“I guess it isn’t holiday break, everyone’s here. Thank you for that.”
“It’s great to be with all of you today, and I want to welcome all of the people here who come from all over the place to report this important news and I’d like to single out some people here that I think are quite special, and they made a special effort to join us. You’ve heard we have former coaches from Michigan in Lloyd Carr, Gary Moeller, and Jerry Hanlon. The Michigan faithful will always stop to shake their hands and thank them for all that they’ve done over the years for this great university. Let me do that as well, as they unselfishly helped me in thinking through this coaching transition.
All of these gentlemen coached under the late, great Glen E. “Bo” Schembechler, and with a simple phone call we have Bo’s wife, Kathy Schembechler, here, who made a huge effort through holiday break and snow storms in Denver to join us for this celebration today. Thank you, Kathy.
We also have here today Michigan Regents Kathy White, Larry Deitch, and Andrew Richner, all of whom have been so helpful in the process that we’ve constructed that resulted in this great outcome. And while I’m mentioning the top leadership at the University, let me also thank our President, Mark Schlissel, who had just arrived less than six months ago this summer. He was terrific to me in counsel, as a person to brainstorm with, and more importantly as a touchstone of what the University seeks in its destiny of being leaders and best in academics and athletics. And finally, I invited members of my team, two of whom have knocked themselves out since we started this project: Chrissi Rawak and Mike DeBord, plus Tim Lynch, who’s the VP and General Counsel; whenever you do a deal like this there’s a lot of legal work. Thanks to all three of them.
As you hear of my selection for our head coach you should also know I broke one of the cardinal rules of negotiation; I fell in love with the guy on the other side and his name’s John Dennison, and he played an enormous part in bringing the coach home.
I’m sorry for the preamble because I know you want me to get on with it, but this part of the program is really what it’s about being at Michigan; we recognize the team first. On December 3rd I asked you to be patient with me as we started this search, and we pledged to you a deliberate nature of our work, and we discussed how broadly we were going to search for this coach. We did that. We went through a deep think phase that led to our point of view today. Many fans, alumni, past players, they took the time to give me input. I even talked to our current team twice about this decision. Safe to say I heard from lots of people. So today, I’m very pleased and proud to announce the 20th Head Football Coach at the University of Michigan, Jim Harbaugh.
The real talent in the family is Sarah Harbaugh, who’s here with her children Addie, Katie, Jack, and Jimmy and Grace, and Jim’s brother-in-law John and niece Kennedy are here. Welcome to all of them, and a special welcome to Jack and Jackie Harbaugh. Jack was a coach here at Michigan for a number of years, and his wife Jackie- they were both incredible assets to our Michigan family as they were building what seemed to be a cadre of exceptional leaders in athletics.
Now, Jack was a coach when I played here and as I told Jim, he never had a bad day. He was such a positive influence and I’m glad he’s back around our program. Thanks, Jack.
I mentioned that I talked to lots of people, and one particularly famous pro coach who has done broadcasting for many years told me this: “You know, Jim Hackett, you didn’t just get a great coach. You got the best coach in football today, college or pro, in Jim Harbaugh.”
You know, there are a lot of great coaches out there. He has a brother who’s one, and we had many of them on our list. But when you ask how many of these coaches won at all levels, college and pro, it’s hard to find someone to compare it with. In my upbringing I remember my dad talking about Paul Brown, because he excelled at all levels. This guy’s just like that. I could go on about him. He won 49 games in four years with the San Francisco 49ers. Just amazing. And considering that he had really strong competitors in that league, including another one with the initials JH, he faced a lot of competition in the pros and amassed a fantastic record.
I think that Jim likely- no, surely- was a candidate for any of these pro jobs that opened yesterday, and yet he chose to come home. At Michigan Jim will make the same salary he was paid with the Niners. Jim has signed a seven-year deal, and a year from now I will review the football program’s progress and the University will determine and appropriate deferred compensation arrangement, which I have to take into account market conditions at that time. As you know, there’s a lot of opportunity out there for talent like this, but I don’t plan on talking more about pay because I’m totally at peace with the fact that we have a win-win deal here. When we thought about a way to signal Jim’s coming home, I looked around campus and realized maize is everywhere so today I’m wearing a maize watch and I gifted these to the family and friends as a reminder of this very special day. Our guy came home. Please join me in welcoming Jim to his first press conference as the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Coach at the University of Michigan- Jim Harbaugh.”
[HARBAUGH after THE JUMP]
“Thank you very much. I apologize for my voice. They dumped Gatorade over me Sunday after our ballgame and I lost my vocal cords a little bit, but…I don’t know if anybody saw me trip on the way in. Did anybody see that?”
