When it was announced that Jim Harbaugh would be the next head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, the folks in Ann Arbor were obviously ecstatic. But Wolverine fans have good reason to be more than just ecstatic about their new coach… elated, jubilant, euphoric maybe?
All of the above and more.
The hiring of Jim Harbaugh is a program saving move for Michigan, and that’s not hyperbole. First off, Harbaugh is one of only a few coaches who can compete with Urban Meyer’s game planning, on the field coaching and recruiting. Second, nowadays it takes a real superstar head coach to lure top tier prospects away from other programs with warmer weather; a reason why the Big 10’s talent level has suffered so greatly in recent years. However, Harbaugh’s presence alone is enough reason for blue chippers nationwide (especially quarterbacks) to commit.
Let’s take a moment to imagine what life without Jim Harbaugh might have looked like for Michigan. The top three candidates other than Harbaugh were rumored to be David Shaw of Stanford, Ex Tampa Bay Bucaneers’ Head Coach Greg Schiano, and LSU’s Les Miles.
None of the aforementioned coaches are in the class of an Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, or Jim Harbaugh. Had Shaw, Schiano, or Miles been named the head coach of Michigan, they would still have been out coached, game-planned, and recruited by Meyer. And had somebody not named Jim Harbaugh been chosen, Wolverine fans would have had to endure another lengthy period of embarrassment via their worst enemy, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.
Les Miles certainly would have been the next best option, and at first thought might be a viable alternative to Harbaugh. He’s not. While Miles has enjoyed close to a decade of winning seasons in the SEC east, he has only amassed one conference division title (2005), one conference title (2011), and one national championship (2007).
Obviously only is a strong word to use for Miles’ success, but in comparison to Harbaugh’s career success it’s justified.
Prior to his tenure at LSU, Les Miles compiled a 28-21 overall (16-16 conference) record as head coach of Oklahoma State who never finished higher than 3rd in the Big 12 under him (2001-2004).
Harbaugh has won and won big everywhere he has been. At University of San Diego Harbaugh compiled a 29-6 overall record and two consecutive 11-1 seasons in his final two years.
In 2007 Harbaugh took over at Stanford; a program stuck at the very bottom of the Pac-10 with a combined record of 16-40 in the previous 5 seasons. The turn around was almost immediate. In 2009 Harbaugh led the Cardinal to an 8-5 record and their first bowl appearance since 2001. The following year the Cardinal finished 12-1, second in the Pac-10, and with their first bowl win since 1996 by way of a 40-12 victory against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
After resurrecting Stanford’s program, Harbaugh moved onto the NFL as head coach of the 49er’s where in four seasons he led them to a 44-19-1 record, two NFC championship games, and one Super Bowl.
His past success is well documented. No single person; coach, player, general manager, owner, or athletic director can have the immediate impact that Jim Harbaugh has on a roster. Harbaugh has a way of squeezing the most out of every roster he is handed, and Michigan will be no different.
In December, Harbaugh agreed to a seven year deal at $5 million per year. The contract includes various incentives and a 10% increase after years three and five of the deal. He’s worth every penny and more. The question is how much is he actually worth to Michigan. Historically, Michigan is one of the greatest programs with more division 1 wins than any other, the “Big House” holds more fans than any stadium in the country, and their arch nemesis (and defending champs), Ohio State, has arguably the best coach in college football.
Michigan football needs to be good, and Harbaugh is the only answer any time soon.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports