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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh defends Stephen Ross again over backlash

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh defended Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross over the backlash the owner faced earlier this month.

Ross received heavy backlash on social media — with opponents threatening boycotts of his companies — when it was revealed he was hosting a fundraiser for Donald Trump at his New York home. The matter received extra attention in the sports arena when Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills called out Ross, openly questioning his boss.

Ross is a Michigan alum and the biggest donor to the school. He donated $100 million to the athletic department in 2013.

On his “Attack Each Day” podcast episode that was published on Tuesday, Harbaugh talked about the backlash Ross received and also the backlash he received simply for congratulating Ross for receiving an honor.

“I mean, so much Stephen Ross has done for so many across so many platforms. Now, he’s just getting bashed.

“I even tweeted out ‘Congratulations’ for being inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame and I was getting backlash over that, over congratulating him for that,” Harbaugh said on the podcast, via MLive.com.

Harbaugh has worked both sides politically. He has invited the Obamas to be honorary captains at a Michigan football game in 2017. He has commented on Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling and later wrote the Time 100 bio for his former quarterback. He is also defending Ross despite the owner’s support of Trump.

Harbaugh believes “zealots” on both sides standing in the way of unity, which he seeks.

“We’ve got politicians that don’t seem like they can please anybody. Right now, a house divided can’t stand. There’s zealots on both sides, no matter what. If it could be run like a football team and we all pulled together for each other, for the team, I think that would please everybody.”

Luck Fickell not worrying about Jim Harbaugh anymore

Jim Harbaugh

Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell seems to be backing down after working all offseason to make Michigan look like a villain over the NCAA not granting immediate eligibility to transfer James Hudson.

Hudson was a redshirt freshman at Michigan last year and appeared in three games as a right tackle. His mother asked for a meeting with Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh that took place on Oct. 22, 2018, two days after the Wolverines’ win over Michigan State.

The meeting was said to be abrupt. Later that day, Hudson decided to enter his name into the transfer portal.

Harbaugh contends that the meeting was about playing time and that Hudson was upset he had been surpassed on the depth chart for the Michigan State game. The coach said Hudson was surpassed because of an injury.

Hudson decided to transfer to Cincinnati and sought a waiver to be granted immediate eligibility to play. The waiver request was denied, as was Hudson’s appeal.

Hudson, his mother, and Fickell then embarked on a smear campaign aimed at Michigan, blaming them and Harbaugh for not helping out the player, who says he was dealing with depression at Michigan.

The NCAA denied Hudson’s requests because the transfer to Cincinnati fell outside of the 100-mile radius from Hudson’s hometown of Toledo, and because there was no documentation of his depression during his time at Michigan. Hudson contends he did not report anything to avoid looking weak.

Harbaugh, Michigan, and the NCAA took heat over the matter. The Michigan coach spoke on the subject at Big Ten Media Days and said he foresaw concerns with players being granted immediate eligibility for citing mental health reasons. He said that once players see a pattern in the NCAA granting waivers, others will follow just to get what they want, even if it means lying about mental health issues.

“Down the road, I don’t see that helping them if that’s not a legitimate thing,” Harbaugh told ESPNU’s Big Ten Radio in July. “But nobody would know. But what are you going to say? Ten years down the road, ‘I just had to say what I had to say’? You’re putting them in a position that’s unfair, not right. You’re saying it just to say it. … That’s not something we should be promoting at the college level. Telling the truth matters, especially at a college.”

Harbaugh is exactly right about that concern. He offered a solution, saying the NCAA should grant a one-time transfer for college football players with no reason required. A second transfer would necessitate a year sitting out.

“I care very deeply about mental health. I’m not saying everybody’s lying about that,” Harbaugh said. “… Just saying, ‘OK, this is America. You started at this school, you didn’t like it, and for whatever the reason is, you’re freely allowed to transfer to any other school like any other human being would have a right to do.’ That’s really the bottom line.”

In an article published by The Athletic’s Justin Williams on Tuesday, Fickell called out Harbaugh and Michigan for not doing more to help out Hudson’s case.

“Here’s what I believe in the whole waiver process: the number one, most important thing, and all the power, comes from the school that a kid is leaving. No matter what,” Fickell told The Athletic. “(Michigan) didn’t back the waiver. They can say what they want to say, but the only thing they said that was positive was that if the NCAA chooses to make (Hudson) eligible, then they would accept it — that they didn’t have an angle. They are just trying to cover their a–. And I’m really, completely disappointed in it.

“They can say they didn’t undermine it, but they didn’t work to help the kid out.”

Michigan says they handled Hudson’s transfer the exact same way they did four others this offseason — impartially. One case was approved, two were not, and another is still being processed.

