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Thursday Morning Brews: Jimmy eats world

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Jim Harbaugh is a colorful character. Do his antics help or hurt Michigan Football?

NCAA Football: Hawaii at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Thursday, folks. Welcome to Morning Brews. Hopefully you’re enjoying our game week coverage thus far. As I said on Tuesday, fire away in the comments of stories if you see something you like, don’t like, etc. MnB is a place for fans, so your input is important.

This morning we’re talking about Jim Harbaugh. In the lead up to Saturday’s game against Florida, the head man has been drawing some headlines - mostly related to the now released roster. Harbaugh is no stranger to controversy. He does things his own way, and not much can dissuade him from what he thinks he needs to do for his teams to win. The question, though, is whether Harbaugh’s antics always help the team or if they’re sometimes a distraction. Also in this morning’s Brews we have a profile of senior LB Mike McCray, and his journey to being a captain.

As usual, there is a musical theme this morning. There are at least two clues mixed into today’s article that combine to reference a song. These clues may include text in the story as well as pictures. If you think that you can guess this morning’s song, fire away down in the comments. After being heavy on the Pixies and David Bowie in recent weeks, this one is a little different.

Let’s get to it:

University of Michigan Introduces Jim Harbaugh Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Jim Harbaugh is Trolling You, Get Used to It

Quite frankly, Jim Harbaugh is winning. I don’t mean on the field (he’s doing that, too), but I mean off the field. About once a month, sometimes more, there’s a story here on MnB, on the SBN CFB site, or in one of the regional newspapers about something Harbaugh has done. Jim’s antics have become a story all their own, aside and apart from Michigan Football. The most recent case is that of the missing Michigan roster, a stone cold whodunit if there ever was one.

Harbaugh has been notoriously guarded with certain information about the football program. Rosters are updated annually to comply with NCAA regulations (technically only a squad list for scholarship compliance purposes is required), and two-deeps are nonexistent. Sometimes opposing programs respond with good-natured needling, like when Colorado released a satirical two-deep for Michigan prior to last year’s matchup. Colorado’s Sports Information Director said at the time, “Sometimes you’ve just gotta have fun. It seems like fun’s escaped the world lately, so I thought we would do it.” More recently, the program released a roster of former Michigan players and coaches in the media guide for the Florida game.

However, not everyone is amused by Harbaugh’s antics. NJ.com filed a FOIA request for the roster earlier this month, ostensibly seeking the document so they could write a story on New Jersey players at FBS schools. The University responded by invoking an extension provision, and then denied the request outright indicating that the roster did not then exist. Even though squad lists need not be formulated and submitted to the NCAA until the first day of outside competition for the season (Sept. 2), NJ.com has been less than pleased with how the FOIA process has gone. Harbaugh has since released the roster.

Aside from certain media outlets doing their sackcloths and ashes bit over a university lawyer telling them “no,” Harbaugh’s predilection for secrecy is also being put to opposing coaches. Notably, Jim McElwain has fielded questions on the Michigan roster in the run up to Saturday’s game. He said of Harbaugh’s antics, “He obviously felt he needed to do some things to be relevant and that's his choice. I probably wouldn't have done it.”

Personally, I don’t think you should tug on superman’s cape, but to each his own. If I were McElwain, I would be more worried about what I was doing since he appears to have a program in crisis. Suspending nine players (it might be up to ten, reports vary) this early in the season for things like misappropriating funds, drug use, and an unspecified violation of team rules is one heck of a glass house to be casting stones from.

I don’t think that anyone can seriously argue that Michigan taking a long time to release an updated roster is that big of a deal. All anyone has to do is take last year’s roster, cross off the players who left, and add the players who enrolled from the most recent recruiting class. It will take about an hour to do. Want a two-deep? Here, look at ours (Offense/Defense and ST). It will be pretty close to what you see on the field, I promise. There used to be this thing in college football called scouting. It’s what off-the-field coaches and grad. assistants are for.

My broader point in all of this is that McElwain was forced to respond, and that means that Harbaugh is winning. As...different as some of Harbaugh’s antics are, they’re effective. Opposing coaches could simply say, “I’m focused on preparing my team for the upcoming game and I don’t have time for this extracurricular stuff.” But, they don’t. They almost invariably respond, which draws attention away from game prep. - and that’s helping Michigan.

Sure, some of what Harbaugh does is idiosyncratic. But at the end of the day, he is a hyper-competitive person. Perhaps in a different life he would be a pool shootin’ son of a gun. Harbaugh has made clear that he’s going to do everything within the rules to gain an advantage, and he’s putting on a master class. It’s Jimmy’s world, and we’re just living in it.

Poll

Do Harbaugh’s antics help or hurt the program?

This poll is closed

  • 90%
    Help. Anything (legal) to gain an advantage
    (487 votes)
  • 3%
    Hurt. They’re a distraction for the team
    (18 votes)
  • 6%
    Other (comment)
    (35 votes)
540 votes total Vote Now

With the season just around the corner, here’s a great profile of one of Michigan’s few seniors - Mike McCray. Over the past couple years, McCray’s career trajectory has taken him from an injured, redshirted, and ready to transfer young player to a captain of Team 138. How close was McCray to leaving? According to Director of Football Academic Services Claiborne Green, “Mike was pretty serious because he was already talking about certain schools.”

By coming to Michigan, McCray was fighting history. His father was a standout LB and captain at Ohio State, so the obvious destination for McCray during his recruitment was Columbus - not Ann Arbor. Add in the coaching turmoil at Michigan during McCray’s tenure, and it’s not hard to see why he could have concluded that Michigan wasn’t the place for him. To find out what made McCray decide to stay at Michigan, and more on his path to becoming a captain like his father, check out the profile above.