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Friday, May 11, 2007

Jim Harbaugh Disses Michigan

Many of you wrote to tell us about new Standford coach Jim Harbaugh's slap at his alma mater, Michigan, during a recent interview:

“College football needs Stanford. We’re looking not for student athletes but scholar-athletes. No other school can carry this banner. The Ivy League schools don’t have enough weight [because of their low athletic level]. Other schools which have good academic reputations have ways to get borderline athletes in and keep them in.”

“Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there,” he said, “but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in and, when they’re in, they steer them to courses in sports communications. They’re adulated when they’re playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won’t hire them.”

Gee, those are pretty holier-than-thou comments for a drunk driver.

Look, it's no secret that most college football players at most big-time college football programs aren't majoring in electrical engineering or pre-med. That's about as big a revelation as finding out Charlie Weis has high cholesterol. Yes, some of it is the players but a lot of it also has to do with the fact that playing ball is like having a full-time job on top of one's classwork. Is that the way it should be? No. But it is. So double majoring in physics and chem probably won't work for most student-athletes. Thus, I don't understand Harbaugh's point in bashing his school like that.

Furthermore, Jim neglects to mention all the guys at Michigan - and many other big time schools - who somehow managed to juggle spending 40 hours a week playing football but still go on to become successful doctors, lawyers, business leaders, etc., etc., etc. Is that most college football players? Of course not. Then again, that's not most college students period.

Finally, while Jim Harbaugh was before my time at Michigan, in talking to some acquaintances who were there during his U-M days, I'm told he was pretty "adulated" himself around the A2 campus back then. And, allegedly, he enjoyed that adulation very much. So cut the sanctimonious crap.

Oh, and Jimbo, kiss any chance of coaching at Michigan good-bye. Enjoy Palo Alto.

Sorry, but this story just rubbed me the wrong way.

What are your thoughts, folks?

P.S. And anybody happen to know what Jimmy's major was at Michigan? I'm guessing it was quantum physics but I'd love to know for sure.


Stephen said...

Apparently Jimmy H was majoring in Communications... such a tough major.

Fortunately his degree has allowed him to effectively communicate that Michigan and other big time schools have to help star athletes through...

Crabapple Buck said...

Kiniesiology perhaps? I believe this is the UM major of choice for the athletics department.

Jim said...

Hello, Captain Obvious? What that sounds like is a middling coach puffing up his chest in a vain attempt to inflate his middling program. College football needs Stanford? College football already has Stanford, only we call them Northwestern--an academically sparkling school that catches lightning in a bottle about once a decade.

And really, what a shameful, lousy cheap shot. Sure I knew some real bricks on the football team, but two of my best friends managed to struggle through. One became a judge, the other a fighter pilot and officer in the Marines.

What Would Jermaine Dupri Do said...

I didn't think it was that big a deal. Like we all said, its obvious that the majority of college football programs do this. Check out the quote again, right before he addresses Michigan he says, "Other schools which have good academic reputations have ways to get borderline athletes in and keep them in." Its not just Mich, its all the schools that are winning. And conversely, its why Stanford isn't winning. We all agree this is going on, so whats the problem? Like Yost said its hard to be on the football team, go to school, and maybe even have a job on the side. The real question is, how much does a school slide recruits in under the academic radar? No one is going to confuse Michigan and Miami, so why can't we admit that we do it sometimes too. I mean when was the last time you saw Quintin Woods with the team?

For a good take on it, check out Vijay at IBFC. although to be honest, i probably stole some off his ideas here.

Da Braylon said...

Methinks that people will take this way out of proportion. Should he have said that? No, of course not. But who cares? Let him coach his mid major program and if UM ever happens to play Stanford sometime while he is still coaching there, UM will destroy Stanford.

Out of Conference said...

Interchange the words "SEC" with "Michigan" and "Big 10" with "Stanford" and who's communication to fans did he plagerize?

