Chicago — Not that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh needed to be reminded of his 1-5 record against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, but he was during the first day of Big Ten media days on several occasions.
Harbaugh is about to kick off his fourth season as coach of his alma mater and it was clear on Monday he knew the question about his rivalry record would come up. He answered it in his way by not specifically addressing it but instead offering what the Wolverines will attempt to do.
The first of back-to-back questions posed to Harbaugh was about how much pressure he feels because Michigan has lost six straight to Ohio State.
“We need to improve,” Harbaugh said. “And that will lead to success. It will lead to championships. It’s that simple.”
And then a lengthy question mentioned the hype Harbaugh has had since his arrival at Michigan, which he has guided to consecutive third-place Big Ten finishes followed by a fourth-place finish with last year’s 8-5 record. He was asked what he must do to show Michigan fans the Wolverines are on the right path.
The obvious answer would have simply been, “Win,” but Harbaugh chose to essentially repeat himself.
“The improvement will lead to success, will lead to championships,” he said.
Harbaugh first encountered the question about his rivalry record after dropping a 14-10 game to Michigan State last October.
“The record is what the record is,” Harbaugh said at the time. “I’m well aware of what the record is.”
Indiana will wear a helmet decal this season to honor the late Bill Mallory, the winningest football coach in Hoosiers history. Mallory died on May 25.
“We lost Bill Mallory a couple months ago,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said Tuesday. “His intensity and passion and love for his players and his grit humility and class are the things that stick out to me about Coach Mal.
“We want to honor him this season by wearing a decal on our helmet each week, and we want our players to play with that same type of intensity and passion for the Hoosiers.”
Mallory’s sons, Doug, Mike and Curt, played for the Wolverines. Curt, now head coach at Indiana State, is also a former Michigan assistant.
‘Playing for Jordan’
Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair reportedly died of heatstroke last month following a late-afternoon workout, and coach D.J. Durkin commemorated him during media days.
Durkin described what McNair meant to the program and the type of teammate he was.
“Obviously, the loss of Jordan has been a tremendously difficult thing for our entire program to deal with this summer,” Durkin said. “Jordan was a special member of our team. He had a unique way about him that was infectious to his teammates. He was loved by everyone. And we have a team that’s all working through the grieving process together.
“That’s been our focus with our guys, is to come together, be there for one another both as student-athletes as well as the staff and coaches and everyone involved. He had such tremendous impact on so many lives. So everyone is working through and dealing with that.”
Durkin praised McNair’s parents, Tonya Wilson and Marty McNair.
“If our world had half the strength and character they have, it would be a much better place,” Durkin said. “Our hearts continue to be with them. They will not be forgotten. They will always be part of our program. Jordan and his family will always be part of what we do.
“We’ve assigned a player committee to head that up and make sure that there’s always a presence. We’re a team playing for Jordan this year. So there will be some things we’ll announce in the coming days as we get into the season of what exactly we’re going to do and how we’re going to handle that.”
No division issue
A big topic of discussion during media days was the balance of divisions, considering the East has a loaded top tier with tough teams.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst, whose team is the favorite to win the West again, understandably doesn’t have an issue with the divisions.
“My view is that I think there’s some really good teams in the Big Ten, and they’re in the East or in the West, and so I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out narratives,” Chryst said. “I know who we play this year. And you respect every opponent. And you know that you’ve got to play well to give yourself a chance.
“I feel like ever since I’ve been part of the Big Ten, you know each week is going to be a heck of a competition and a heck of a battle. And that’s the fun part about playing in the Big Ten, coaching in the Big Ten, and your players know that, too. And you know what? Had great games with teams from the East, great games with teams from the West.”