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Monday, October 20, 2008

OT - Harbaugh Auditioning for Future Michigan Gig?

With the Rich Rodriguez experiment floundering at Michigan so far, makes you look down the road at a potential successor. Rodriguez is a capable coach and did wonders at West Virginia with the spread offense, but he has one glaring thing missing – he’s not “a Michigan man” a term used by legend Bo Schembechler. Michigan has a long standing tradition of hiring coaches who came up through the UM coaching ranks and/or played there and it’s produced results. Then, curiously, they went outside after Les Miles turned them down and courted Rodriguez who brought his spread offense to the Big Ten.

I do not buy the spread as an offensive philosophy at Michigan. It’s an effective tool if you have lesser talent than your opponent; Spread ‘em out and hope for the big play. I get it. But Michigan has rarely been short on talent. It’s better suited for the Indiana’s and Minnesota’s, but not Michigan or Ohio State or Penn State who simply run over you. I am not knocking the spread at all. It’s a clever offense and can level the playing field by making it wider. But at Michigan?

2000 miles away in Palo Alto, Jim Harbaugh, the former Michigan Rose Bowl quarterback, is resurrecting the moribund Stanford program. They’re well coached, competitive and no longer the team you wish to see on your homecoming schedule. I know it’s very early to speculate, but I cannot help but see his growth as a coach corresponding with an unease growing at Michigan as they get away from fundamental UM football. The exact brand of football he could bring back to Ann Arbor.

A year ago Harbaugh stirred up trouble when he called out UM for not emphasizing academics for its athletes. He claimed athletes, including him, are steered towards majors that are less time consuming, leaving more times football. Many jumped all over him. Mike Hart claimed he was ashamed of Harbaugh and he was no “Michigan Man”. Statistics showed Harbaugh was correct. 81% of UM student/athletes had degrees ‘of lesser value’. Harbaugh is learning to coach the student/athlete at Stanford and do it well. The Cardinal's 24-23 win over top-ranked USC last year while being 41 point underdogs is proof of that. I can’t help but wonder if and when the Michigan fan base grows tired of the Rich Rodriguez experiment while watching a "Michigan Man” turn Stanford around, if just maybe ‘Ole Blue may come knocking on his door.