Harbaugh responded on Tuesday to Fickell saying Michigan could have done more to help Hudson. He says that Fickell essentially wanted Harbaugh to lie on Hudson’s behalf to help the player gain eligibility.

“I read Luke Fickell’s comments and unless I’m reading them wrong or mistaking them, I believe he’s under the impression these waivers are decided coach-to-coach in some kind of deal fashion,” Harbaugh said.

“That is not the understanding that I’m under. I’m under the understanding that the NCAA decides these waivers. Unless he has something he can bring forth and share and enlighten us and the entire football world, I would really like to know what that is because he called me in March and asked me about, specifically, he wanted to know about the position switch that James was switched from defensive line to offensive line. I told him, ‘Yeah, after two weeks of practice watching James at defensive line, I personally, not other coaches, I went up to him and said, James, I think you’ve got the body type to be a really good offensive tackle. We don’t mandate what positions players play at the University of Michigan. You can compete at whatever position you want, do you want to try it out?’ He did.

“Turned out that he was really good at that offensive line position. That’s what I told Coach Fickell, exactly the way it happened when I talked to James on the field that day. And then Coach Fickell tried to coach me on how to say it different. I told him, ‘Coach, I believe in telling the truth. Forthright. Honest. What I told James, what I tell you, what I tell compliance is going to be the truth.’ He asked the question in the article, ‘What’s most important? Your personal beliefs, or what’s in the best interest of the kid?’ I can answer that. What’s most important is the truth. If he’s questioning what my personal beliefs are, then that’s what I believe in. I believe in being forthright, honest and telling the truth. I’m astounded he’s gotten to where he’s at by not knowing the answer to that question.”

After Harbaugh called out Fickell for essentially asking him to lie to the NCAA, the Cincinnati coach seemed to back down Wednesday, saying he wasn’t worrying about what Harbaugh had to say.

Jim Harbaugh: Players skipping bowl game hurts their legacy

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh won’t stop a player from skipping a bowl game, but he does think such a decision could tarnish a player’s legacy.

The Michigan Wolverines head coach joined the “Pardon My Take” podcast on Barstool Sports for an episode published on Monday. During his interview with hosts Big Cat and PFT Commenter, Harbaugh was asked for his thoughts on players skipping bowl games. While he understands such a decision, he thinks it goes against the competitive nature of being an athlete.

“Yeah, I do, and I think it hurts somebody’s actual legacy, too, just what they’re about,” Harbaugh said when asked whether players skipping bowl games hurts the sport. “A competitor is going to compete; they’re going to go out there and compete. Everybody talks about it — they’re a competitor, I’m a competitor, ‘I’ll compete at everything. I’ll compete at golf or I’ll compete at Tiddlywinks.’ You hear people say that all the time, but then they don’t go actually play in a football game.”

Harbaugh then brought up the Ted Williams 1941 story to augment his point. Williams is the last MLB player to bat .400 in a season and did so by batting .406 in 1941. Part of the legend of the story is how Williams did it. Williams was 179-for-448 on the season entering the final day, which was a .39955 batting average — barely rounding up to .400. He could have sat out the final day and entered the books as a .400 hitter rounded up. Instead, Williams played in both games of a doubleheader on the final day and went 6-for-8 to raise his average to .406.

“To me that’s a problem that you have a problem now with who you are as a competitor and your legacy. I put it this way: Ted Williams, you gotta love Teddy Ballgame. Ted Williams goes into the last day of the season hitting .3996. Everybody tells him ‘don’t play. Don’t play tomorrow. You’re already at .400 rounded up. You got it, you don’t have to do it.’ People would have agreed with that. But he said no, went out and played, it was a doubleheader and he went 6-for-8, and he ended up hitting .406 for the season. Now you’re a legend. Not .3996 rounded up to .400 with an asterisk by it. You went out and hit .406. That’s how you get legendary legacy status.”

This is a point I’ve been making on the subject, though the Williams story shared by Harbaugh really helps hammer it home. Fans love and watch sports because of what athletes do on the field. That’s how memories and legends are created, not by players sitting out and skipping games. Jaylon Smith, who got injured playing in a bowl game, recognizes that. The year after his injury, guys like Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette passed on their bowl games, which started a trend. Just last season four Michigan players — Devin Bush, Rashan Gary, Karan Higdon and Juwann Bushell-Beatty — all skipped the team’s bowl game.

Harbaugh may understand his players’ reasoning for skipping bowl games, but he doesn’t agree with it.