It's just words meant to drum up support, cash, etc. Yeah, Jim H burnt a bridge, but my guess is that he releases a statement explaining himself at some point in the future- maybe when asked about it, when Michigan (or another Big 10 team) plays them, or when Michigan has a coaching opening, etc. Eff him.

CrimeNotes said...

I'll tell you why this comment really, really rubs the wrong way. As I saw someone point out elsewhere, most Michigan grads ultimately went to the school for the academics, not the sports, so when a guy like Harbaugh hits you where you live, it feels like a bigger insult than a comment that sideswipes the football program. And yeah, I understand the football-specific context. It was still a gratuitous insult. I hope Harbaugh enjoys never coming back to Ann Arbor.

El Pendejo Grande said...

Unbunch your panties, ladies.

Most brilliant thing ever said? no.

Is what he said true? yes.

So get over it. We know Jimmy. He talked smack back in the day, remember? (guaranteeing a win @OSU - remember when that was something that we could accomplish with a reasonable frequency?) This is no different. If the teams meet on the field, settle it there. Otherwise, it's just the Mouse That Roared, all over again. Be something more noble than pissy about the non-entity that is Stanford football.

surrounded in columbus said...

Harbaugh has spent a career saying stupid shit. two months ago he was in a pissing match w/ USC over where Pete Carroll will be coaching in two years. his first week of camp w/ da Bears, he got into a shouting match (that developed into a shoving match) w/ Richard Dent (or someone equally big and dangerous). and then the promised victory over tosu, @ tosu?

face it- he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer on matters of appropriately expressing opinions in public. ironically, he may be the living embodiment of how Michigan does let some players slide.

all that said, i don't think he's truly burnt his bridges here. if he's modestly successful at the cardinal, we'll want to consider him for the head coaching job. and once he's here, he'll say stupid shit. maybe even about standford.

i guess after a decade of carr's "aw shucks, he's just tremendous..." say nothing approach, and switzer/tressel's corporate style gobbly gook say nothing approach (hell, even the dispatch makes fun of him), having a coach that actually speaks his mind wouldn't be the worst thing.

Ram61 said...

Wake Forest just won the ACC title with about as much as athletic ability as the Eastern Michigan womens basketball team, so for him to say Stanford is the team to "...carry this banner" is ignorant and just plain stupid. And tell me, who ever gave a damn whether their favorite college football player also takes a particular interest in John Nash's equilibria? The NCAA is just fine where it is, and we don't need JH trying to save it.

Mark said...

It will be fun watching USC thoroughly pummel and run up the score on Stanford on October 6th and listening to the announcers over and over explain how Harbaugh should never have dissed Pete Carroll.

MGoBlue93 said...

For the folks that don't understand why some of us are disappointed with JH's comments, well the way he went about it is simply something a Michigan Man does not do. If people outside A2 don't understand this concept we hold very dear, that's okay, as we see the lack of understanding in some of the responses here.

As an idealist I like to think that my alma mater's program is above a lot of the garbage surrounding contemporary college sports. In reality, I know U of M's AD is a 1st class douchebag who has given us App State and EMU this coming season. I also know Michigan is doing pretty well in the Fulmer Cup and may be adding some more points with 2 yet unnamed players who got caught with smokey dopey during a traffic stop recently. But nevertheless, I still wish the unsavory stuff didn't occur in A2.

If JH felt he needed to get something off of his chest, there are better ways to get accomplish the task. If you want to be a loud mouth, that's fine but once the sensationalism and 15 minutes of notoriety wears off, eventually no one is gonna pay attention.

The lead-in to this article is pretty tame. In casual surfing over the internet lately, I've seen him rant about Michigan treating the players as quote, disposable. JH has taken some swipes at Bo and Carr (although I'm not sure I entirely disagree with him on Carr). If JH had any class at all, he could work out his concerns with the school. Contrary to what JH sez, a lot of former players are still dedicated to the program; Jamie Morris and Rick Leach are two who immediately come to mind. But it's just plain tacky at best of him to fabricate dirty laundry for the press and recruits to see.

