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Everything Jim Harbaugh said at national championship media day

All the quotes from Harbaugh two days before the national championship game.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Media Day-Michigan Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media for an hour on Saturday morning at the national championship media day in Houston. Harbaugh touched on a lot of topics ranging from player revenue, thoughts on Washington, and what his players and staff mean to him.

Here’s everything Harbaugh said at media day.

Q. How much will the result of this game influence your level of interest in coaching in the NFL afterwards?

JIM HARBAUGH: I have no idea about that. I couldn’t be more happy to be here. This is a tremendous city. They do everything big in Texas, and this is cool. This is right where we want to be. This is where we worked, to get there.

Q. I understand you don’t want to focus on this, but people are wondering about the future of Michigan’s football program and you’re a big part of that. And I know the administration wants you back. Have you told them and assured them that you will be here after this season?

JIM HARBAUGH: Yeah, there’s a calendar — I’ll gladly talk about the future next week. And I hope to have one, how about that? A future, I hope to have one, yes. Thank you.

Q. Obviously a lot of things have to go right to get to this point. Can you speak to maybe your proudest challenges you’ve overcome to get to this moment?

JIM HARBAUGH: You’re so right. So many things have to go right, and I congratulate Washington. Undefeated. Taking on all comers, I can see why they have won all their games. They’re an outstanding, thorough, solid football team in every way.

They have a quarterback that has the “it” factor. So do we. We’ve got a quarterback with the “it” factor — and a really, really good team in all phases. Just what makes it so exciting to be playing in this game. I feel like if you’re going to be the best then you’ve got to beat the best.

And we look at Washington as a great football team. But I mean anything — obstacles, overcoming things, we’ve done a lot of that, but sometimes the obstacles are the way.

And, for instance, it’s just been fun. It’s just been, describing going to work every day and being around a guy like J.J. McCarthy, it’s a blast. Being around a guy like Blake Corum, I mean, it is inspirational.

Being around a guy like Junior Colson, also inspirational. If he can do it with really one-half a hand. He’s got half a hand. Most people have two. He’s playing with half a hand out there and had 10 tackles last week. If he can do it, then, hey, I can do it. I can be resilient, I can give it my very best.

Mike Sainristil, guys at the level of — I take great inspiration — Donovan Edwards, his personality. It’s a blast to be around him, go to practice and work every day.

So maybe it all sounds however it sounds, but I’m having a blast.

Q. You heap a ton of praise on J.J. McCarthy; you just said right now. Given how modern offenses are built around the strengths of their quarterbacks, why is the passing game not a bigger part of this offense considering how you feel about J.J.?

JIM HARBAUGH: He’s been a pretty darn big part. Three touchdowns passes last week, well over 200 yards. I think the thing that makes him great is he’s so talented, so athletically gifted, but mentally he is so sharp.

You have to be sharp as a coach to keep up with him. He comes into the meetings prepared. He looks at the cut-ups. He’s already looked at the games. You could reference a cut-up and he knows it. He’s already previewed the game plan.

Kirk Campbell, he’s on his game. Kirk Campbell is a football guy, great coach. But in order to stimulate J.J., Kirk has to be on the cutting edge, too.

If you want to be on the cutting edge you have to be razor sharp, and they both are. And it’s just a blast to be around.

Q. What is your typical game week like in coaching beyond addressing the team? Do you duck into meetings, game planning, everything like that? I’m thinking about the fourth down play against Alabama. Was that you or Sherrone? How much flexibility was that?

JIM HARBAUGH: It’s just a big team effort. Good thing about being a head coach you get to coach anybody, everybody. Mostly with the quarterbacks.

And the play calling in the past game, what Sherrone did as a play caller, he got our favorite plays off the sheet and he called them at the right time. And never better than that two-minute drive and then into overtime.

Jesse Minter, I switch over, I switched over and listen to Jesse call the game. And he’s incredible. Two great callers in the game in Sherrone Moore and Jesse Minter.

