Jim Harbaugh, Bo, and the Michigan Family

Submitted by stephenrjking on January 23rd, 2013 at 9:05 PM

[ed: bump.]

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Quarterback

There is a special fondness for one’s earliest sports memories. They form the backdrop of experience against which all future events are contextualized. 

My earliest datable memory is Kirk Gibson hitting a home run in the bottom of the 8th inning in Game Five of the 1984 World Series; from that day until his retirement he was my favorite baseball player. I learned to cheer for Isiah Thomas and Gary Grant. I cheered for Yzerman, and accepted that the Lions were always bad. And I rooted for Michigan football, with Jamie Morris and Mark Messner.

And Jim Harbaugh.

He won the Fiesta Bowl. He beat Ohio State with clutch play. He guaranteed a victory in ’86, and then beat Ohio State again.* He led Michigan to a Rose Bowl. To a young boy, he was a hero, everything that the winged helmet was supposed to be about. To everyone at Michigan, he was a Michigan Man.

*Someone recently argued on the board that Harbaugh essentially rode the coattails of Jamie Morris to the win, belittling his role in the game. That’s acceptable logic, if you’re willing to assert that Denard rode the coattails of Junior Hemingway to wins over Virginia Tech and Notre Dame last season--any takers?

*  *  *  *  *

Fast Forward to 2007. I was visiting Michigan from California, where I was attending school. I was enjoying one of the things I really missed about Ann Arbor--walking around the Ann Arbor-Saline Road Meijer after midnight. As I ambled past the U-Scan lanes, I happened to glance at the newspaper display. And there it was, front page.

Jim Harbaugh Criticizes Michigan Academics

“Jim,” I muttered to myself. “You fool. What are you doing?”

*  *  *  *  *

Jim Harbaugh was calling out the academic integrity of Michigan Athletics. He was dropping Bo’s name (after Bo died, something that sat poorly with myself and others) and using it as a cudgel against Michigan. And, by all appearances, he was doing so in an arrogant way to burnish his own program’s reputation.

Nobody in the Michigan camp liked it. Now, I suppose there could be discussion about whether or not he had any legitimate points. Many blogs, including this one, vehemently refuted his accusations and sharply criticized him for making them. I believe it can safely be said that the vast majority of the Michigan family disagreed with both the content and the method of his message.

But this is not about what he said in 2007. This is not about whether or not he wanted to “come home” after Rich Rodriguez left.* I want to address a debate that has bounced around the Michigan family for more than five years now:

Is Jim Harbaugh one of us?

*Critics will occasionally take a dig at Harbaugh, suggesting that by not coming to Michigan he was stabbing us in the back. I do not buy it--he never indicated that he would come, he wanted to go to the NFL, and the NFL wanted him. And his last two years have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that the NFL was a good move for him. Now, I have no doubt that Harbaugh would have won and won big at Michigan, and little doubt that he would have left for the NFL after a short tenure; I also believe that he would have left the program in great shape, as he did at Stanford and as Nick Saban did at LSU. But, in retrospect, it is clear that Michigan’s opportunity to get Harbaugh was after Lloyd retired--only nobody knew that he was this great yet.

*  *  *  *  *

As a Michigan fan, I respectfully submit three basic arguments asserting why Harbaugh should be accepted, wholly and without qualification, as a Michigan Man.

1. He's Really Good

Jim and Colin

The first reason is simple: Harbaugh, as a successful ex-Michigan player, is a good advertisement for the University. His past Michigan experiences, his wins, and in particular his relationship with Bo are well-known and frequently spoken of. Michigan alum Rich Eisen is a good example of how this works:

So a well-known NFL Net personality is unreservedly promoting Bo, Harbaugh, and the intrinsic Michigan connection? Outstanding.

It’s a pity that Brady didn’t make it to the Super Bowl this year, because the ex-Michigan quarterback angle would have been unavoidable. The success of Michigan Men in the NFL is unquestionably good for the image of the program. That Harbaugh is a coach who is heavily influenced by Bo is just another bonus. Michigan doesn’t exactly have a large coaching tree, but Harbaugh is carrying on Bo’s legacy both in word and in deed. 