Matt said...

I TA'd intro physics at Michigan in 1997-98, 80 students per semester. I had a variety of athletes, whose performance was indistinguishable from everybody else. I had one football player, who worked hard, was always prepared, and deserved his A.

Granted a small sample size, but still....

At the same time, Harbaugh's never had an internal filter. This lack of a filter means that he'll never coach at Michigan.

Andy said...

Guys, I don't typically disagree with you, but in this case I do. I actually don't have any problem with his comments. I was in A2 the same time a Jim. His first hand experience mirrors my observations. There were (and are) different academic standards for football players in Ann Arbor. While his comments won't help him get the Michigan job when that time comes, he is right. Clearly this he is making his plea to the Stanford fans and adminstration before he goes 0hhhh for the Pac10 this year.

Division I football players are not a typical college students. While there are obvious exceptions: Harbaugh threw a lot of passes to Ken Higgins. The majority of football players at Michigan (or any other DI school) are not academic stars.

One Man Gang said...

The only part about Harbaugh's comments that bother me is the part where he makes Stanford out to be the shining gem in the world of academically proud athletic programs. There's a reason that those of us from California still refer to Stanford as "Hard to get into, hard to fail out of." Yes, it's hard to get in, but once you're in, Stanford is a joke. They go out of their way to make sure their graduation rates stay high...they have more pass/fail courses than pretty much any other major D-1 school in the country. If Harbaugh really wanted to toot someone's horn, he should be looking at Northwestern and Duke well before Stanford.

CrimeNotes said...

If Harbaugh's comments were part of a serious ongoing conversation about the flaws in Division 1A football, that might, might be different. Instead, this was a gratuitous slam at Michigan's expense, made to a sports columnist in the context of puffing up Stanford. There he is, with a San Francisco sports columnist, talking about how he's the right man for Stanford, and blather blather -- and elects to go out of his way to point out Stanford's moral superiority to Michigan.

Clearly this he is making his plea to the Stanford fans and adminstration before he goes 0hhhh for the Pac10 this year.

Well and good. He rips Michigan to win brownie points at home.

I don't think the problem is that he pointed out flaws in how D1 football operates, it's that he both 1.) chose to suckerpunch Michigan specifically, and 2.) did it for his own short-term gain.

Andy said...

So if he called out Miami or Ohio State everyone would be OK ?

He was making a statement regarding the challenges of winning at Stanford. He used (suckerpunched ?) Michigan because that is the only D1 program he has direct experience with. As much as we do not want to admit it, because it damages our view of our program, he is right. Without question he is is right.

Also, I bet if Harbaugh wins a PAC10 title or two at Stanford, he will get a look to coach at Michigan.

Nicole said...

I agree in that Michigan people do not sacrifice their own. It was an immature response to his own personal issues to attempt to make himself look better.

He's always been a moron. A few years back I worked at Dominick's and we had to kick him out during Homecoming weekend for getting plastered and then swatting at the back ends of all of the female servers. That is not the type of person I want representing my football team.

MGoBlue93 said...

I'm still ticked about Harbaugh using Michigan for his gain at Stanford... but after reading Nicole's and Andy's latest, I wonder if JH said what he did for self-preservation... as in when he was hired as the head coach, he probably was bouncing off the walls. But then when he got to Palo Alto, JH's joy became, "holy shit, what did I get myself into?"

Now that JH is flapping his gums in the breeze, he's polluted the whole local scene with a litany of excuses that will mask the forthcoming 1-10 record. With all the excuses out there, and if the press gets a hold of them and turns them into Gospel (because we all know if it's written down or on the internet, it must be true), nobody is gonna look the wrong way at the head coach for the failures. If it works out, its a politically savvy move.

