My grandfather called me last week.
I’ll preface this by saying that my grandpa is not your typical hot-take sports fan. I respect his opinions on sports as much as anybody I know. So in this case, I think he was probably just checking in and had a topic in mind he thought would make me laugh or at least give us something to talk about.
He asked me if Jim Harbaugh was leaving Michigan.
We had both seen the headlines by that time, on ESPN and other platforms, that certain pundits were reporting that certain NFL teams were in talks with Harbaugh to pull him from the Wolverines and back into the ranks of professional football.
I laughed and brushed it off, because the reporters I know on the Michigan beat, who would definitely know if Harbaugh was considering leaving Ann Arbor, had all but called the reports stupid.
Apparently, the rumors, perhaps aided by the de-commitment of five-star safety Daxton Hill, were enough to make Harbaugh give a response.
“This is a choreographed message that comes up at this time every year before signing day,” Harbaugh told ESPN this weekend. “It’s people spreading messages to further their own personal agenda.
“But I’m on record right here, right now: I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying at Michigan. We have big plans here, and there’s a lot we want to accomplish.”
On Sunday, he elaborated further when asked why he commented on the story at all.
“To make a statement of it,” he said. “To go on record, and to not be asked any more after that by people who like to yap and ask questions.”
Thinking back, though, the call from my grandpa wasn’t the first time I had gotten the question.
A couple months ago, an editor from a well-renowned newspaper called The Daily newsdesk asking for me. He was doing a story about Harbaugh, and he wanted the perspective of someone on campus.
Among the questions he asked was one about Harbaugh and whether or not students and fans were losing patience with him.
I laughed then, too. If I remember correctly, it was just after Michigan had lost to Notre Dame, so I understood that there were some questions about the state of the program and its leadership.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems ridiculous that there are and have been questions if the Wolverines want to keep Harbaugh.
Michigan is in a far better place than it was when Harbaugh took over. The program was competing for a conference championship all season, until its hopes were snuffed out by Ohio State yet again.
Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel addressed that side of things Sunday. His support has always been steadfast, so his statement should come as no surprise.
“Jim is one of the greatest coaches (in football), college or pro, so I think it’s to his credit his name continually pops up,” Manuel said. “As I said before, when we think about bringing student-athletes here, we want the best, and we have the best coach. I just hope people understand, and particularly our recruits don’t get dissuaded because people put out these rumors which this man deserves because of his ability to coach.
“… Every year as soon as there’s an opening, all of a sudden his name’s mentioned that he’s not going to be here. He and I have a great relationship. We talked about this from the first year on. I have full faith in Jim, in the person he is and the leader he is of this team. I’m so happy he’s our coach. I look forward to him coaching, as I said before, until he retires from Michigan and ends his career here.”
And, listen, I get impatience. But wanting better from the coach you have is much different than wanting a different coach altogether.
It is okay to both expect the Wolverines to actually win a conference championship — or better — and want Harbaugh to stay on as head coach. Believe it or not, those two things are not mutually exclusive.
Harbaugh does need to improve, and he is the first to admit it. Hence, the “there’s a lot we want to accomplish,” part of his quote to ESPN.
But it seems like if you are going to bring up this neverending question about Harbaugh’s permanence at Michigan, you have to answer two other questions first.
First: What gives anybody any indication that Harbaugh actually wants to leave?
Second: If the Wolverines did want him gone, who could they possibly get that would be better?
If you can’t answer the first, spare me the waste of time it takes to prove any rumors false.
And if you can’t answer the second, don’t bother pining for greener pastures.