Q. This team has gone through a lot of adversity this season. How would you describe the fight in this team?

JIM HARBAUGH: It’s been great. I mean, it’s been a blast just to be around the team every single day.

I mean, these are like one-year cycles, 365 days. You’re looking at a true calendar. As soon as the season ends, last year, I think about J.J. McCarthy watching the celebration at the semifinal game. It really began there.

And we had spring practice that started about five weeks after that game last year. The winter cycle, the summer cycle, the spring cycle, into training camp. So it’s a full year.

And to watch our guys just with how they’ve gone about their business, really inspiring, as I said earlier. Really proud of our guys, but bottom line it’s just been a lot of fun. It’s been a blast.

Q. 26-1, J.J. has the second highest winning percentage as a starter behind Chuck Ealey at Toledo in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Your dad coached two years against him. Curious, what do you know about Chuck Ealey and what do you think about 35-0, does it boggle your mind?

JIM HARBAUGH: Chuck Ealey, I know that name, I could have told you that. It’s somebody that was talked a lot about in the house growing up when we were kids. My dad was a secondary coach.

What J.J. has done is remarkable. And people say he preys on him, and I think I’m hitting it right down the middle of the strike zone. He’s a great football player. He’s got the “it” factor in every way.

And so does Mr. Penix. I look at them both, great quarterbacks, elite talents. And they both have that “it” factor, as did Chuck Ealey.

Q. Last time you were in the championship game the lights went out. Have you had a chance to find the breaker box at NRG? And how does this week compare to Super Bowl week for you?

JIM HARBAUGH: Very similar. Very similar comparison to Super Bowl week. It’s got that same feeling. It’s what you’re striving for, just to be simply known as world champions or national champions. That’s what you’re going for.

Q. Want to go back to the point you made about heaping praise on J.J. You bring up the name Tom Brady a lot when you talk about J.J. For a lot of players, that might be a comparison that intimidates them or something. Why do you feel comfortable talking about the greatest quarterback of all time with your guy who is in his third year of college?

JIM HARBAUGH: Tom’s been great to J.J. I mean, Tom and J.J. talk and communicate, and some great nuggets to J.J.

Simply what I said was, exactly, was I think J.J. is the best college quarterback in the history of Michigan football — college quarterback. A long way to go to get to where Tom Brady is, which is the greatest of all time. Tom Brady is the greatest football player of all time. He’s lapped the field. He’s lapped the field a full lap.

J.J. has a long way to go to get to that. But in terms of I think of who the best college quarterback in the 144-year history of Michigan football. I’m nominating J.J. McCarthy. I’m not the maker of that list, but that’s my opinion.

Q. How do you feel about beating Alabama and Ohio State in the same season?

JIM HARBAUGH: It felt good. It feels good. One more game to go. One more phase line to get to. And the team’s in a very good spot. Very loose and focused, ready to roll.

Q. When you talk about that flight back to Ann Arbor from the Rose Bowl, how much did you let yourself enjoy that moment, that game, before the switch flipped, so to speak, to the Washington game?

JIM HARBAUGH: That’s a great question. Happy flight. I just go “happy flight.” Get around all the guys. You kind of walk up and down the aisles a little bit, talk about the game, ask guys questions.

It’s just celebrating, just really fully celebrating that feeling. And then after a couple of hours drinking a Diet Coke on ice and reflecting on it, taking it all in. About 6 hours, to answer your question. It’s usually about 6 hours for me then start thinking about the next game.

Q. When last season ended, TCU, and J.J. McCarthy said we’ll be back, I promise, or whatever, from that point to now —

JIM HARBAUGH: Not “whatever.” That’s what he said. “We’ll be back.” That’s what he said. Not whatever. He said it and did it and brought that to life. I mean, that’s really cool.

Q. I didn’t mean to add the word “whatever,” but when that happened, did you see the same thing and what did you think would be the biggest obstacle?

JIM HARBAUGH: I mean, it’s just like anything. I mean, there’s resolution, but then resolution without repetition is meaningless.