Jim Harbaugh: Controversy follows Urban Meyer wherever he goes

Jim Harbaugh headset

Jim Harbaugh was never able to get the best of Urban Meyer when Meyer coached at Ohio State, but he clearly doesn’t feel that winning is everything when it comes to running a college football program.

In an appearance on “The TK Show” podcast with Tim Kawakami this week, Harbaugh spoke about everything Meyer was able to accomplish on the field at Ohio State. Meyer’s Buckeyes were 4-0 against Harbaugh and 7-0 overall against Michigan, but the Wolverines coach pointed out that “controversy” seemed to be a common theme with Meyer-led programs.

“Urban Meyer’s had a winning record. Really phenomenal record everywhere he’s been,” Harbaugh said. “But also, controversy follows everywhere he’s been.”

Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter for some people. Harbaugh went on to acknowledge that Michigan has always come up short since he was named head coach back in 2015.

“All you can be judged on is your record. What your record is overall. What your record is within your conference. What your record is with head-to-head matchups,” Harbaugh said, as transcribed by Kevin Harrish of Eleven Warriors. “I think you’ll find Ohio State is the only team with a better record, a better conference record than us (since I’ve been there) and has a better head-to-head matchup with us.”

While some viewed Harbaugh’s remarks as a swipe at Meyer, he was really just stating the obvious. Meyer had numerous players with character concerns during his time as the head coach at Florida, and more than two dozen players were arrested over a six-year span. He recruited and vouched for guys like Aaron Hernandez, who went on to murder multiple people.

More recently, Meyer was accused of ignoring domestic violence allegations against a member of his staff at Ohio State. That almost certainly contributed to his decision to step down following last season.

In terms of running a clean program, Harbaugh — and many other coaches — have Meyer beat. If you’re judging strictly on wins and losses, Meyer is one of the best to ever do it.

Watch: Shane McMahon butchers Jim Harbaugh’s name at Ohio State

Jim Harbaugh headset

Shane McMahon had the right idea for how to rile up Ohio State fans when WWE Smackdown traveled to Columbus on Tuesday night, but his execution left a lot to be desired.

During his appearance at the live event inside Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center, McMahon did his best to draw boos from the audience by telling Roman Reigns he doesn’t have time to deal with him because he needs to get on his private jet to fly to Michigan and visit with coach Jim Harbaugh. At least, that’s what McMahon was trying to say.

If Buckeyes fans heard McMahon properly, they probably would have cheered the fact that he butchered the rival coach’s name so badly. Good effort, Shane.

Jim Harbaugh wants Michigan to build a Tom Brady statue

Tom Brady

Jim Harbaugh likes to keep the links to Michigan football’s past alive, and he also loves Tom Brady, so it’s no surprise that a new proposal of his reflects both of these things.

The Michigan coach said on his “Attack Each Day” podcast that he believes a statue of Brady should be erected somewhere on Michigan’s campus after collecting his sixth Super Bowl last week.

“I think it’s time, don’t you, for a Tom Brady statue to built right here,” Harbaugh said, via Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports. “Right in front of Schembechler Hall, or do you put it in the stadium? Where would you put the Tom Brady statue? … The tunnel? Maybe the tunnel? Where do you put it? Maybe some of the listeners can tell us.”

Let’s just say that, in light of Harbaugh’s previous assessments of Brady, this take cannot come as a huge surprise. That said, he may have a point here. If you boil it down to collegiate accomplishments, Brady won’t be remembered as Michigan’s best-ever quarterback, but when you take his entire career into account you can understand why the Wolverines would want a constant reminder that he did, in fact, go to school and play there.

Jim Harbaugh as coach of Jets is reportedly ‘not happening’

Jim Harbaugh headset

The New York Jets may be interested in hiring Jim Harbaugh to be their next head coach, but it does not sound like that is going to happen — at least in 2019.

After the Jets officially announced on Monday that they have fired Todd Bowles, CEO Christopher Johnson would not comment on any specific candidates to replace him and did not openly rule out Harbaugh. However, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that there is no way Harbaugh is heading to New York.

That probably has more to do with Harbaugh’s unwillingness to leave Michigan than it does with the Jets’ lack of interest in him, but it sounds about right regardless.

A recent report claimed the Jets are preparing to make Harbaugh a massive offer, and that may still be true. The team denied the report before the season ended, but that was when Bowles was still their head coach. It would not be a surprise if they try to lure Harbaugh away from Michigan.

Michigan just finished what might look like a good season on paper, but they had a legitimate chance to reach the College Football Playoff before they were blown out by rival Ohio State. Their season then ended with another embarrassing loss to Florida in the Peach Bowl on Saturday. While that has led to further speculation that Harbaugh could consider leaving Ann Arbor, he insists he remains committed to the program.