Commentary: Harbaugh shows true colors in Swenson case

Teddy Greenstein
Chicago Tribune
Jim Harbaugh

We hear about the Jim Harbaugh slumber party at a recruit's house and make lame jokes about khaki pajamas. Harbaugh stalks a California kid, sits in on his World Religions Class, and the photo gets thousands of looks on social media.

It's all a diversion.

The real Harbaugh is the one who just told a left tackle from Downers Grove (Illinois) South who was verbally committed to Michigan for two-plus years to take a hike. Actually, Harbaugh didn't tell Erik Swenson. Apparently he was too busy posing for selfies. So he had his offensive line coach, Tim Drevno, do it.

"A month ago, I had a great talk with coach Tim Drevno, and he said, 'Get ready to play for us,'" Swenson told the Chicago Tribune's Bob Narang. "They called me last week saying I should reopen my recruitment and take other visits. My family and I were shaken back by it."

When Swenson called Tuesday, he said he was told by Drevno that there were "no spots left." He said he asked to speak with Harbaugh but "he didn't want to talk to me."

Swenson said he helped recruit some members of the 2016 class, adding: "I just felt used."

Another recruit, Antwaine Richardson, decommits from UM

Kiante Enis decommits from Michigan

Don't feel bad, kid. It's how Harbaugh does business. It's called "over-recruiting." Or "Colter-ing."

When Harbaugh was at Stanford, he secured a verbal commitment from Kain Colter. Even had Colter spend time with fellow quarterback Andrew Luck during a campus visit.

After Colter injured his throwing shoulder, Stanford coaches asked for MRIs and pretended they needed clearance from the admissions office, despite Colter's 4.2 grade-point average. Then they stopped calling altogether.

No wonder Colter thinks college football players should be considered employees. He got fired before setting foot on Northwestern's campus.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said this in 2011: "We're going to honor our commitments. The coaches who punt on guys when they get hurt, it's pathetic. It's these kids' futures."

This is even worse. Swenson didn't get injured. He's a good student. There's no character issue. Many coaches believe Swenson is good enough to start in the Big Ten. Heck, Alabama offered him a scholarship 10 months ago. Northwestern still has a spot available and wants to sign him.

Harbaugh dumped him, thinking he can do better. So what if you stain your profession and embarrass some of your alums. Gotta beat Ohio State, right?

I'll give Harbaugh this: He is making a mockery of a system that is already a joke. "Committing" to a school does not mean you're committed until the fax comes through on National Signing Day in early February. Kids have played the con game for years, "verbal-ing" to a MAC or Sun Belt school while hoping to pounce on a Big Ten or SEC offer.

The solution is to allow kids to actually sign with schools the summer before their senior seasons. But coaches like Harbaugh don't want that. They want to be able to drop verbally-committed players they sour on.

The irony here is that Harbaugh is so brilliant, he could probably go .500 in the Big Ten with Western Michigan's roster. But he's greedy. Your record trumps your reputation.

A year ago, Harbaugh was steamed after losing a recruiting battle with Ohio State for tailback Mike Weber. After Buckeyes running coach Stan Drayton abruptly departed for the Chicago Bears, leaving Weber to tweet that he was "hurt as hell," Harbaugh also took to Twitter with a "thought of the day."

Harbaugh: "What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! — Sir Walter Scott"

Time for a retweet, Jim.

Illinois tackle Swenson no longer committed to UM