I mean, what I saw was the repetition, the repetition — daily, weekly, monthly. I knew he was on a mission. I knew Blake Corum was on a mission, Trevor Keegan, Zinter, Mikey Sainristil, Mike Barrett, Junior Colson, Colston Loveland — and then a group of transfers came in that fit in right away, they were so tremendous for our team.

So it was the repetition and the focus and the goal with which they were trying to achieve that, okay, this is cool. This is a blast, I love being around this. And let’s just keep having at it, let’s keep doing it.

Q. Last week you got to match up with Saban, one of the all-time greats. And this week you get a guy that’s far less high profile than Nick. We don’t know a lot about him. What do you know about him and as you go against him on Monday?

JIM HARBAUGH: Coach has done a tremendous job. Did a tremendous job at Fresno State, taking that program right away — gotta be impressed with how fast this has happened. It takes a lot of people years to turn a program or flip a program, and he’s done it in such a short time. I just think he’s a rising star in the profession, without question. He is a star — not a rising star. He’s a shining star.

When you’re able to accomplish like that, that’s a shining star. And I put very little into what people say, but what people do. I mean, your actions speak so loudly that can’t even hear what people are saying.

His actions are there. They’re the actions. They’re the record. And been very impressive. Shining star.

Q. When you’re watching film of Michael Penix, what’s the scariest thing he does? What keeps you up at night about him?

JIM HARBAUGH: Well, the “it” factor that he has. He’s just got it. Next, just, like, no conscience. He’s got no conscience when he’s throwing one of those balls into the tightest window and the confidence that he can put it in there and his receivers are going to make a play. I mean, that’s scary good.

As good as he is in the pocket, he’s deadly when he gets out of the pocket, too, in either direction. It’s formidable. It’s elite.

And he’s got the “it” factor. He’s got great arm talent. Can tell he’s a really cerebral guy. He knows.

The next thing I would say is the real clock he has in his head. I mean, he gets in trouble, boom, it’s going to a check-down. He just sees the field, knows where everybody is at all times.

So it’s an exciting match-up for our secondary. We think we’ve got a really good one. And then it’s got to coordinate with the pass rush, the discipline to keep him in the pocket because he’s deadly outside the pocket, too. So all those things.

Excited about the challenge. To be the best you’ve got to beat the best. All those things are what I think.

Q. With all due respect there were some who thought that Bama and Texas would be here today. Can you speak to the strength of the Big Ten Conference and what this game says about the conference schedule?

JIM HARBAUGH: No real thoughts about that. No real strength — there are things I don’t know. Really just thoughts about defending Washington’s offense, moving the ball, getting the three tech blocked are where most of my thoughts are.

That’s a great question, though. Cool question. I just haven’t thought that much about that question.

Q. You mentioned about the cooperation of your staff and the players. This team this season was built on trust just because of the fact of what was going on off the field didn’t affect them on the field. Just talk about this team’s trust in each other and the coaching staff to get to this point?

JIM HARBAUGH: It was just a choice. I mean, it’s been a choice all along, choice to trust each other, choice to really come together as a ball team. Choice to be unselfish. Choice to be a team player.

And it really had nothing to do with what was going on at all. It was more about the choice our guys were making. The choice to unanimously support each guy. You know what I mean? On the field, off the field, same kind of support they get at home from their parents and their family members.

But you can trust and know it’s going to be unanimous from your teammates, too, in a tight spot in training. You’re in a tough spot in a practice or a game, you know you have a teammate or teammates that are going to have your back and spot you in a lift and get you through a tough workout. It’s that kind of unanimous support that our team has for each other.

And unconditional. That would be another “U” word that I would use that makes up who our guys are.

Q. When last season ended, your players clearly felt they could be back here. When did you think it was possible? And was there any point where you thought, in a game or whatever, that it could possibly not happen?

JIM HARBAUGH: I thought it was possible right then and there, when we walked off that field, right when J.J. said, we would be back, I thought it was possible.