“A lesser athlete would have gone down! That’s what I have to say about that! There are very special words that are in the English language that we all embrace; there’s family, there’s friends, there’s teammates, there’s victory. I was reminded of another very special word when I was driving into Ann Arbor this morning, and that word is homecoming.
Our family’s had three homecomings to Ann Arbor, Michigan in my lifetime. The first was in 1973 when my dad was hired to coach the secondary at the University of Michigan. We came in in March, early March and we had nowhere to live. Bo Schembechler told Bob Sutton, who was a graduate assistant at the time, that the Harbaughs were going to move in to his apartment, which was in the basement of the golf course. Now, this was one heck of a deal cuz there was a blizzard that hit Ann Arbor at that time, and the city was shut down and everything was shut down. But my brother and I, John, we had the run of the golf course. There was this basement with putting greens, sandboxes, batting cages and for three weeks it was heaven on Earth.
Then in 1982 I was recruited to Michigan as a student-athlete to play for the legendary Bo Schembechler, and coach Jerry Hanlon, who’s sitting over here, was my quarterback coach. Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr were on that staff as well. At my first team meeting i was 10 minutes late to the first team meeting. Coach Schembechler told me that I would never play a single down at the University of Michigan my entire career.
And the now, 2014, to come back as football coach at the University of Michigan. I have to tell you, I have thought about that, dreamed about that, since the time i was a young lad. Nine or 10 years old, and throughout adult life- dreamed about coaching at Michigan, and now it’s time to live that. I have no other words to really describe how that feels except to tell you there’s great excitement about the challenge of serving the University of Michigan as your football coach.
Let me introduce my family. This is my wife, Sarah Harbaugh. She’s holding young Jack Harbaugh, who’s named after his grandfather. I call him Mighty Jack, the Quarterback. He’s two years old. This is Addie Harbaugh, who’s six years old. John Feuerborn, my brother-in-law and very, very close friend. My son Jimmy Harbaugh; 18 years old [and] he’s getting ready to graduate from high school and look into starting college in the fall himself. Katie Harbaugh is four…she’s in the bathroom. And my mom and dad, Jack and Jackie Harbaugh.
“I want to introduce my daughter Grace Harbaugh, who’s 14 years old. She’s a tremendous water player- polo player, and a student. And Kennedy Feuerbron, John Feuerborn’s daughter and my niece. I also want to thank very important people, the Board of Regents at the University of Michigan. I want to thank President Schlissel. I want to thank Athletic Director Jim Hackett for having the confidence in me to- the confidence in showing me to bring me here to the University of Michigan.
I also want to thank Brady and Laura Hoke, my very good friends, for their outstanding service to the University of Michigan. They have honored the University of Michigan football program and I’m pleased to have such a tremendous foundation to stand on, and that foundation was built by Brady, by Lloyd Carr, by Gary Moeller, by Bo Schembechler, by Jerry Hanlon, Jon Falk, by the men and women who have served the University of Michigan for over a century. For more than a century they’ve been playing football at the University of Michigan. I see Mary Passink [Bo’s former administrative assistant] right there.
To all the former players, their families…I feel like I’m standing on this foundation that’s so rock solid. I feel like I’m standing on the shoulders of tall, tall men and I can’t thank you enough. I can’t thank the alumni enough, the students, [and] the faculty for the enthusiasm you’ve all shown to my family and I.
Top to bottom, Michigan is about excellence. It’s about greatness, and you have my pledge that I will carry forward the tradition of excellence of the University of Michigan football program. Thank you very much.”
Q & A
You’ve already had guys in the NFL saying this is a stopover for you. Can you talk about this as a destination job?
“I’ve really look at- I’ve been a coach now at the University of San Diego. Coached at Stanford University. Coached at the 49ers for four years. It’s like- I look at it like I’m going to construct a home like a construction architect or…I kind of think of myself as more of a construction guy. But you’re building this home, and hopefully it’s a great cathedral, and afterwards they tell you, ‘Okay, go build another one. There’s some dirt down there. Go build another home.’ And I feel like that again. I’m at that point where even though you’ve done well and built some pretty nice homes you have to do it again. You have to prove it again. But I’d really like to live in one permanently. That’s what I’m very hopeful for here.”
Hey Jim, how’re you doing? I-
“I remember you, you were in the locker room. In San Francisco.”
Jim, you said you grew up dreaming of this. What was the first time in the last couple months that this seemed real to you, and when did you actually make the decision that this was going to happen?
