Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was reticent on Monday at his weekly news conference about revealing what the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry means to him, but a day later, he waxed poetic.
Harbaugh, a former Michigan quarterback who has played in the rivalry and famously guaranteed victory in 1986, will coach the Wolverines for the first time in the series when the teams meet on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
He watched his first Michigan-Ohio State game in 1973 from the south end zone of Michigan Stadium. His father, Jack Harbaugh, was on Bo Schembechler’s staff. Harbaugh during Tuesday’s Big Ten conference call animatedly described his first impressions of the rivalry.
“If I had to pick one thing, it’s my first impressions of the game,” Harbaugh said. “First impression of ever seeing the game was just how those two uniforms looked on the field at the same time. The aesthetics. The sight lines, to me, the maize and blue, the scarlet and gray and the two helmets, the two uniforms, the sight lines are unbelievable.
“That was the first thing that I noticed that was amazing. And the games were always so close and competitive at the end of the year. Saw the two teams play to a 10-10 tie (in 1973) and a couple days later the athletic directors voted to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl and our house and our community was, as Bob Ufer put it, it was a dastardly deed, it was a day that would live in infamy. That was my first experience in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry and one of the greatest football games I still have ever seen.”
He has not missed a Michigan-Ohio State game since.
“It was something I’d watch every year and anticipated it every year that it would be the best day of the year, even better than Christmas when I was growing up here in Ann Arbor,” Harbaugh said. “Then played in the game, but watched it from the sidelines as a Michigan player my freshman and sophomore years. I was hurt my junior year, and then played in the game my fourth and fifth year.
“I’ve watched the game ever since, every year since 1973. What time is the Michigan-Ohio State game on? I’m going to watch. That was the greatest thing to me, the sight lines. Perfect sight lines.”
Praise for Falk
Jon Falk, who retired after the 2013 season, his 40th as Michigan’s equipment manager has often spoken of his frequent meetings this season with Harbaugh.
Falk, who has authored the book “40 Years in the Big House”, had Harbaugh work for him one summer during his playing career at Michigan, and the two grew close.
“If you’re a head coach and you could pick an equipment manager, Jon Falk would be the one you would pick,” Harbaugh said. “You could not have a better equipment manager. I saw it first-hand here as a player here at Michigan, was very close to Jon and the equipment staff.
“One summer I worked on the crew here painting the building, doing the maintenance. Jon has seen it all. He’s seen so much. His book, ‘40 Years in the Big House’ is a great, great read. Good man, Jon Falk, continues to be a good man to this day. He’s part of the Michigan legacy and fabric. In so many ways, I just like talking to him, confiding in him, getting his feedback. So do the players and coaches on the staff.”
Harbaugh invited Falk, long considered the "keeper of the Jug," to fly with the Wolverines to their game at Minnesota last month. The teams play for college's oldest trophy, the Little Brown Jug, Falk took personally that trophy and game. His appearance on the sideline was his first since he retired.