Nevertheless, JH is still on my Chris Webber, Gabe Watson, Larry Foote, etc. list.

Yost said...


Yours is the sort of story I was referring to in the post and I couldn't agree with you more.

CrimeNotes said...

So if he called out Miami or Ohio State everyone would be OK?

Yes, but what's your point? It would be bad diplomacy and poor form, and Miami and Ohio State don't exactly fit the rubric of academically strong schools that he was using, but not having gone to either school, I wouldn't be leaving blog comments about it. He also could have made this same observation and not mentioned a specific program.

Also, I bet if Harbaugh wins a PAC10 title or two at Stanford, he will get a look to coach at Michigan.


As much as we do not want to admit it, because it damages our view of our program, he is right. Without question he is is right.

Wait, what? There's truth in every oversimplification. I had a football player in a 500-level history class my junior year. What he talks about happens, but other schools are worse culprits. Some players get exploited, and some players get exploited by Michigan, and I think that that's inexcusable. Neither of us can speak to this with confidence, but based on observations when I was in Ann Arbor and afterward, I'm going to guess that Michigan has much less to apologize for than other national programs.

But I think that's beside the point. That's a different conversation. Harbaugh wasn't speaking out as a reformer, he was puffing Stanford and using Michigan as a straw man. This wasn't an effort to shed light on a serious issue but a cheap shot intended for his own benefit. That's why it's galling.

Steve said...

Never take sides against the family, never!

katherine said...

Sorry to basically copy what everyone else is so furiated about, but another thing is, he's speaking the most obvious of truths. Anyone who has NO IDEA about college athletics knows that athletes can get in with lower grades/test scores than non-athletes...it's a widley known fact.
So why did he feel as if it was his job to call out Michigan specifically? People are saying "oh well, that's the team he has most authority on." But again, it doesn't matter how much supposed authority you have on this issue, the fact is EVERYONE knows about athlete standards.
It was an asshole move and it seems like he's already giving excuses for the minimum 7-loss season he's going to have this year.
Everyone who thinks this isn't really a big deal always talks about Jim when he guaranteed the OSU win, but first of all, he was a kid back then. Second of all, he was a player trying to rev up his teammates, and although was a dumb move, it worked and fans love the guy for his homer-attitude. This was the exact opposite. Totally asinine.

Andy said...

So the issue isn't that he stated something that was not true, but the fact that he used Michigan as an example ?

And we wonder why buckeye fan constantly points to our "holier than thou" attitude.

I love Michigan and our football program beyond what is normal. In the fall, I spend way too much time reading, ranting, and watching the wolverines. At the same time I am realistic regarding the academic/athletic balance that is required to compete at the highest level in college football. While better than most, Michigan is really no different than most of the top programs.

Are there counter examples ? Sure. Every program has solid students.

Do I like the fact that he called out Michigan ??? No, but I understand that this is his only first hand experience.

Did he state the truth and do I agree with what he said ??? Yes.

Does it damage my opinion of him. ??? No. JH is entitled to speak the truth and I recognize that his his real motivation is to explain/improve Stanford.

rex said...

Well all I have to say is that Pete Carroll and Walt Harris are friends and USC beat Stanford like 40something to 0 last year with Pete's friend coaching. This Jimbo gets to come to the Coliseum and after his comments Pete may try to break 100 on Jimbo. I just hope they start hydrating the Horse, Traveler now, he may get leg cramps runnin around the Coliseum that day! Fight ON and Go Blue!

TitleIX said...

Generally, I agree with Andy's comments about Jimmy's use of Michigan as a specific example. Insert any other academically respected institution with a strong football program in place of Michigan, and none of us would care about Jimmy's comments.