“As I said, I can remember thinking about it as a young youngster. Nine or 10 years old, there was a time where I was sitting in Coach Schembechler’s office. I had my feet up- I was sitting in his chair and I had my feet up on his desk. He said, ‘How you doing, Jim?’ I said, ‘I’m doing great, Bo. How you doing?’ He said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m sitting in your chair, Coach.’ Couldn’t think of anything better to say.
“There’ve been times in my life where I’ve thought about it, dreamed about it, [and] now it’s time to live it.”
In the last couple months, when did that feel real?
“I’ve thought about being a coach at Michigan- I mean, my dad coached at Michigan. That was something that I really looked up to and wanted to emulate from the time I was a youngster.”
There was a belief that this could have been a possibility earlier in your career. Why is now the right time for you and Michigan with this fit?
“Again, I want to thank the Board of Regents. I want to thank the President [and] the Athletic Director for having the confidence in me to coach at the University of Michigan. That is an honor and I’m humbled. I’m very happy. I want my family to be happy, too.
“There was a time we flew in and they had a gift bag for the kids with hats, scarf, sweatshirts, and the kids had them on and that took me back to a place where…that took me back to a place. That took me back to walking into Moe Sport Shop and looking at everything with big, wide eyes and hoping that you would get something, and we had a- at Moe Sport Shop you used to get a 10 or 20 percent discount for coach’s families and that was what I would save my money for. I’d save my money for- I’d cut lawns and shovel snow and rake leaves so that I could go to Moe Sport Shop and get a pair of basketball shoes or get something with a big block M on it, so when my kids were wearing that it took me back to a place.”
As I was out last night in East Lansing, as a matter of fact, somebody asked me if I was going to come over and see the Messiah. I’m wondering how comfortable you are with this perception that you’re the savior of Michigan football.
“I’m not comfortable with that at all.”
“As I said, I’m standing on a foundation that has been built for over 100 years by some great men. I feel like I’m standing on those shoulders and I want to do a good job. I want to be good. I want to win. I want to win at practice. We want to win on the practice field. We want to win in the classroom. We want to win in the community. We want to win on fall Saturday afternoons and we’ll have great expectations for that. We’ll have great expectations for the first team meeting and the first week of winter conditioning. Can’t wait.”
Did you leave the NFL dismayed at all? If not, what are you going to take from the NFL and bring back to the University of Michigan and to your team?
“Uh, I don’t have that list in front of me. We’re just going to hit the ground running and work hard at it.”
Did you leave the NFL dismayed?
“Did I leave the NFL dismayed?”
“I don’t understand what that means. Sorry.”
To follow up, there are so many people who see you and all your success and how quickly some other coaches have done it in college football; how quickly do you think winning in Ann Arbor will be the norm? Big Ten championships, national championships, etc.?
“As I said, we have great expectations for the first week. We’re going to have great expectations from the first day of practice, the first team meeting. I don’t have a guarantee for you, if that’s what you’re looking for, or a prediction.”
Financially you’re going to get paid the same as you were in San Francisco. You could have made more money in the NFL. Is it worth to you- what’s the reasoning behind all that?
“Some people have asked me that. I don’t have that list. I didn’t make a pros and cons list. I really made the decision from the heart, which I thought was best for myself and my family, and I’m very excited about it. Very challenged by it.”
If the man who coached you here was able to be standing here today, what do you think he’d say to you?
“That’s a great question. Steve Kornacki already asked me that question, and what I told him was I feel like he is here. When I’m standing next to Lloyd Carr and Gary Moeller and my dad and Jerry Hanlon and Jon Falk, to me that’s the same people; that’s the same feeling, and they say they’re happy to have me here. And also that they’re willing to do anything to help, which I will be taking you up on, Lloyd. I will be taking you up on, Mo. I appreciate that.”
My question is how will you be able to sell this program-
“Were you that young Michigan Daily reporter who was at the airport last night? Where’s that young man? Heck of a job. What’s your name?”
“Alejandro, stand up. That’s a go-getter. Sorry about that.”
My question is how are you going to be able to sell the program that’s been down in the dumps the last couple of years to future players that you’re going out to meet?
“Michigan’s always been great. It’s always been great. I believe in it. What’s the best thing you can possibly, in terms of selling something- you’re selling something that you believe in to your core. Everything you know. Like you know your name, I know Michigan football. I believe in Michigan football, and that will not be a hard job.”