And don’t think that Bo wouldn’t have been beaming with pride watching Harbaugh pound the football down Atlanta’s throat on the ground in the NFC championship game. That was Michigan Football on the field last Sunday.*

*I thought Harbaugh was crazy for trying to turn Stanford into a bruiser team in the era of the spread. Until he took Toby Gerhart and Stanford into the Coliseum and ran up the score on the Big Bad Trojans. Now he's taking a bruiser team to the Super Bowl. I guess MANBALL still works.


2. We Are Not Other Schools

I understand irritation at someone who says something against the school, even one of our own. That is natural, and there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it. When Harbaugh made specific, negative assertions against the program, he was rebutted and the reaction was negative. And that’s good.

But a fanbase crosses the line when it attempts to excommunicate one of its own because it doesn’t like everything a former athlete says. And that is particularly true of Michigan, a place that most of us believe is known for knowledge and dignity.

When someone expresses unending loathing for Harbaugh or suggests that he is not a “true” Michigan Man, they are acting in exactly the same way that Ohio State fans did with Kirk Herbstreit. Remember that? Herbstreit, a man so proud of his alma mater that he brought his twin boys on the Gameday platform in OSU gear, had to leave the state and move to Nashville to get away from the Ohio State fanbase.

Is that who we are? 

Much of the fun of sports rivalries is pretending that there is something about our own team or university that is qualitatively superior to our rivals in areas other than the football field. Much of this is in fun--students sing “If You Can’t Get Into College Go to State,” but in real life any reasonable person would accept a Michigan State education in their doctor or teacher. Or landscaper or merchandise packager. But I think we genuinely believe that our fanbase is more rational, more appropriate, and more mature than the fanbase of Ohio State. We all feel this way, and anyone who has attended UM-OSU at the Shoe in Michigan gear absolutely knows it.

Yet, if we cut off our own, if we make membership in our “club” subject to holding only the party line at all times, on punishment of total estrangement, we are no better than them.

3. Michigan is a Family

Families are funny things. Who doesn’t have the weird uncle, crazy aunt, loner brother, quirky sister in theirs? What family doesn’t have its disagreements, its tensions, its struggles?

Michigan is not just a factory of buildings that produce automaton students after four years. It is not a sports franchise whose success is judged solely on wins and losses. It is not just a fancy helmet or a fight song or a giant 110,000 seat hole in the ground with plastic grass on the floor.

Michigan is a family. A family with history. A family with character, and characters. A family that speaks warmly of grandparents like Yost and Crisler. A family of people who are flawed, unique, different, imperfect. Connected by sinews that surpass any one element of its unequalled tradition. 

This is a family that loves Bob Ufer’s hopeless homerism, but still enjoys the bubbly professionalism of Beckman. This is a family that reveled in Woodson’s swagger and athleticism, but marvels at the selfless dedication of Kovacs. This is a family where “Even slower than he looks” Tom Brady and “Dilithium” Denard Robinson can play the same position, and win.

It is a family with success stories. Dentists. Doctors. Businessmen. Long-winded broadcasters. All-time-great quarterbacks. Super Bowl coaches.

It is a family with frustrating flameouts. Tony Bowles. Chris Floyd’s job search. Rick Leach. Drew Henson. 

This is a family that has suffered together. OSU ’73. Iowa ’85. Notre Dame ’89. Colorado ’94. OSU ’06. 2008, all of it.

This is a family that has triumphed together. Fiesta. Orange. Sugar. Rose. And Everest in ’97.

Families have their ups and their downs. And they include people who aren’t perfect and aren’t always as kind and supportive as they ought to be. I grew up in a loving family, raised with good values and strong beliefs and lots of togetherness. As it happens, since my Dad died ten years ago a member of his family has turned away from much of what my parents stood for and has, at times, said things which other family members found (quietly) troubling. Do we reject the person? 

No. They are still as much a part of our family as they ever were; they still receive the same love, the same acceptance, the same participation. A family ought to accept someone as a person, even if they disagree with a choice or an action; accepting a person does not imply endorsement of everything they do. That is part of what love is. 

Michigan is a family. It is a family that has nurtured many great members of the community; it has also produced people that have made poor choices and hurt themselves or others. But a family never cuts off their own. 

