Jim Harbaugh answered questions from reporters Friday morning

View from the Sidelines: Anatomy of a bowl game press conference Comment Count

Ethan Sears December 28th, 2018 at 3:46 PM

ATLANTA — The thing about bowl games is that you tend to forget there’s a football game at the end of the week. And once you remember, you tend to struggle trying to pin meaning to it.


There are only so many questions and so many storylines after a month without football with a fairly meaningless game as the light at the end of the tunnel. That leads to scenes like Friday morning — Jim Harbaugh and Dan Mullen standing in front of a lavish backdrop with Peach Bowl logos plastered all over the room, some helmets in front of them, a moderator to their left.


The press conference was, for lack of a better term, a sham.


[After THE JUMP: column]


Harbaugh and Mullen exchange pleasantries, say all the right things. Answer a small handful of questions about the football game — both teams are quite good, according to their opponents —, some newsy questions and some questions that are the verbal equivalent of a 60-foot heave at the end of a half of basketball.


When a question with no predetermined answer — has Harbaugh or anyone representing him been contacted by an NFL team despite his proclamation to ESPN that he would be staying at Michigan — comes up, there’s no interest in answering.


“I don’t really have any representatives,” Harbaugh said. “No agent or anything.”


Then it was back to the same. Everyone is happy to be here. Everyone respects those who chose not to come.


The contrast between the two coaches, if nothing else, was made clear. Each time Harbaugh gave a one-sentence answer, as is his habit, the Florida coach chuckled, and seemed to deliver paragraphs on end.


“I’m still for a larger playoff,” Harbaugh said to a question asking his stance on expanding the CFP, and Mullen laughed to himself. Then he started talking.


“I love the bowl system kind of as it is,” Mullen said. “I think the bowl experience for so many teams is such a special deal. So I don’t know that the expansion of the playoff is going to — it would serve what everybody is looking for.


“The great thing about college football is you kind of enter into the playoff week 1 of the season and you’ve got to perform from game 1 all the way through.


“But the bowl experience, the experience these players get to receive, I think, is special. So I’d hate to see that ruined for not just — you know, that it’s only a special deal. There’s a bunch of seniors on both teams that are going to get to play their last college football game, and one of them is going to get to walk away with that trophy. I think that’s pretty unique in college football, that they get to finish their careers in that way.”


At some point, an awkward silence set in amongst the media and the moderator started prodding for a final question, like a middle school teacher when nobody raises their hand. Finally, someone took it, choosing to ask about Jordan brand, then follow it up by asking what shoes each coaches were wearing.


Never has the contrast in style between Jim Harbaugh and every other coach in America been more apparent.


“I got the Retros 4s,” Mullen said. “I think coach (Harbaugh) got — his style is above the waist. My style is kind of below the waist, right? I’m more ankles down, right, in our fashion statements?”


“I don’t know about that,” Harbaugh said, a confused look on his face. “Don’t know what he’s talking about right now.”


The moderator then asked Harbaugh for a final comment on the Jordan brand.




Arb lover

December 28th, 2018 at 4:31 PM ^

Yes, the SEC likes things the way they are. Water is wet. 

As far as meaningless. I mean, I get that many people went from in the clouds at Thanksgiving to in the Bpone 2 days later, or otherwise have a flair for the dramatic...but really? Playing a top 10 ranked SEC team means so much more than playing Western Michigan or SMU, yet nobody was attaching statements of meaningless for those games.

Most actual Michigan fans I know are 1) traveling down to the game 2) having parties at their houses or at friends, or 3) going to an Alumni Association event. Any way you dice it, we are all stoaked to play Florida on Saturday, and I'm sure the team is also. /End of rant


December 28th, 2018 at 4:48 PM ^

I’m glad you are stoked, but this has definitely changed how I’m planning for the event. #1 I decided not to travel to the bowl though I have contacts with chick-fil-a and couldn’t have gotten free seats. #2 I’m not having a party just a couple family members over that watch the games with me during the season. #3 Great opportunity to see the young talent scrimmage and prepare for 2019, please don’t embarrass us by losing to a middling SEC school even if it is just a scrimmage.

How to fix? Eliminate conf championship games and establish a 16 team playoff.


December 28th, 2018 at 5:50 PM ^

Probably an unpopular opinion, but if the NCAA wants to maintain fidelity to the concept of "student-athletes," they should stop caring about what "fans" want out of a bowl system.

Pre-BCS, bowl games were more for the students.  A cool reward for performing decently throughout the end of the season.  You got to travel to some other part of the country, participate in bowl week shenanigans, and play a team and players you probably didn't play during the regular season.  Just a cool experience.  Like a field trip to Mackinac Island.

If a student wants to skip a bowl game, good on them.  The student should be allowed to decide what's best for them, just like I would be allowed to opt out of a grade school field trip to Mackinac Island for any fucking reason I wanted and Internet keyboard warriors can go fuck off with their opinions of my decision.  Zero fucks should be given about what the "fans" or "media" thinks about a student's decision to opt out what should be treated more like a school field trip.

The idea that we need to crown a "champion" at the end of the year or have a "playoff" is primarily a fan and revenue driven desire, which the NCAA slavishly obeyed because they care so much about fans and revenue.

Again, this is probably an old man opinion advocating for the times of yesteryear, but I feel like if I spent inordinate amounts of my time lobbying the local high school league to change its system of how it crowns its champion, the school district should and would tell me to "fuck off wierdo, this entire system is about the kids, not you."


