Washington — Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh met with President Barack Obama at the White House Monday — and got condolences on a heartbreaking loss on Saturday from the First Fan, who watched the game against Michigan State.
In an interview on the White House driveway, Harbaugh — with his wife, Sarah — told The Detroit News and other Detroit news outlets that he had stopped by to chat with Obama after appearing with first lady Michelle Obama at a higher education awareness event.
Obama told Harbaugh it “was a tough way to lose a football game,” the coach said. The pair also talked about mutual friends. “(Obama) told the fellas to keep their chin up and him and Michelle were watching the game and likes the way our team played and told our guys to keep it going.”
He also said he expected the team would rebound from the heartbreaking loss to Michigan State at Michigan Stadium.
“It was a brutal way to lose a football game,” Harbaugh said. “We won’t let the sadness get in the way of the way we are improving — and an improving football team. You look at the things we’re doing that are putting ourselves in a position to be successful and win a football game like that and also look at the things that put us in a position to not win the game. And it’s never one play — it’s never ever one play in football.”
Harbaugh ditched his khakis for a dark suit Monday, complete with a tie with elephants on it.
Harbaugh said the team is now “onward.” The team has an off-week that Harbaugh is calling “an opportunity week — so that’s an opportunity for improvement. ... We just want to handle it. We want to handle it better than anyone else has ever handled one of these kind of games where victory is snatched.”
He downplayed some threats of violence made to Michigan punter Blake O'Neill, who mishandled a low snap on the final play. Harbaugh said he looked through many of them.
“I think they were (a) very small percentage of people that were probably drinking too much," he said. "The support that we have, that our players have, is powerful, it’s enduring. We have felt it this entire season and continue to do so.”
Harbaugh said he was involved in a Hail Mary game when he was with the Chicago Bears, but never experienced a loss like the game Saturday. “I’ve seen them on TV — they’ve happened,” Harbaugh said. “Unfortunately, as coaches, this is where you have to do your best work” when you lose a game like Saturday.
Meanwhile, Michelle Obama spoke Monday as part of her “Reach Higher” initiative to launch a new “Better Make Room” awareness campaign to target people ages 14-19. The campaign encourages students to attend college by comparing a decision to go to college to celebrities and athletes — especially when a highly-recruited student athlete decides on a school.
On Wednesday, Michelle Obama will appear with LeBron James in Akron, Ohio. She touted her efforts in a Detroit visit earlier this year that included Mayor Mike Duggan and Harbaugh.
Harbaugh praised the first lady’s efforts.
“I just think she’s awesome, so when you get asked by the first lady to come be involved in something, you do it,” Harbaugh said. “She’s a very good recruiter.”
Harbaugh was stopped by several Michigan fans on his way out — and a uniformed Secret Service officer said: “Go Blue” through a White House intercom. Harbaugh was headed back to the airport soon after the event ended.