Detroit — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, while speaking to Detroit high school coaches, admitted his program isn't the big brother on the football block these days.
Michigan State has won six of the last seven against in-state rival Michigan, and in 2013 won the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl.
Harbaugh and his staff worked a clinic Wednesday night with Detroit high school coaches. The event was sponsored by Detroit businessman Horatio Williams — the function was held at his building in the shadows of Ford Field — adidas and Top Cat Sales.
About 270 coaches attended the clinic.
"I know we're not the biggest guy on the block. Michigan State's bigger than us on the block, and rightfully so," Harbaugh told the crowd. "They've done a tremendous job, and I respect the job they've done."
And that's part of the reason why Harbaugh and his staff were in Detroit, to build relationships in the city and win some of the recruiting battles against Michigan State. Harbaugh, the former Michigan quarterback in his first season as the Wolverines' head coach, later told reporters he respects the Spartans, coached by Mark Dantonio, for where their program is nationally.
"Give them credit, it's been earned," Harbaugh said. "We respect the job that they've done, but we want people to know what our ambitions are and how we're going to go about things and what kind of program we're developing and has been developed for many years."
Detroit has always been a fertile recruiting territory for Michigan, along with Michigan State and also Ohio State. But while Harbaugh makes headlines for taking his staff beginning next week on a satellite camp "Swarm Tour" to Florida, Texas and California, among others, he is mindful that recruiting starts at home.
"We want their help," Harbaugh said of the Detroit high school coaches. "We want to help spread the joy of football and work together. We need their help. We want Detroit players at Michigan to educate them, to play football, to be great people. We've had that in the past, and we have it now, but we need it going forward. It is very important. Michigan, Detroit players are very important to our university, to our team."