For all intents and purposes, Jim Harbaugh has been a small disappointment for the Michigan Wolverines.
He makes a ton of money and entered Ann Arbor with a ton of hype, but all that he has to show for it so far are decent but not great seasons, recruiting hype, khaki pants, and memes that likely hit far too close to home for most Michigan fans.
Harbaugh is 25-8 so far in now three seasons at Michigan, but he hasn’t gotten Michigan to the Big Ten Title game, he hasn’t gotten Michigan to the College Football Playoffs and he hasn’t even sniffed a national championship yet — despite those being the expectations for the Wolverines. Perhaps even worse, so far Harbaugh is 0-2 against Ohio State and 1-2 against Michigan State.
Most recently, Michigan lost to No. 2 Penn State, 42-13. That in itself isn’t troubling because Penn State is a great team. With that said, for as good as Michigan is supposed to be under Harbaugh, not even competing in that contest was a huge disappointment.
Still, one notable writer, Dan Wolken of USA Today, seems to be giving Harbaugh a free pass. That’s not to say he didn’t criticize “Coach Khaki” because he certainly didn’t go easy, but he seems to think that if Harbaugh was to never live up to expectations, it would be more Michigan’s fault than his.
Why? According to Wolken, the perception of Michigan being a true powerhouse isn’t reality.
Here’s an excerpt:
For all the coaching miracles Harbaugh has performed in his career, there is no podcast or trip to Rome that can fundamentally change the reality that Michigan is one of the most difficult jobs among a small group of bluebloods that aspire to win national titles.
And if Harbaugh doesn’t do it, it’s unlikely anyone in our lifetimes will.
Though the elitism and arrogance built into the Michigan brand suggests otherwise, there’s nothing Harbaugh can do about decades of built-in disadvantages in recruiting or the lack of relevant history to support Michigan’s claim as a national power.
Wolken went on to describe how even considering Harbaugh’s flashy style of recruiting, Michigan has struggled to pull in the amount of elite talent that a school like Georgia can, simply because of proximity to that elite, five-star recruiting talent alone. Wolken did point out the lack of quarterback development at Michigan, something Harbaugh is supposed known or, and the fact that the Wolvineres have yet to gain a significant, signature victory in the Harbaugh era. Still, the USA Today writer believes that if Harbaugh can’t do it, it’s more of a Wolverines problem and less of a problem with the odd, if not straight-up controversial, head coach.
This is the last, best shot for Michigan to convince the rest of college football it’s still a legitimate player. If it doesn’t work, the image of failure for Michigan won’t be Harbaugh, it will be a long look in the mirror.
This is a take that may not sit well in Ann Arbor. That doesn’t mean it’s false, though.