Jim Harbaugh: 'I believe in Michigan football'
Ann Arbor -- Jim Harbaugh drew a lot of laughs during his introductory press conference as Michigan's new football coach, returning home to his alma mater to restore the program to its traditional heights.
The laughs were loudest when Harbaugh was asked Tuesday if he's comfortable with the widespread perception he is the "Messiah" who will rescue Michigan football from the doldrums it has experienced for the last six years.
"I'm not comfortable with that at all," Harbaugh, 51, said, the large crowd erupting in laughter.
He added: "I'm standing on a foundation that's been built for over 100 years by some great men. I feel like I'm standing on their shoulders.
"I want to do a good job. I want to be good. I want to win, I want to win at practice, we want to win in the classroom, we want to win in the community, we want to win on fall Saturday afternoons. We'll have great expectations for that."
Michigan officially announced Harbaugh as its 20th football coach on Tuesday at the Junge Family Center, the culmination of a tightly-run search by interim athletic director Jim Hackett. Harbaugh replaces Brady Hoke, fired Dec. 2 after four seasons.
Harbaugh, who played quarterback for the Wolverines from 1983-86, left the San Francisco 49ers with one year remaining on his contract – though his relationship with the organization's brass had soured -- to help turn Michigan, which has had three losing seasons since 2008.
"Our guy came home," Hackett said in introducing Harbaugh.
His contract is vastly smaller than what was leaked nationally weeks ago when Michigan's offer was reported at $48 million over six years.
A decision from the heart
Harbaugh's contract is seven years, $5 million annually, with 10 percent increases after years three and five. He also received a $2 million signing bonus, and there are other incentives, such as a $500,000 bonus for winning a national title.
And if Michigan's Academic Progress Rate (APR) is 960 or higher, Harbaugh will receive up to $150,000 a year.
The salary mirrors what Harbaugh made in San Franciso. Money, he said, wasn't an issue in terms of deciding whether to return to Michigan.
"I made a decision from the heart, which I thought was best for me and my family," he said
Harbaugh was asked about how long Hackett had pursued him and how quickly the process came together.
"Pretty quick," he said. "It was in the last couple weeks."
When asked about when he accepted the position, Harbaugh paused. Hackett, sitting to the side, jumped in and responded, "Yesterday."
Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who retired after the 2007 season, his 13th as Michigan's head coach, attended the news conference along with former Michigan coach Gary Moeller and former Schembechler assistant Jerry Hanlon.
Carr praised Hackett for running a coaching search void of leaks. Carr was asked if he knew Hackett, who became interim AD on Oct. 31 when Dave Brandon resigned, would land his prize, Harbaugh.
"Jim Hackett's a brilliant guy," Carr said. "I was very confident before he took the job, I felt very good because I've known him for a long time. He's been a great leader in the business world.
"Did I doubt he would land Harbaugh? I knew if anybody could do it, Jim Hackett could. Hackett can hack it."
Harbaugh sported a blue suit, light-blue shirt and maize-and-blue tie and had a raspy, scratchy voice, which he attributed to being doused with Gatorade following the 49ers' win on Sunday. His family, including his parents, Jack and Jackie, were among a large contingent attending the news conference.
For Harbaugh, returning to Ann Arbor is a homecoming, as his father Jack was an assistant under legendary coach Bo Schembechler before Jim's UM playing career, which included a No. 2 finish in the final AP poll for the 1985 season.
He recalled his first year as a player at UM in 1983, when he was late for the first team meeting and Schembechler told him that he would never play a game for the Wolverines. Not only was he a standout player, now the Wolverines' prodigal son returns as the head coach.
"Throughout my life, I have dreamed of coaching at the University of Michigan," Harbaugh said. "Now I have the honor to live it. ... I know Michigan football and I believe in Michigan football."
On his drive in for his press conference on Tuesday morning, Harbaugh said he got a reminder of the significance of his return.
"I was reminded of another special word when I was driving in to Ann Arbor — that's homecoming," he said.
There has been considerable speculation that Harbaugh, who many think is driven by the desire to win a Super Bowl, won't stay long in Ann Arbor.
He related that he thinks of himself as in construction, building homes.
"I feel like that again," Harbaugh said. "I feel like I'm at that point. Even though you've done well, you've built some pretty nice homes, you have to prove it again. I'd really like to live in one permanently."
At that point the crowd, including many of his former teammates at Michigan and several of his current players, responded in agreement.
"That's what I'm hopeful for here," Harbaugh said.
Several current Michigan players were on hand for the news conference, although Harbaugh "met" with his team via conference call just before. Quarterback Shane Morris, who said that although he will be going through his third offensive system in three years, he is relishing the opportunity to work with Harbaugh, a former quarterback.
Morris said the players have stayed close this last month and had team-led workouts before they headed off for break – Michigan was 5-7 this season and failed to make a bowl – but admitted it was strange not having coaches around.
"Now we're just very excited to have a new coach and get back to work and win," Morris said.
Jack Miller, the team's starting center last season, found Harbaugh to be humorous during his first press conference. He said he feels like the program has renewed credibility with the new coach.
"That national media attention has gotten is crazy," Miller said. "People who don't follow football have been saying, 'Oh, that Jim Harbaugh guy is coaching there, you know?' It definitely has a bigger impact than a normal hiring of a coach. It brings a lot more attention to the place. It brings a lot more attention to everything and puts things on a bigger scale. We're not in a bowl game, but we're getting talked about like we are."
Carr, who earlier this month endorsed Harbaugh as head coach in an interview with The Detroit News, said he brings instant credibility to Michigan.
"He did a great job at the University of San Diego, he turned around a program that was really down at Stanford, he won the Pac-12 championship, won the Rose Bowl, then he goes to a pro team that was down, and ends up playing for three conference championships and playing in the Super Bowl.
"But then you go back to what he did as a player – he played for a great coach in coach Schembechler, and he played in the big games, so the pressure of the competitive environment is something that's not new to him. He's been doing that since he was 18."
And now Harbaugh will be doing that back home.