I just want to say I interviewed your dad when he was at Western Michigan. It was the first interview I ever did when I worked at the sports information department there, so this is exciting to have another Harbaugh interview. I’m curious to know, with the way that Michigan’s been roughed up against their rivals the past years, if you have any guarantees about Ohio State and Michigan State that you can lend here today to the fanbase?
“They’re outstanding programs. I make no guarantees. I made a guarantee a long time ago and I’ve learned from that, I’ve grown. No more guarantees.”
When did Jim Hackett first approach you and when did he offer you the job and when did you accept? How quickly was this deal made?
“Pretty quick. There was a very quick process.”
Can you say when he first contacted you?
“I don’t remember the exact date. It was in the last…the, uh, last couple weeks.”
When did you accept?
There were some comments you made a few years ago critical of the academics and how things were handled here at Michigan. How has that changed in your mind? Are you going to be instrumental in any further change moving forward, and how has your stance on that changed over the years?
“That’s a good question. That’s another thing I didn’t understand at the time and didn’t fully understand and made the mistake of not knowing that you don’t compare things, and you especially don’t compare great to great. And that’s what I did, and that was a mistake. I’ve since learned that you don’t compare. You don’t compare one thing to another or one person to another or two great institutions compared to each other because somebody always gets diminished when you do that, so that’s another lesson I have learned since eight years ago.”
Where are you at as far as finding assistant coaches and what sort of criteria are you looking for?
“The best. We’re in the process right now and can’t tell you that it’s going to move fast or slow, but hopefully it’ll move right. That’s what we’ll strive for. Measure twice and cut once.”
You obviously have a history of turnaround projects: San Diego, Stanford, San Francisco. Looks like a turnaround situation here. How do you attack that? You’ve done that in the past, obviously, experience-wise. What do you think you need to attack most quickly here to get Michigan turned around?
“Like any team, and I’m not agreeing that it is a turnaround- this is Michigan. There are no turnarounds at Michigan. This is greatness and a long tradition of it. But the important thing is the relationships as a team. Getting to know our players and getting to know us as coaches and ultimately that’s what a team is; it’s a group of relationships that’s focused on achieving a goal together, and that’s the most important thing.”
From a distance, how much did it pain you to watch Michigan’s struggles the last six or seven years?
“I didn’t see the struggles you’re talking about.”
You don’t want to make any guarantees about Michigan State or Ohio State, but can you talk about how you’ll approach it? You’ve played in some great rivalry games- you were a coach in the pros against the Seahawks. What are you going to tell your guys about how to approach those games and the intensity that they have to have?
“First, understanding what their intent is, what our team’s intent is going to be. You’ve got to be willing to work for that. You’ve got to be willing to earn that, and that’s why I’m so excited for the first week of winter conditioning, to get that started. Let’s find out exactly what our intent is.”
Just curious, your emotions flying here, your emotions walking in here [and] knowing that you’re going to be the head football coach at the University of Michigan last night and today?
“As I said, very excited. Very challenged.”
Nothing more than that?
“Yeah, this place is special. That’d be at the top of the list.”
“You’re picking on a guy who’s got a bad voice!”
Given your fiery personality, the way you approach the game, do you feel like you’re going to be able to connect better in the college game than in the professional ranks? How do you feel your personality translates to the college game…again?
“I feel like it’s the only personality I have. The other ones were all taken! So I got that one. But we all have a great desire as a human agency to be a part of a team, to be a part of something that’s bigger than yourself and I have that great desire and I couldn’t be more excited, honored, humbled, to be a part of this great team. Very excited about that.”
You talked to the team earlier today. What was your message to them?
“I told them, it was a little bit uncomfortable. I’ve never talked to a team through one of those speaker phones. I was talking to Coach Carr and Coach Moeller earlier and I said, “Give me your thoughts. What would you say into a speaker?” Basically we’ll see you back here in a few days. The 5th and the 6th we’ll schedule a meeting and we’ll get to work with conditioning.”
I hear you saying you’ve mellowed with age. Let’s say you have a young, brash, cocky, confident player who steps to the microphone and he offers a guarantee. How would you handle that?
“If you do that you’ve got to back it up.”
First met you a long time ago on the longest night ever, if you remember that.
“Yes, I do.”
I wanted to ask you, a lot of people were saying you’d never leave the NFL, that you were too competitive and wanted to be at the highest level. Can you talk about the decision? Did you look at college and the NFL differently? Was it just because it was Michigan? Why did you decide to leave the NFL and come back to college?
“Like I said earlier, it was a decision that I basically made without a list, without a pros and cons approach to it and something that I’ve dreamed about and felt it was time to live. Just felt like ultimately I made it with my heart except for my family.”
Who’s got it better than us?