Jim Harbaugh hurt the Michigan family with what he said. He offended people. He spoke inaccurately in a way that injured the reputation of the school. There’s no question this was difficult. But, no matter what he said, he is still one of us. Just as you love the brother or father or daughter who said or did something hurtful, Michigan should embrace Harbaugh for what he is.

*  *  *  *  *

He is a great coach, playing football exactly how Bo taught him to.

We are a great fanbase, that does not disown someone for breaking the party line.

Michigan is a family, that will love its own and accept them even when they say or do something that is hurtful.

When Jim Harbaugh spoke against Michigan, he was an idiot. He is, in the course of his life, also frequently abrasive, arrogant, and even mean. He is a jerk.

But he is a member of the Michigan family.

His is our idiot. He is our jerk.

He is our Big Ten Title-winning quarterback.

And, coaching in the Super Bowl, he is a Michigan Man.

harbaugh at michigan



January 23rd, 2013 at 1:07 PM ^

My take is simple.  As someone who attended UM back when Harbaugh was QB, with some friends who knew him from HS (here in A2), it comes down to this:  Yes, he's an asshole and always has been... but he's our a-hole.  

I had mixed feelings about the possibility of him coming here as our coach but if he had been hired I would have gotten on board.  I'm confident he would have done a superb job and kicked the snot out of OSU for however long he would have been here. But he would still be a jerk... just an awfully successful and competent jerk.  I'll be rooting for the 49ers (not just because of Harbaugh though)


January 24th, 2013 at 8:33 AM ^

But I understand his position toward Michigan. He likely felt spurned when he wasn't considered for the HC job. I really enjoyed this thread... Until I saw those vile and wretched words... "Michigan Man". Those words carry with them the very arrogance that Harbaugh came to criticize about his alma mater. So, RR was largely dismissed before he even arrived because he wasn't a "Michigan Man". But the only other legitimate coach with a record above .500 was never considered for the job, thus proving that the "MM" moniker is just a bunch of bullshit anyway. Lets face it, Hoke was selected because he was a MM first and foremost, not because if his track record of sub .500 football. RR was selected because he won and was a hot commodity... And nobody else wanted the job. So, excuse me when I refuse to read anything that contains MM, because I feel it was that arrogance and blind stupidity that created the divide that Hoke and Co are still trying to repair. I think they will achieve success here, but the 2007-2011 era is an embarrassment...
And it has nothing to do with the win/ loss record. Maybe that's why Harbaugh said what he said, and if anyone would know the inner workings of Michigan, it would be a "Michigan Man".


January 24th, 2013 at 8:59 AM ^

Help me understand something, TheGhostofYost. Your username makes you the poster child for irony.

You want to reject Harbaugh, because "The guy is an a-hole." So far, I get it. You reject Stephenrjking's position that Harbaugh, while flawed, is a successful Michigan man. Harbaugh's flaw of being a competitive jerk (like many other coaches and players,) means that you aren't rooting for him, don't care for him, don't see him as a representative of Michigan.

But how in the world can you say that and then have the username, "TheGhostofYost?" In a Detroit News piece, John U. Bacon says,

One of Yost's blind-spots had no redeeming qualities: He was a racist. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. His dad fought for the Confederates, after all. But Yost was surprised decades later when his discriminatory decisions created a national controversy.

I don't see how you can consistently have it both ways. It should be patently obvious that Yost's racism is much worse than anything Harbaugh has done. I think that stephenrjking would say that as Michigan fans, we should throw NEITHER Yost NOR Harbaugh under the bus. We don't like Harbaugh's criticism of Michigan, we reject Yost's racism, but they are both part of the fabric that is University of Michigan football.

We all have characteristics that are less than ideal. Harbaugh definitely is not perfect, and many posters concur that he is at times a jerk. But I fully agree that he is "our" jerk (just as is Yost, just as is Moeller, just as is Carr, just as is Bo, just as is Boles.)

