Normally, this article will feature three sections: Michigan, the Big Ten, and the national scene. This week, however, it will feature only Michigan.
It's been an adventurous college football offseason. And despite OSU winning a national title, several teams making coaching changes, and MSU eternally playing the DISRESPECT card, a 5-7 team grabbed the spotlight. And not just some of the spotlight, but ALL OF THE SPOTLIGHT. Harbaugh Mania ran rampant in Ann Arbor this offseason, as Jim deviated from the norm, and went back to college as a very successful pro coach. Many others like Spurrier and Saban went back from pro to college, but none of them can even sniff the kind of pro success that Jim Harbaugh has had.
WHAT WE LEARNED: ABOUT MICHIGAN
Jim Harbaugh's first choice was Michigan. The NFL talking heads were convinced that Harbaugh would NEVER leave the NFL for the college ranks. It was a little eerie how arrogant and unified the NFL writers became when it came to the subject. They didn't even consider the possibility, as they couldn't even fathom the possibility of Harbaugh taking a supposed "step back" in his career, or a university being able to compete in the Harbaugh sweepstakes from a financial standpoint.
Little doubt Mark Davis could beat any Michigan offer to Harbaugh. I heard he had double this out there for Gruden, who walked. Stay tuned— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 18, 2014
Said it before, will keep saying it: Harbaugh wants to stay in the NFL. RT @Carr_Crazy @49ers Are these Jim to Michigan rumors real?— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) December 16, 2014
Only about a thousand people. Do they have $50M to spend? RT @georgemalone Has anyone brought up that the Michigan job might be open soon?— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) September 22, 2014
However, Michigan was able to get Harbaugh without necessarily breaking the bank. In fact, he left money on the table, opting to keep more money in the budget to handsomely pay assistant coaches. While Harbaugh knows being able to pay elite assistants is paramount to winning in both the pros and college, the fact is that he came home at a discount, and he wants to be at Michigan.
Jim Harbaugh told Hackett he did NOT want to be the highest paid coach in CFB, or even the Big Ten. More concerned with pay for assistants.— John U. Bacon (@Johnubacon) December 30, 2014
On Michigan as a destination job: "I've built a lot of really nice homes ... I'd really like to live in one permanently."— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) December 30, 2014
Michigan's first choice was Jim Harbaugh. In the Twitter era, a lot of emphasis is put on speed. And as a result, making decisions quickly is seen as a sign of strength. Florida was lauded for their swift hiring of Colorado State's Jim McElwain, for instance. Meanwhile, Michigan's methodical approach (a.k.a. waiting until the 49ers season was done) in their coaching search was seen as a sign of weakness.
Desperation level for Michigan football has reached "ludicrous"— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) December 17, 2014
Sources: Michigan "struggling" to find their next head coach http://t.co/nFGYtk4rfF— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) December 2, 2014
And while Michigan was getting criticized by the talking heads, the rush to be first to report the new hire was on, accuracy be damned.
Gil Brandt, who is as connected as they come, says he sees Schiano as the potential front-runner at Michigan: http://t.co/ocKXLFMnwN— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) December 5, 2014
Was told tonight #Michigan officials offered David Cutcliffe their job but the #Duke coach turned it down. Times sure have changed.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) December 10, 2014
Gil Brandt gets good information: If he heard David Cutcliffe turned down the Michigan job, bank on it that Cutcliffe turned down U-M.— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) December 10, 2014
Meanwhile, one member of the Michigan blogging community, who would never toot his own horn, had it right before all of these big name guys.
Coach Harbaugh will have this team ready to go for the rematch next year in Utah.— LG (@LGhail) September 20, 2014
But anyway, Michigan wasn't trying to hire Butch Davis, Greg Schiano, David Cutcliffe, or anyone else. Their eyes were on Jim Harbaugh all along. They wanted Harbaugh all along. And credit has to go to interim AD Jim Hackett for reeling in the big fish. He made the job look appealing to Harbaugh, he listened to what it would take to get him, and he patiently waited for the NFL season to end, as the B-list candidates took jobs elsewhere. It was a calculated risk that paid off big time.
Jim Harbaugh loves to recruit. One of the reasons people thought Michigan couldn't land Harbaugh is that he would not want the year long grind that college football brings. NFL coaches get some semblance of an offseason, but when college coaches aren't coaching, they are recruiting. So naturally the NFL guys thought Harbaugh would not want any part of such a thing.
Good stuff from @AdamSchefter on Harbaugh/Michigan. Just understand, Harbs HATES recruiting/alumni butt kissing. Good at it. Hates it— Jason Cole (@JasonColeBR) December 20, 2014
Jim Harbaugh wants to win NOW. Some coaches come in preaching a 3-5 year plan, but Jim Harbaugh is NOT wired that way. By any account, Michigan's weakest spot in 2014 was the quarterback position. Going back and forth between Devin Gardner and Shane Morris was like switching rooms on the Titanic. While Jim Harbaugh has a reputation as a QB whisperer and could likely develop a QB on the roster eventually, he chose to take Michigan down a new path. Michigan does not have a reputation at all as a school who takes graduate transfers, but Harbaugh broke that wall down and brought in Jake Rudock from Iowa to be the likely starter at QB. He also brought in grad transfers Wayne Lyons (CB) and Blake O'Neill (P) to provide a quick infusion of talent. With home games against the two chief rivals MSU and OSU this season, Harbaugh took these steps to give his team the best chance to pull the upset at the Big House in these big games.
When Brady Hoke was at Michigan, he did things like taking the team bowling during fall camp. This can create camaraderie, but Jim Harbaugh hasn't done anything like this, and will not. He values every second of training camp and wants to squeeze every ounce of talent out of his players.
Harbaugh on fall camp: "If you enjoy it, there's probably a good chance you're not going to be very good."— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) August 28, 2015
I've seen coaches bring ice cream trucks to practice, take the team to swimming pool, something to break monotony. None of that w/ Harbaugh— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) August 28, 2015
Michigan fans are starved for a winner. The offseason has been full of countdown clocks, beat writers desperate to get ANY information at all about Michigan, and fans wondering who will be the starters. After the RichRod and Hoke eras, Michigan fans can't wait for September 3. The date has become bigger than major holidays for Michigan fans. The prevailing opinion with Harbaugh is that it isn't *IF* he will build a winner at Michigan, but *WHEN*. However patience among fans is understandably running thin. Michigan fans are tired of disappointing seasons, watching their team lose to teams they are not used to losing to, and seeing their main rivals build empires and experience lots of success. And despite the failures in recent years, the much needed hiring of Jim Harbaugh has Michigan fans asking, "Who's got it better than us?!?"