December 29th, 2018 at 1:05 AM ^

i have to agree with you (ahw) and Mullen here. Playoffs/tournaments are great for the teams that win it and their fans; casual fans who don't know or invest much into the sport and need their attention focused with "something at stake"; media and administrators who can make money packaging it. For everybody else they are ultimately a frustration and disappointment.

As a Michigan fan is my fandom better, more enjoyable, more satisfying than before the BCS and the playoff? No. Do I love college football more or take greater interest in it now than before? Decidedly not.

Lesser sports need a playoff just to generate a certain level of interest. The bowl experience for college athletes is unique, and a positive. Diminishing that is not good for most players, fans, coaches, or the sport.



December 28th, 2018 at 6:44 PM ^

Wishing it away and calling it meaningless are entirely different.  I get extremely excited about the spring game, but in terms of standings or championships, the outcome of that game is meaningless.

Similar with bowls.  They're like the new pre-spring or "winter" game.  Especially with more and more seniors sitting such that they're becoming more like auditions for younger guys.


December 28th, 2018 at 6:01 PM ^

Comparison to Western or SMU is very bad and you should feel bad.

Those games mattered because they were absolutely vital to stay in the playoff race.  The stakes were far higher.  A loss in one of those games and 1) the fanbase would have completely melted down - always a good indicator of how much the game matters and 2) M would have been eliminated from winning a national championship.

This games has literally almost no stakes.  A loss tomorrow will cause some of the fanbase to be upset, most for just a couple hours (as opposed to the weeks or months I am usually annoyed after a loss) but as Brian points out in his preview, other than the coaches and players and a handful of crazy fans, literally no one else involved with college football will care about or remember this game after about three hours.

M Go Cue

December 28th, 2018 at 4:45 PM ^

Calling this game meaningless is a slap on the face to the players that have been busting their asses in practice, in rehab, and in the weight room.  

For some players it will be the last time they play this game to which they have devoted an incredibly large part of their lives.  To some it’s a shot at making an impression for next season.  There are myriad other ways that this game is important and for many the reasons are different.  

Just because we’re not in the final four doesn’t mean the team is wasting their time, as is the implication by calling this competition meaningless. 

I don’t give a damn if our Michigan team is playing in a parking lot, it’s meaningful.


December 28th, 2018 at 5:45 PM ^

Definitely. It's been widely reported that BC and Boise State players were upset their game got canceled. 

Also, I really hate how specious the argument is here. We can see it's meaningless because of the dumb press conference. Oh right because all the other press conferences are must see/reads. I rarely do more than skim quickly. And then look at the comments where everyone complains about the media asking dumb questions or interesting questions but Harbaugh won't answer, which is also the media's fault apparently. Press conferences are almost always a waste. Not sure what one is supposed to expect from a "meaningful" press conference.

CRISPed in the DIAG

December 28th, 2018 at 6:42 PM ^

I never listen, watch or read a press conference because coaches say nothing. Even Mullen is acting all "aww, shucks listen to my homespun coach-speak just glad to be here blahhhhhh" and not really giving up anything meaningful until his SEC party-line statement about bowls. And we knew that was coming.

The only people who really like press conferences? Reporters, blog writers and fans who clutch pearls when coaches like Belichick or Harbaugh treat the experience like an obligatory waste of valuable time. Which it is.

Everyone Murders

December 28th, 2018 at 4:46 PM ^

"The moderator then asked Harbaugh for a final comment on the Jordan brand."


Well, given that he's wearing an Adidas sweatshirt in the picture, I can see that being a awkward moment.*


*Yes, I realize that the article is using a stock photo from a few years ago.

UofM Die Hard …

December 28th, 2018 at 5:00 PM ^

i personally love this and how he handles the media. Why say stuff when your words will get twisted, turned, flipped into some pure garbage. 

And im glad Mullen was giving those dumb smirks. Fuck the sec.  Jim and co., beat them up. 


December 28th, 2018 at 6:30 PM ^

I mean I agree with Mullen that we all wanted the playoffs, now they are here and it has made every other bowl game pretty much meaningless(unless you are a school where making any bowl is the reward at the end of a season).  The problem with his statement is that the meaninglessness of all bowl games due to the playoffs is already here....so we might as well expand the playoff which would actually reverse this issue and make MORE bowl games meaningful, not the opposite.


December 29th, 2018 at 1:21 AM ^

This BS about this being a "meaningless" game is so tired.  Do the writers of this blog actually not care if Michigan wins or loses?  Will there be a UFR in either case, or only if M wins?  (As has become tradition, it seems.)  And if we only like things and feel good about the world when the team wins, doesn't that imply meaning?  

How meaningless is the game if someone is wasting their time reporting on coach-speak press conferences leading up to it?  To me, Michigan football games are a rare resource to be relished and enjoyed, not pissed on.  Articles like this are much more meaningless than tomorrow's game.  Why did you waste your time writing such meaningless content for a game that means nothing to you?

Maybe if folks stopped so sloppily throwing around the term "meaningless" and spent a moment ascribing a more nuanced description of what this game means, they might find there are things to look for, enjoy, regret, etc.  Sure, Michigan is not one of the 4 remaining teams who have a shot at the CFP trophy.  Is that all Michigan football is to you?  Or is there, perhaps, some other layer of meaning you glean from your fandom?

Don't be so lazy and trite.