Explain why it is ok to be in Yost's corner, but not Harbaugh's.


david from wyoming

January 23rd, 2013 at 2:04 AM ^

I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't really care about the guy (note, I'm to young to remember his playing days at Michigan)

I think his comments comparing Michigan to Stanford were misguided, but at the same time there are clear issues with the educational routes some players take through college, no matter what college they attend. I'm not going to call someone that I don't know an idiot over this. You can speak against Michigan and yet still care about the school.

Serious question, does anyone outside of mgoblog even remember the dust-up?

eamus_caeruli (not verified)

January 24th, 2013 at 2:24 PM ^

First off, nice diary stephenrjking!  I disagree that what said or that Jim is an idioit or jerk.  He is an arrogant, cocky, megolmaniac just like Bo and why he is so successful.  Period.   Jim is a great football player, coach, man, and he always will be.  

To the above board and poster, I would say few rational people if any care about this much at all.  This has been recylced as much as the "Les Miles" rumors over the years.   Hell, if people aren't complaining, they are living apparently. 

And to your point, his quote was taken out context, in the sense of him stating that players at big time programs come to play ball and will be suggested to take majors and minors that won't stress them out or take away from "athletic activities".   Why are so many players enrolled in GS majors?  Sorry, but Michigan is a football school.  That is what happens.  If you can't believe it or stand it, quite being a Michigan fan.  Won't matter though, because it is and will happen and any other big time FBS school.  

I think any one who calls Jim an idioit or jerk is manifesting the same thing in themselves.  If we are so deluded as a fanbase to actually think we are far and away superior to others; always take the high road and never break the rules, reported or not; then, I am sorry, you people that live in that world need some serious help or need to quite being sports fans.    

Lastly, the first amendment exisits to perserve all citizens the right to their opinion for and against this country, et al.  Last time I checked, Jim's opinions were his own, he is accountable, but it doesn't mean he is right or wrong; and further that he can't critiize UofM.  I could critize my alma mater as well.  Some may not like it. Having said that, people who take critize of something they like or love with such disdain are not fully developed as people and are way too sensitive and/or not very thoughtful.  

Box has been soaped...


January 23rd, 2013 at 2:33 AM ^

Nicely done.  You managed to go through all of the struggles that I have had with Harbaugh.  Some days I'm not sure whether I want to cheer for him, or against him.  He was my boyhood idol as a kid, so it pained me to be angry with him after his self-serving comments about Michigan's academics, just so that he could win some recruiting battles against us. 

Although I haven't been fond of some of his actions, including his classless shove in the back of Detroit Lions coach, Jim Schwartz, at the end of the day, he still is the first Michigan quarterback who I cheered my heart out for, and the first Michigan QB who I pretended to be while playing catch in the backyard with my little brother.  Whenever I see the #4 Michigan jersey, I automatically think of him making clutch plays for the Maize and Blue.


January 23rd, 2013 at 5:11 PM ^

I hate to go off of wikipedia but the entry for Tony Boles is a painful read.  It sounds like his life has been a complete mess for the last 20 years. 

His son, Paris, posted a comment on one of my videos last year and I wanted badly to send him a pm asking how his father was doing but I was afraid of sounding too much like a creepy stalker fan so I didn't do it. 

SC Wolverine

January 23rd, 2013 at 7:07 AM ^

The best part of your post (excellent, in my view) is the picture of Jim Harbaugh the kid wanting a piece of Rick Leach in the Big House.  (Just as the best story of Harbaugh is the "feet on Bo's desk" story).  What the picture shows, and you pointed out, is that Harbaugh is one of us.  We have a massive shared experience of joy in life -- Michigan football.  He also, then, is a hugely successful manifestation of what we are about.  How many MGoteenagers dream of meeting the coach and players, then going on to be the Michigan quarterback, then trash-talking and delivering against tOSU (twice!) and then going off the NFL?  Well, Jim Harbaugh did all that.  And we reject him over a bogus statement this rabid MGowarrior made?  Please.  He is Michigan football in full glory, together with other greats like Tom Harmon, Gerald Ford, Desmond Howard, and the others.  Whether we accept him or not simply is not to the point and I am not surprised that he does not care what we think about his Michigan Man credentials.

UM Indy

January 23rd, 2013 at 8:04 AM ^

the true subliminal message of this post, as evidenced by the strategic placement of the first photo, is that Harbaugh era away jerseys were the best!


