Take Two: Is Harbaugh at risk of wearing out welcome at Michigan?
Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and a local expert from the Rivals.com network of team sites.
Storyline: Coach Jim Harbaugh has done a quick and impressive job turning around the Michigan program in his first two years from a flailing former national powerhouse back into a respectable, proud group.
He’s won 10 games in each of his first two seasons. Recruiting is going well. Eleven Michigan players were taken in the NFL Draft. There is a lot to be proud of – including the future.
But Harbaugh has not exactly taken over college football, or even the Big Ten, yet. The Wolverines have finished third in the Big Ten East the last two seasons. That has to be considered a disappointment. Harbaugh is 0-2 against Ohio State and coach Urban Meyer, and will probably be underdogs again this season. That has to gnaw at everyone in Ann Arbor.
Michigan has not made the College Football Playoff yet.
Harbaugh has done a lot of positive things and many zany things since his arrival in Ann Arbor – from sleeping over a recruit’s house to sitting in class with a recruit at Concord (Calif.) De La Salle to calling steak a vitamin to jumping in a pool with another prospect to – a personal favorite – calling radio show host Paul Finebaum “Pete Finebaum, the unabashed SEC water carrier.”
This week, as Michigan and Florida ramp up for its season opener, Gators coach Jim McElwain said Harbaugh must have felt he needed to do some out-of-the-box things since his arrival there to “become relevant,” certainly not a compliment leading up to Saturday’s contest.
Harbaugh has brought a lot of attention and discussion to Michigan football once again. But does he need to start beating Ohio State, winning Big Ten titles and being in the College Football Playoff discussion to not wear out his welcome in Ann Arbor? Or does Harbaugh basically have a blank check to run the program as he sees fit for as long as he wants based off his early success and reputation?
FIRST TAKE: Brandon Brown, TheWolverine.com
“Recruits have been and continue to be very receptive toward Harbaugh. They still speak about how cool it is to meet him, but also almost always mention that he acts more like a normal guy than most head coaches. He’s very involved in all things recruiting and isn’t afraid to be silly, dumb, get dirty or do the little things that players and families notice.
"Recruits and parents of recruits also always mention the family atmosphere that Harbaugh creates by having his own family and parents around the program, and that seems to come across as very real. I honestly haven’t heard one recruit mention the possible 0-3 start for Harbaugh and Michigan against Ohio State. Michigan fans and members of the media are certainly paying attention to that, but I don’t know if sophomores, juniors and seniors in high school necessarily are.
"Now, if Michigan can start winning some of these matchups against Ohio State, that probably means they’re contending for Big Ten titles and flirting with the playoff, which is what needs to happen for Michigan to be a permanent fixture among college football’s royalty. Ohio State and Alabama seem to be in tier one when it comes to recruiting, with programs like Michigan, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, USC and others residing in tier two. A couple wins for Harbaugh over the Buckeyes could move Michigan up a notch.”
SECOND TAKE: Mike Farrell, Rivals.com
“Losing so many top players from last year’s team, I don’t think expectations are as high. I don’t think anyone expects them to win the Big Ten. Most Michigan fans felt they beat Ohio State last year, but the game was robbed from them. He has a lot of security. Even if he finishes third in the East again this year, it’s not going to be an issue.
“Most of the issues that have arisen in Harbaugh's past stops have been related to internal issues with management and players. The stuff he’s doing now as far as we know are the antics that drive publicity. There are people who think Harbaugh will eventually wear out his welcome in Ann Arbor like he did in San Francisco. I’m not a subscriber to that theory. They’re going to give him as long as he needs as long as they’re competitive and winning 10-plus games and competing for the Big Ten title. Eventually, it will get to the point where he will have to beat Ohio State and he’ll have to make the playoff. I don’t think that’s year three.”