However, Jimmy's comments are a sanctimonious load of crap, and that's what is annoying to me. He was the beneficiary of alllll sorts of the "allowances" while at Michigan that he now disparages.
I too was here with Jimbo and I can tell you that Jimmy majored in Be Bim Bop at Steve's Lunch. (white rice with an egg)
This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

TRG said...

doesn't matter who it was who said it and whether or not you feel he was entitled to do so. Harbaugh is right.

TRG said...

andy: spot on.

katherine said...

Would his statements have any balls to them if Bo was still alive? Or maybe while he was a student at Michigan? If he really gave two shits about the state of college football, why didn't he say this before? I know many will say it's because his new platform at Stanford. However, any former player with his success at Michigan(especially a QB) has just as much of a platform as a coach at Stanford. A current player saying these comments has more credibility. Think if Mike Hart said this. What would you say then? So why do you care so much now, Jimbo?

Title9 is right...sanctimonious peice of crap statement. That's all it was. And Andy, you're right, because it was aimed at my team, it's even more annoying. Regardless of this, crap still = crap.

But lets just think about it for a second. He is saying our university isn't giving players a better chance to succeed in the future? Isn't he a product of this "horrid" system? And look at him now, coaching at the University of Stanford...a beacon of light in the dark realm of college footbll. I guess the system works just fine, Jimmy.

And Andy, this has nothing to do with a "holier than thou" attitude. Instead it has everything to do with the fact that EVERY school does it yet only ours was thrown under a bus (to which no one will deny). I dare him to grow a pair and name other schools and really tackle the problems with CFB.

katherine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
katherine said...

And TRG...yes, it does matter. Speaking the truth is not the same thing as being honest. He lacks integrity and sincerity with his words, and that, my friend, is what's wrong.

MGoBlue93 said...

Liked the reply katherine...

To piggy back on your remarks, if U of M treats players as "disposable" (JH's words), I wonder what we should say about schools like, oh say, Illinois, and that ridiculous leap in recruiting Zook took this past winter???

Or how about the drive-by in Miami this past fall where one of the players in the house had the wherewithal, while under fire, to go into the house from the porch and get his machine gun to return fire. And then when questioned by authorities, his reply was a matter-of-factly stated, "when you're a player at Miami you're a target"?

Just wondering???

So to some there is an perceived "arrogance" regarding A2? Perhaps... but I'd tell folks to get over it. I went to Michigan for lots of reasons... among them, well-connected alumni, a well-rounded education, the intangibles that go along with having a piece of paper, etc., if that's called arrogance, so be it. Despite a perfect score on one of the sections of the ACT, lettering in 3 sports in HS, earning a state merit scholarship, I didn't get into Michigan on my first try. But it was something I wanted really bad. So I went to Washtenaw CC for 2 semesters and got in on my second time around. I like to take pride in my alma mater and the hard work I put in... that should never be mistaken for arrogance.

Additionally, I have a close friend who is on the coaching staff of a prominent D1 program. Let's just say this guy is in a position which rates an office of his own with walls all the way to the ceiling and a door (I'll leave the rest of the details out for privacy's sake). He tells me they most certainly will consider looking the other way at GPA, grades, or test scores when looking at recruits (but there is a limit to their generosity). They do that not to sell themselves out but because it's practically impossible for elite talent to have a commensurate academic resume; there are simply not enough hours in the day for most to do both. And before anyone flames me, yes, we all know the there are more folks like Alex Legion in the world than a well rounded scholar athlete.

So while I have wavered on my opinion about this topic over the past few days, and considering some stuff I touched upon above, I don't buy the arrogance take one bit... JH is sanctimonious and there is nothing wrong with someone calling him out!

JD said...

The old midwestern aphorism of "an closed mouth gathers no foot" comes to mind here.

In all candor, I don't think that the folks in A2 were the intended targets of Harbaugh's verbal diarrhea. I think it was meant more for the nice folks across San Francisco Bay, because he's going to need something this season with which to fight Kal in the press - because the kids he's got playing for him sure as hell ain't gonna be able to do it.