January 23rd, 2013 at 9:36 AM ^

I completely agree with all your points. Bottom line: he was a great player, and his success makes UM look good. Yes - he made very bad comments about UM - but he has put his foot in his mouth on many topics - that is his personality.

When it comes to the Super Bowl, I always look to root for the team with more Michigan alum. The Niners have Harbaugh, Goodwin, and Manningham (though he won't play). The Ravens have none. Go Niners.

After Harbaugh wins the Super Bowl, Brandon/Hoke should take advantage and invite Harbaugh to the spring game and to speak to the team in some manner.


January 24th, 2013 at 12:50 AM ^

"When it comes to the Super Bowl, I always look to root for the team with more Michigan alum. The Niners have Harbaugh, Goodwin, and Manningham (though he won't play). The Ravens have none."

But, but... the Ravens have Joe Flacco!





*sigh* go 49ers...


January 23rd, 2013 at 9:39 AM ^

Well written and well said piece. 

Growing up in Chicago, my first memories of Harbaugh were as the Bears QB, not as a Michigan guy (I was not a Michigan fan until I was 13, and didn't learn of the Harbaugh connection until later).  He was our QB through some crappy years (although what years haven't been crappy for the Bears in the past 20?)  and he was nice enough to autograph some stuff for me that I still have framed at home. 

Do I like what Harbaugh said about U of M?  Of course not.  Am I over it?  Absolutely.  What's past is past, and as you said, he's family, even if he is the arrogant douche uncle that every family has.

Do I want to see him win the Super Bowl?  I'm on the fence on that one.  On the one hand, yes, I want to see a former UM player excel on the highest level.  On the other hand, because of his dickishness, I want to see him lose to his brother.  Either way, it will hopefully be a good matchup this year and I can't wait to tune in.


January 23rd, 2013 at 9:43 AM ^

I know the general gist of Harbaugh's original statements, but I am trying to tell my mother the specifics of what he said.  After searching around I can't seem to find his original comments only the Hart response, then Harbaugh's response to Hart etc.  Does anyone have a link handy to Harbaugh's original statement?


January 23rd, 2013 at 10:03 AM ^

the San Francisco paper archived it. Here is the quote:

"Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there," he said, "but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in and, when they're in, they steer them to courses in sports communications. They're adulated when they're playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won't hire them."

There is more, of course. A few minutes with the search engine of your choice should yield plenty of reading material.

User -not THAT user

January 23rd, 2013 at 9:45 AM ^

Dude spent ten years on an MLB roster...not HOF credentials by any stretch, but that's not exactly easy to do.

Jim Harbaugh is a badass coach who used to be a badass player who played for a badass college program under a badass coach and then played for ANOTHER badass coach (DITKA) in the NFL before becoming the one bright spot at quarterback in the Colts history between Bert Jones and Peyton Manning.  I wish he loved his alma mater as much as he (and/or his wife) loves the Bay Area, but the NFL has probably always been his goal, and frankly I'm amazed his approach is working as well as it is, because he seems like such a natural college coach, a little too "rah-rah" for what a professional athlete would be willing to tolerate, but...results don't lie, he's taking a team that couldn't do squat under Mike Singletary (another badass player) and gone to the conference championship two years in a row.  Switched QB's and he's going to the Super Bowl.  As a Michigan AND Atlanta Falcons fan I long for what could have been.

The quotes he had about Michigan while he was at Stanford bothered me a little.  Maybe he had a motive behind it...the two schools do compete for the same type of scholar athlete, so he may have been speaking indirectly to recruits.  But at the risk of being interpreted as making a political statement, I feel about Harbaugh's comments pretty much the same way I feel about criticism of the American military that originates from someone who served within it; these people have fought and bled under our colors; they've earned the right to express their feelings whether I agree with what they say or not.

