"Frankly, I've come to the conclusion that there are things more important in this world than money."
-Bo Schembechler, Jan. 15 1982
It is done. It won't be official official until tomorrow, but it's done. Jim Harbaugh will be introduced as the next head coach at the University of Michigan at noon tomorrow.
There is going to be a lot of speculation, there already has been, leading up to tomorrow's press conference as to why Harbaugh has decided to step away from the NFL and return to college football. For those who don't know, they will cite the money, of course – which makes sense because it will be a substantial amount. But Jim would've been paid handsomely in the NFL, too...probably more than what Michigan is about to pay him.
No, this was never about the money.
To those of us who know what Michigan means and what Jim Harbaugh is all about, know that it's nothing more than a pure love and devotion to Michigan and the young men who come here to play football here. This is where Jim's heart is, no question about that. For that reason, and that reason alone, Jim Harbaugh has returned to Ann Arbor to follow in the footsteps of his father and his former coach and mentor, Bo Schembechler.
For all the pomp and circumstance that is likely to follow for the next few days and weeks, there is work to be done. Recruiting (which has already begun), assembling a staff (which has already begun), getting to know the current players and establishing a new direction for the program...all of these things will take some time. But unlike 7 and 4 years ago, there is no question that Michigan swung for the fences and completely nailed this hire.
In the face of all the so-called experts and doubters, Michigan went after their "Plan A" guy with a single focus and delivered him. A lot of things needed to happen for this to work, and in the right order too. Michigan needed an opening, and Harbaugh needed to know he wasn't going back to San Fransisco next year. From a timing standpoint, this couldn't have worked out any better. There probably wouldn't have been another opportunity for this to happen down the road.
All credit must go to interim AD Jim Hackett and his staff for executing the what can only be described as a landmark hire not only for Michigan, but the Big Ten and college football in general. This hire is going to change the landscape of coaching in the college ranks. No longer is the NFL going to be seen as the single destination for every successful head coach.
Not every great coach can and will jump ship to go back to college though. Jim Harbaugh and Michigan have a unique relationship that can't be just replicated anywhere. Jim grew up here. His dad coached here. He played quarterback here. He won championships here. He guaranteed a win over Ohio State, and won! His nickname was "Captain Comeback" fergodsakes!
This is where Jim Harbaugh belongs.
Michigan and Jim Harbaugh are both special and a little strange in their own unique ways. And when you take a step back to really look at it, they both just make sense together. They're both absolutely crazy, but sometimes crazy can work if it's at the right place at the right time. No disrespect to Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, but it takes a guy like Jim Harbaugh...with all his brashness, overconfidence and ego...to match what Michigan is all about. He's an embodiment of what every Michigan fan wants in a head coach. He fits all the criteria, checks all the boxes.
Ever since this coaching search got really interesting a few days ago when Harbaugh started to become a real possibility, I didn't hear one single negative word from any Michigan fans in person or online. No one. The same can't be said for the last two times we did this recently.
This hire isn't just a homerun, this is the grandest of slams.
How high are the expectations for Harbaugh? It goes without saying the expectations for any coach at Michigan are through the roof. But that's the way it is and it will never change. But now it seems, Michigan has a coach that can match those insane expectations. Right now the Big Ten has guys like Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio who have thrived while Michigan has struggled. Harbaugh will be expected to reverse those courses. But that could what drew him to Michigan in the first place – the challenge of going toe-to-toe with the leagues's best. Michigan expects a lot from Harbaugh, but he'll expect even more from himself and those around him.
Only time will tell
Oh, and Jim Hackett...take a bow, sir.