Happy 86th birthday, Bo. Man, do I have a surprise for you.

Remember your second game as Michigan’s football coach, when 49,684 people watched your Wolverines pummel Washington at the Big House? Or the following week, when just 15,000 more came for the meeting against top-10 Missouri?

Well, I wish you could have been at Michigan Stadium on Saturday, when 60,000-plus filled the bowl to see the Spring Game — a scrimmage, featuring a virtual punter! All to catch their first glimpse of new coach Jim Harbaugh.

Yes, that Jim Harbaugh, the one you said would never play a down for Michigan when he arrived late for his first meeting. He’s in charge of the program now, and let me tell you, he has people excited. As you wrote in Bo’s Lasting Lessons, comparing quarterback recruits, Harbaugh had “twice the brains and 10 times the heart,” and he has shown both since his introduction Dec. 30.

See, Harbaugh and Athletic Director Jim Hackett seem to have figured out that you don’t need fireworks and flyovers to sell Michigan football. As it turns out, if you stick to tradition and put the right man in charge, things generally turn out pretty well.

“We’ve got to keep our expectations (reasonable),” Hackett said in a fireside chat last week. “They just have to get the team right. From the stuff I’ve seen, I’m really excited.”

Consider this: The season doesn’t begin for five months, and there’s already a wait list for football tickets. The luxury boxes are sold out, too.

That’s not to sing Harbaugh’s praises quite yet — he hasn’t even coached his first actual game in Ann Arbor, after all. But you’d be proud of what he has done this spring to prepare his team for the likes of Michigan State and Ohio State. (Don’t ask about Notre Dame. We don’t want to talk about it.)

The weight room? It has been stripped bare of everything but the necessities. Why? Because, as Harbaugh said, “this is work.”

The practices? Because every position is up for grabs, every drill has become a fierce competition. And the winners of said drills “get” to run extra. Why? Because, according to Harbaugh, “the winners get the right to get better. The winners have the right to condition more, to be better football players, and the losers have to go to the side.”

“You have to buy in,” said redshirt freshman defensive end Lawrence Marshall on Saturday. “When you buy in, it shows on the field like it did today.”

Just as you treated every player equally, Harbaugh has adopted that and other abnormal practice techniques.

And that’s just the way they want it.

Take Shane Morris, for instance. As the only quarterback on the roster with significant in-game experience, the junior figured to be the next man in line for the job. Instead, there are eight quarterbacks on the current roster, with another arriving soon via graduate transfer. Morris’ response?

“You can bring in 100 quarterbacks,” he said. “It’s not going to matter to me.”

And, as a result of his dedication and improvements, Morris will have the edge for the starting role entering the summer.

Or take future Wolverine defensive back Tyree Kinnel, who will join a deep defense as a freshman this fall. Upon seeing the competition and intensity of the unit — which forced four turnovers — during the Spring Game, he voiced his anticipation in a text message to the Daily.

“It was great,” Kinnel said. “I haven’t been this excited about Michigan since the day I committed.”

Helmet stickers are back. The band will be the principal form of pregame entertainment, not piped-in pop music. The Wolverines will even transition back to wearing black cleats.

And one recent alumnus of the Michigan football program told the Daily, “I’m jealous. People want to see what Harbaugh has been up to.”

Sixty thousand of them watched it Saturday afternoon. And Bo, you would have been proud.

Zúñiga can be reached at ByAZuniga@gmail.com and on Twitter @ByAZuniga.

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