And then to watch the repetition every day of what our guys were doing, how they went right back to work. As I said, what you do speaks so loudly that we can’t even hear what you’re saying. What our guys do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis speaks so loudly.

Q. What’s the difference between the fun level and the time management level between coaching in the NFL and college, if you could compare and contrast?

JIM HARBAUGH: I don’t have that list in front of me. I don’t have that list.

Q. Your thought on the current state of college football, a lot of changes with teams going to different conferences, transfer portal and NIL. A lot happening at the same time. Your thoughts on that generally?

JIM HARBAUGH: Once again, no real thoughts on the state of college football. No question it’s evolving, a lot of changes are happening. The one I can’t figure out is why the players aren’t sharing in the revenue, why that change hasn’t occurred.

People come to watch the players. They really don’t come to watch the coaches. They don’t come watch the administrators. They come to watch the players. And in a world where the revenue is ever growing, the student-athletes being able to participate in that ever-growing revenue, who could argue against them? And when is that going to change? When is everybody going to start using their voice to say, hey, this is wrong; this isn’t right?

There’s guys out here not even getting paid minimum wage. And I’m not talking about just football players. I’m talking about all student-athletes that need to participate. The talent needs to participate in the ever-growing share of the revenue. I’d like to see that change.

We’ve seen a whole conference go into a portal. If that those kind of things can happen overnight, things we saw this year, they just happen, then — I don’t know how the sausage gets made completely, but there’s a lot of smart people that do, that know a lot about revenue sharing, know a lot about how those algorithms and economics work. And the real issue is there’s no voice for the players.

And the organizations, conferences, universities, NCAA, they’re well-represented. They have legal firepower at every angle. And the student-athletes, they don’t have a voice; they’re not represented in any way, and that needs to change, too.

But like I said, if stuff can happen this quick, like we’ve seen this year, then I’m hopeful that there’s a wrong that could be righted quickly as well.

Q. On that note, because there isn’t revenue sharing, all the schools have had to use this NIL, and then there’s NIL, people using it as pay-per-play and basically like that. Every program has had to navigate it a certain way. I’m curious how you feel Michigan has navigated NIL has contributed to you maintaining a good culture in the locker room even though there is money floating around them?

JIM HARBAUGH: People do say that. They say, well, NIL and that’s cool, but guys are working for that. They’re working for that. In a lot of ways you have to be a pitch man. You’ve got to go do something. They really are earning it with what they’re doing on the field.

There used to be a saying: Old coaches — my dad’s used it, my brother’s used it — like, hey, we’re all robbing the same train here. Like coaches, administrators, media, television stations, conferences, NCAA. And the ones that are really robbing the train, the ones that could really get hurt are getting a very small piece.

So that needs to change, too. That needs to change. And it’s one thing for somebody to say, well, they’re getting NIL, but, heh, the billions that are being generated they’re getting, they’re not getting much of, very small percentage.

They’re getting the same amount as I got in the ‘80s. You’re getting a scholarship, room, board, books and tuition. So it’s like, come on, man, let’s do the right thing here.

And who is that voice? I don’t know that, who is the voice for the student-athletes. But got the organizations that are really fighting for their share and their piece, and it’s time to share.

I would say this, anyone who is profiting from the student-athletes right now, myself included, coaches, somewhere between 5 and 10 percent, take 5 to 10 percent less — that would go for any administrator, any coach, any conference, any university, NCAA — 5 to 10 percent less and maybe a 10 percent tax from the television station more, into one pot for the student-athletes. Maybe that’s a start, a way.

But some conversations here on how to get it done, because I don’t know if people know this, but I’ve been told maybe 17 percent is going up, the TV contracts are going up another 17 percent next year.

Ever-growing. Ever-increasing revenue that it be right for the student-athletes, not just football, all student-athletes, to share in.

Q. The mental health of your staff, when you look at the offseason, the new calendar that college football is dealing with right now, what steps do you take, how important is it to make sure that your coaching staff gets time with family, gets home at a reasonable time, especially during the busy season, the summer, what not? Altogether, mental health capacity of the program?