YES, Jim Harbaugh is a Michigan Man.  If Bo were alive to see what he's done at Stanford and at San Francisco, he'd be beaming with pride (did you see him throw that headset when Harry Douglas's catch was not overturned after NFL replay review last Sunday?  That ALONE was classic Schembechler).  You don't think Bo was proud that a quarterback from HIS system was a success in the NFL?  They ran (not exclusively, of course) from the wishbone when Harbaugh played for Bo.  Harbaugh was the first of a string of Michigan QB's to spend significant time in the NFL...few programs in the country can match Michigan when it comes to sending QB's to the league (historically Alabama has some major credentials, but they're not producing quarterbacks for the contemporary NFL the way Michigan was before RichRod was hired), and that goes back to Harbaugh.

User -not THAT user

January 23rd, 2013 at 1:41 PM ^

It doesn't tarnish what he accomplished at Michigan nor his place in the history of the program, in my opinion.  Had he bottomed out the way Maurice Clarett or Art Schlichter (or Rumeal Robinson, if you want an example closer to home) did, I'd agree flameout status was unquestionably warranted.

But yeah, he's definitely come full circle.  Who knows, maybe he was just auditioning for a spot on the New York Mets' roster.

Bando Calrissian

January 23rd, 2013 at 11:03 PM ^

Except he -did- flame out in a Clarett-type fashion.  He went AWOL on his team, had multiple suspensions for drugs from the MLB, had a couple VERY public flameouts (a DUI in the proximity of a strip club in Detroit a few years back comes to mind).  Rick Leach had a more than serious drug and alcohol problem that seriously impeded his career in the MLB.  And has had his demons after his retirement.  Period.  Not up for debate.

And if we're really going to harp on Harbaugh for being egotistical while praising Rick Leach...  Have any of you actually spent any time around Rick Leach?  Rick Leach will always be about Rick Leach.  He's Michigan through-and-through, but he's also never met a situation that couldn't be turned into an ego trip of some kind.  And always finds a way to insert himself into the situation, as encompassed by that embarrassing Victors Rally he organized.

I was at the Michigan Theatre for the premiere of the HBO Rivals special on UM-OSU.  Rick Leach was invited to come onstage.  He turned what should have been a five-minutes-or-less Go Blue speech into a twenty-minute, teary-eyed speech about his accomplishments, as well as a blow-by-blow account of his kid winning player-of-the-week at the Michigan Football Camp.  Twenty minutes.  

Two years before, at the pep rally for the 2007 Rose Bowl, Leach got up to briefly pump up the crowd, then turned it into an opportunity to tear up and talk about himself and his family, at which point he called up his parents, wife, and kids, and cried some more.  It was embarrassing to say the least.

Listen.  Rick Leach is a Michigan icon.  No doubt, first-ballot HOFer, the whole bit.  But let's not whitewash his shortcomings to denigrate Jim Harbaugh.  We don't need to apologize for everything these guys do.  Great athletes don't always have the most pleasant or acceptable dispositions.


January 23rd, 2013 at 9:45 PM ^

Harbaugh's tirade was classic Schembechler in the sense that Bo could be, at times (many times) classic Woody Hayes.  The occasional similarities always gave me pause.  I sort of loved it, but I also loved to mock Woody and somewhere deep down I didn't want our coach to be like Woody.

I was at Bo's last game as coach (Rose Bowl, 1/1/1990).  In a drive at the end of the game that had some potential to pull the game out, a penalty call killed the drive.  Bo was on the field screaming and throwing stuff (thankfully, not the first-down markers).  I felt for him (and for myself, knowing that the game was slipping away), but my predominant thought was "Bo, don't be like Woody."

Harbaugh's tirade was hilarious.  But it was all Woody.


January 23rd, 2013 at 9:54 AM ^

Brash, irascable, and speaks what is on his mind, and to hell with the consequences.

He may have said things that were unpleasant for the program and those of us that love it to hear, but he believed in his heart that they were true. You can't fault a man for speaking what he sees as the truth.

Like it or not he is part of the Michigan Family and we should accept him warts and all.

If he leads the 49er's to victory in the Super Bowl I feel assured that his mentor Bo Schembechler will be smiling down upon him knowing full well that the lessons that he imparted to him were an everlasting contribution to his success in his life.  


January 23rd, 2013 at 10:06 AM ^

He's one of the great players in the last 50 years of Michigan football, and I don't believe that can be taken from him. His on-field exploits speak for themselves.