After all, "APR, Bitchessss!" just doesn't have that ring to it when you're getting the Axe shoved up your arse for the sixth straight year.

I think his reference to UM was probably more of a bona-fide thing, ill-considered to say the least.

But mark this: If Harbaugh is able to get a school like Furd turned around, then all will be forgotten in the event that UM needs a coaching transplant.

TRG said...

katherine...you missed my point, which is that you all are pretty jaded to think the issue worth discussing is harbaugh, instead of the fact that UM engages in the type of behavior he describes.

katherine said...

We're jaded to not be upset that UM engages in the type of behavior he describes? Lol, are you kidding me? Just what exactly is that type of behavior? Talk about a "holier than thou" statement. He later said in his phone interview with Jim Carty that he was steered out of a major in history. At this point, he really dug himself a deep hole. To me, this is highly unlikely and bears no crediblity because 1)no offense but history isn't that tough of a major and 2)shining example of excellence, is Stephan Humphries, a two-time All Academic and one-time Athletic All-American who played during Harbaugh's time at Michigan. Obviously nobody steered Humphries out of going pre-med because he went on to become a doctor after a 5-year stint in the NFL. A question I raise about all of this is how much truth was he actually speaking? That we bend our standards? Sure we all know that, but how far do we bend them? Are their programs who bend way more than we do? Probably.

The issue at hand is how well does our university educate our players and what opportunities are supposedly being missed to succeed in the future. He said he "got a good education there," and he clearly benefitted from this system he is speaking of, so what's his problem with the type of behavior he describes of our University, trg? Please, tell me what's wrong with it...and then I'll take your point in stride. The problems he claims exist were his own self-determination (or lack thereof)...not with the University. If you want a good education at Michigan, they can and will give it to you. Because this is the case, what exactly is the problem he speaks of?

Another issue is, doesn't the all-mighty Stanford lower their standards for athletes as well? Yes, they do it to a lesser degree, but they do it. So what exactly is he proposing? That standards for athletes should be exactly the same for admission for a non-athlete? Or should college football just abandon the whole "student" part of the term "student-athlete" all together and create a semi-pro league? If he was so sincere about his words, I'd like a response to those questions.

Fact is, to call out Michigan of all schools, who actually does a pretty good job balancing the quality of academics and athletic programs compared to most, was not a bright move for numerous reasons. One being that he sort of alienated his Michigan fan base and internally ticked many of us off a bit (as shown here), but furthermore, made himself look pretty dumb because the University of Michigan has pretty decent academic standards for their players when also considering their winning percentage. Just a bad example, period.

san francisco values said...

Jim was there, Bill Frieder was coach of the basketball team and the baseball team was also doing some veerrrry interesting things. Not having been back to A2 since that time (I was a student there from 86-88), I can't really say whether the school has cleaned things up or not, but they also wouldn't have had to try very hard to register a lot of improvement.

Jim said...

Is this a huge deal? Probably not, but it is sad and dissapointing. Mostly because the point he was making is like noting the sky is blue--such common knowledge that no specific example was needed. So why go out of your way to throw your Alma Mater under the bus? You always like to think your fellow Alumni are proud to be associated with the school. JH's comments were very dismissive and, at least to me, unexpected. I think that's why they sting a little.

ax said...

These earlier comments (circa 2007) come off as very ironic to me. I can almost guarantee that these "JH haters" are now RR haters, and would welcome JH. They were happy in '97 and made fun of Carr most other years.

They don't know that when their team has a few down years, their support is most needed. They don't realize how easy it is to cheer for a winning team: Anybody can do it. They don't know what loyalty is. Loyalty is cheering for their down team who they know will, one day, again be great (to paraphrase Yost and Bo).

Do they not realize how powerful and lethal the Michigan offense is? The only question is if RR can at least delegate defense, because this is his only weak spot.

Brian Johnson said...

Looks like they got him despite these comments...