JIM HARBAUGH: Yeah, getting home, being with the family, it’s what I do. I recommend they do the same thing.

I’m either at work or doing something with the family. They’re my two great loves, really, the family at work and the family at home.

Q. I know it was more of a storyline last year, but how much of an impact does Meechie still have on this team and how often do you think about him?

JIM HARBAUGH: Meechie’s mom and his grandma visit us pretty regularly. Meechie has a son we get to be involved with and keep an eye on. We knew as soon as we met Meechie that we would be connected for a long time.

Q. A lot of your players around here have been talking about Michigan against the world, Michigan against everybody. What does that mean to you?

JIM HARBAUGH: I think I started seeing that a couple of years ago with Michigan, “Detroit versus everybody,” “Michigan versus everybody” T-shirts. It’s a cool saying. It’s just cool.

I’m one of those guys who likes cool sayings, too. I like that one. I wish I would have come up with it, is my last thought on that.

Q. Back to the revenue-sharing thing, I think maybe a lot of people don’t grasp the time commitment that college athletes put into their sport. And just wondering your experience around the NFL, how that compares to just the professional player?

JIM HARBAUGH: It’s school. What the college players have is school and their football career. It’s a lot of time. It’s 20 hours a week and that’s just countable activities, that’s on the field, in the weight room or in meetings. But guys are doing a lot that get injured for rehab and back and forth to class. It’s a lot.

College players don’t spend as much time as the pro football players do. They’re 8 to 5 as a player. And they’re doing extra. Our guys do extra. Whatever.

It’s more the fact that there’s a lot of people profiting off the backs of student-athletes. And they do a lot of work to keep it from them. It’s all kind of rules — and have been doing it for a long time.

If things can change as they’ve changed so quickly in college athletics just this year, just in 2023, we’ve seen so much change, including a whole conference going into a portal, then you’re hopeful. I mean, you’re confident that this is something that could change rather quickly with the right voice, with the right people talking about it, with eventually someone to speak for the players.

They need that and that’s missing right now. Just confident it can happen. If other things can happen this quickly, then why can’t that? When is the time? The time seems like it’s now.

Q. You’re a Michigan man. You played here, came back, knows what this means for the alma mater. What would it mean to deliver a national championship to Michigan with this team?

JIM HARBAUGH: The best part is just what it means for each guy on the team, each player on the team that their families can say, you know, my son’s a champion. My son’s a national champion, for the grandparents, the relatives, brothers and sisters to say my brother’s a national champion.

I feel the same way with my kids, for them to be able to know their dad’s a champion or my wife to know her husband’s a champion. It’s really for everybody else. And that’s what makes it so much better is that it’s just so many people involved that get to reap the reward of that.

Q. There’s been so much attention on Washington’s offense, your defense and this defensive front. Obviously they did so much against Alabama to control the game. How do you feel about that match-up and what the challenges that Washington presents with Michael Penix Jr. and company?

JIM HARBAUGH: He’s got the “it” factor. He’s elite, great receivers, really tremendous offensive line. Washington defense, that doesn’t get talked about enough. They’re really good. Their secondary is so opportunistic. A bunch of interceptions, like 18. They get their hands get on the ball they’re really good.

Maybe our offense doesn’t get talked enough. Love our offense. I love our quarterback. He also has the “it” factor.

Washington is a thorough team. Let me say that. Offense, defense, special teams, and so are we. The evidence is there.

They’ve taken on all comers, and they’ve come out on top every single time. We’ve taken on all comers and come out on top every single time. This is really best versus best. To be the best you’ve got to beat the best. And we’re ready to have at it.

Q. Jesse worked with your brother in Baltimore. What does Jesse bring to the defense and how does he impact the team as a whole?

JIM HARBAUGH: Jesse is a great coach. He’s just so smart, really cerebral. But he’s so collaborative, too. He gets everybody’s input. And he can do it on a really timely fashion. I mean, we’re going to look at these formations, these plays. We’re going to get these defensed and get out on topic, get input, get a plan and move on to the next phase.

