFL style football. Alan, look around the Big Ten and the rest of the country and you won't find any staff with more knowledge of the NFL who are better prepared to help the young men go on to the next level."
-- but because I know and you know that he understands our rivalries deep in his bones. I used to think this didn't matter. I now know that it does.