My issue with him has to do with his statements he started making after he took the Stanford job, and how conveniently self-serving they were.

From the time he graduated from UM up until the point he took the Stanford job, I'm not aware of any single statement he ever made for public attribution that was in any way critical of the Michigan program, or that indicated his love was actually for another school. As an NFL quarterback with a fairly lengthy career, he probably had hundreds of interviews with media figures in cities all over the country, and undoubtedly more than a few reporters asked him about his Michigan experience, especially in regards to playing for Bo. Since the bulk of his career was the ten years spent in the midwestern cities of Chicago (home of the Big Ten) and Indy, there is no way any critical statement by Harbaugh about Michigan wouldn't have immediately become noteworthy, since most of the reporters in those cities would have been very familiar with Schembechler as a coach.

But when he gets to Stanford, we hear this:

"I used to stare down at that field as I was stenciling those numbers," Harbaugh told reporters, athletes and others who crowded into the Arrillaga Family Sports Center's Kissick Auditorium. "I so very badly wanted to go to Stanford and play for the Cardinal. … This was my number-one choice all along."

Now we hear from Harbaugh that he was allegedly prevented from being a history major by the Michigan coaching staff, and he's using this as a recruiting tool for the team he's now coaching in Palo Alto. Where was this apparently deep-held anger and resentment all those years he was being interviewed in Chicago or Indy, when Bo was alive and could defend himself or his staff?

I couldn't care less that Harbaugh really wanted to play for Stanford; I'm sure plenty of great UM players originally wanted to play for another team that didn't given them an offer. I do think it's interesting that it wasn't until he got to Stanford that he started saying it, though.

However, I don't believe for one second that the coaching staff literally prevented Harbaugh from being a history major because it would be too much work. Stefan Humphries had been a starter and a med student just a couple of years before Harbaugh came to campus, and I was in the Architecture program in the '70s with two players on the team, so the notion that the staff didn't want any of their players to take rigorous class loads is horseshit. What was Bo going to do if Harbaugh took history classes—put him on the bench?

Harbaugh has behaved exactly like a politician in this—he has said exactly what he thinks his audience wants to hear. When he was in the NFL in two midwestern cities while Bo was still alive, he had nothing but good to say about UM. When he was at Stanford and recruiting against UM, suddenly Stanford was his first love and UM was guilty of academic mismanagement. JIm should probably run for political office when his NFL career is over.

I will also say that if, God forbid, Brady Hoke doesn't work out and is let go, David Brandon would be absolutely crazy to not have Harbaugh at the very top of his list. He's proven that he's one of the best coaches at any level of football.


January 23rd, 2013 at 12:03 PM ^

Leaving for a college job?

Sure guys who flameout come back and do well. But I don't think there are any Super Bowl winning coaches who went back and coached college.  Which Jim very well might be in two weeks.

He's more likely to be the next Bill Belichick if he can keep winning and replacing talent around his young QB. The better shot at him coming back here someday is if he flamed out in the NFL. His had his chance to coach here and didn't want it. (Wisely, because not many NFL jobs are looking for new coaches that have the pieces SF did. He got lucky he didn't take Miami over SF).

Brandon can have him on the list, but his career would have to take some stranger turns for him to ever seriously come here.


January 23rd, 2013 at 9:52 PM ^

totally agree with you that it would be unlikely, but that doesn't mean that DB shouldn't contact him. Due diligence and all that.

Regardless, I have the hunch that DB and JH would be a gigantic clash of gigantic egos, and so it would probably never happen anyhow. The logical time window for Harbaugh to come here would have been right after the 2006 season, when supposedly LC wanted to retire.


Smash Lampjaw

January 23rd, 2013 at 1:12 PM ^

that someone as hyper-competitive as Harbaugh would say or do whatever he thinks will help him. Also, when I was too young to know better, I wanted to be a Yankee. With a little more maturity I came to prefer the Tigers. Now, if it were in any way useful to me, I can honestly claim to have been a Yankee fan. 

I agree that he should top the list of a future coaching search, and I don't think it will be out of the question. As someone posted earlier, a little bird also told me that his decision to go to the '49ers was Mrs. Harbaugh's call, and it came at a tender point in their child's nativity. Who can doubt that it is possible for him to wear out his welcome in San Francisco?