He’s very good about that, very smart, has answers. But he’s able to get the rest of the coaches involved.

Mike Elston has had an amazing year, our defensive line coach. Steve Clinkscale has done a great job. Jay Harbaugh. Great job by Chris Partridge, by Minter.

And Jesse does a great job in getting those thoughts and inputs from everybody and putting it all together, coordinating. And then as a play caller, he is just so money, so sharp, can process that information so quick and kick out the call.

He’s also a great player’s coach. He understands the players. They understand him. He knows them, they know him. Just so well rounded as a coach. He’s a tremendous coach.

I would say the exact same thing about Sherrone Moore. They’re cut from the same cloth, both going to the highest level of the profession. And the whole program has been lucky to have both those guys. And Jay Harbaugh has been a tremendous special teams coordinator.

I could talk about every guy on the staff, like Moses. I’m going to die leaning on my staff. They’ve been tremendous.

Q. Talked to a number of the fifth-year, sixth-year guys, Mikey, Mike B, Trevor just had their last practice. Shem, you all talk about the one-track mind all year. This is obviously the end of the track. They’ve been on this train ride a bit longer than everyone else, can you just speak to their impact, the guys who came back, and just where you are at the end of this track one or the other with this group?

JIM HARBAUGH: One more phase line to go. One more to achieve. One more game to go. That’s where we’re at. We did have that last practice in Ann Arbor, and that was on Friday, then flew here.

And it is as one-track mind as it can be. It’s like a thoroughbred horse thundering down the straightaway. The blinders are on and we see the finish line. And we’re going to the whip, just each guy — but also with a good balance.

It’s a focused and loose team at the same time, really in the sweet spot from where I see it. But that’s where we’re at.

Q. What kind of head coach is Coach Moore going to be in the future?

JIM HARBAUGH: Tremendous. We’ve already seen it, right? You’ve already got a glimpse of the shining star that he is. He’s just phenomenal, so smart, works so hard at it. Knows what it’s like to be a player. Was a player. And really, really composed. Something goes wrong, three, two, one, let it go. He’s tremendous at that.

Never better than he was in that two-minute drive in the Rose Bowl and in overtime. Knew he had to call the game, the drive of his life, and he did.

Saw the same thing when he’s coaching against Ohio State in the Big House. The same thing when he went to Penn State. How about that? You gotta go to Penn State, you find out the day before the game, in addition to your offensive line coaching duties, your offensive coordinating play duties and your play-calling duties, you’re also going to make the head coach decisions as well.

So Sherrone Moore, shining star. No doubt about it. It doesn’t even matter what anybody says. It’s what you do. What you do speaks so loudly can’t even hear what you’re saying.

Q. What did you see in him as a young coach at Central Michigan?

JIM HARBAUGH: The first time I saw him as a coach, got a recommendation. He’s a really good coach at Central Michigan. He’s coaching the tight ends. His name is Sherrone Moore. You should at least bring him in and talk to him.

I called him on the phone. I said, Sherrone, this is Coach Harbaugh. Can you come over to Ann Arbor? Want to talk to you about the tight ends job here at Michigan.

Yes, Coach, I’ll be over there tomorrow. First time we sit down, we meet each other. And then I asked him, just so me your technique of a zone block and a gap block for a tight end.

And he jumped up and just started demonstrating and went through this teaching progression that was, boom, one, two, three, four, and memorable, learnable. But first time I met him I was blown away. Knocked my socks off.

Q. As you know the atmosphere of a stadium can more or less affect the players on the field. Is it a relief in a sense knowing you’re not playing Texas because it would have been a home-field turf for them?

JIM HARBAUGH: I mean, I don’t know about relief. That hasn’t been the word that’s popped in my mind watching the film and watching the tape of the Washington Huskies. Relief has not been — that’s not the word that’s jumped in my mind.