Dutch Ferbert

January 23rd, 2013 at 9:58 AM ^

I still love Harbaugh in much the same way I love my family members who are on the opposite end of the political spectrum than I am, or my family members who went to State. Maybe, those family members can be abrasive and annoying at times, but in the end, we share a lot of the same values.

Harbaugh still talks glowingly about Bo and honors Bo's coaching style with his Manball approach. I remember watching Stanford destroy Virginia Tech in a BCS bowl right after Rich Rod was canned and dying for Harbaugh to bring that toughness to Michigan.

Finally, you stated in your post, "He is, in the course of his life, also frequently abrasive, arrogant, and even mean. He is a jerk."

This is as true about Bo as it is about Harbaugh. Bo didn't take crap from anyone and said what he thought. In fact, this is true of any successful coach. Most of us love Brady Hoke and think he is not a jerk, but he can be when needed. One of my favorite moments was his introductory press conference when he put Drew Sharp in his place with a curt answer to a stupid question. It reminded me of Bo (or Lloyd with a half time question from a sideline reporter).

Did Harbaugh's comments about Michigan piss me off? Yes. Can I be a big boy and move on? Yes. Harbaugh has done more than Michigan than most of us, so I will give him a pass and pull for the 49ers.


January 25th, 2013 at 10:29 AM ^

I agree with much of what you said, including that Harbaugh can be a jerk.  But I take exception with your equating his jerk-ness with Hoke's interaction with Drew Sharp.  Sharp was being the jerk, and Hoke handled him with patience and class, as well as with strength and certainty.  Sharp kept trying to put words in his mouth, and Hoke, with that little smile in his eyes that we've gotten used to, but was new to us at the time, simply repeated his own words.  Strongly and clearly.  (Repeat interaction, 2 or 3 times more.)  I clearly remember that moment, because it was when I woke up to this surprising (to most of us) choice of a coach.  I saw that look in his eyes and said, "Yes!"  This was a guy I could root for. 

I used to root for Harbaugh as a player, and he's apparently a very good coach.  But I know when the final teams for the Super Bowl were announced I found myself not really caring who won.  Ray Lewis is a good player too.  Not equating his misdeeds with Harbaugh's, but I'm not really excited about rooting for either of them.  And even though Mario could get a ring, I can't watch him play and celebrate.  (Yes, I rooted for Jonathan Goodwin even back in his Jets days.  But rooting for a center to make good snaps and avoid penalties is simply not enough.  And he too already has a ring.)

But now that I think about it, maybe I'll root for John Harbaugh.

By the way, two of the Ravens' assistant coaches have Michigan roots: Andy Moeller is the Assistant Offensive Line and Teryl Austin, the DB coach, used to be an assistant coach at Michigan.

EDIT:  Apparently MGoBlue.com is out of date.  According to the Ravens website, Moeller is no longer an assistant but the real-deal Offensive Line coach. 


January 23rd, 2013 at 10:25 AM ^

I grew up in Scottsdale and my eventual attendance at UofM(95'-99') stems from New Year's Day 1986. My Dad picked up some extra tickets to the Fiesta Bowl from a coworker. I saw the helmets coming out of the tunnel and was an instant fan.

I will take Harbaugh and 3-4 years of trash talking and a BCS game over 10 years of stability with Hoke any day of the week. (I do like Hoke and feel good about the state of the program)  The intensity of Harbaugh vs. Meyer would be Woody vs Bo caliber. Jim would've been a short-timer, but Schembechler Hall would have some additional hardware to display.


January 23rd, 2013 at 10:28 AM ^

To be honest, I have held a bit of a grudge since the comments but I have also been quick to point out to my Niner fan friends that their coach is a Michigan man. Your post has made me rethink my opinion of him however. I was in diapers when Harbaugh was playing at Michigan but I have always been a Chris Webber supporter for all the reasons you stated, primarily because my first fond sports memories are of the Fab Five. I think forgiving and embracing these Michigan men, in both of these situations, is tremendously benificial for recruiting. We all make mistakes.