Harbaugh on recruiting criticism: 'We don't hide how we operate'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh gets a quick handshake with Warde Manuel after UM named Manuel as athletic director Friday. Harbaugh addressed recent criticism he's received after a flurry of decommitments from recruits this past week.

Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, asked if he’s surprised by some of the criticism directed his way during recruiting, which culminates with National Signing Day on Wednesday, said he’s been completely open with recruits.

Harbaugh spoke briefly to reporters after Warde Manuel was introduced Friday as Michigan’s new athletic director. He was hurried saying he had to catch a flight to Baltimore.

The criticism, national in scope, stems in large part from the decommitments of offensive lineman Erik Swenson, who had pledged to Michigan in 2013 while Brady Hoke was still head coach, and defensive end Rashad Weaver. While Weaver told The Detroit News there were no hard feelings regarding Michigan or Harbaugh, who had told him about two weeks ago that his chances of having a spot on signing day were 50-50, there was more tension regarding Swenson.

Swenson said his offer from Michigan was pulled and he never heard from Harbaugh. Swenson’s head coach told The News that he detected “red flags” regarding Michigan’s recruitment of his player three weeks ago. A sourced report indicated Swenson was asked to attend a camp at Michigan last summer but didn’t.

“We’re very much out there,” Harbaugh said. “We don’t hide how we operate and what we do. It’s a meritocracy in everything we do in our program and it’s going to continue to be that (way). We’re going to bring the finest student athletes with character that we can to the University of Michigan and that process continues for the next three, four days.”

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Before his public appearance at the news conference, Harbaugh’s only response to the criticism was what was thought to be a veiled commentary on his Twitter page. At midnight on Jan. 22 Harbaugh tweeted a line from the movie, Shooter: “They said artificial sweeteners were safe, WMDs were in Iraq and Ann Nicole married for love” … “They said.”

Harbaugh stressed his point again Friday.

“It’s a meritocracy,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve got to continue to perform, when there’s commitment in the classroom, on the field and as a citizen in the community. That’s how we’re going about it. I don’t hide from that at all or won’t. That’s what we demand.”

Interim athletic director Jim Hackett said Michigan's football staff has open communication with high school coaches regarding recruiting.

“I can assure you of this — Michigan, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Hackett, Warde Manuel operate with total integrity, total transparency, so if a bad perception that we haven’t been transparent is out there, of course you’d get criticized because that’s not what Michigan stands for," Hackett said Friday.

Hackett said he has received some correspondence from Michigan fans regarding the recruiting controversies.

“I’m proud of people who have written me and say, ‘Is this what we would do?’” Hackett said. “I say, ‘You just don’t know the whole story.’ Unfortunately and importantly, we can’t rebut what’s being written.

“We can talk about our recruiting tactics and our approaches, and coach and I have a total alignment about that — we’re really good at it. Can you imagine a competitive school or somebody wanting to suggest it’s not fair? The intensity of trying to compete is such that I don’t know what to believe during the recruiting period.”

Weaver and Swenson have had considerable interest from other schools now that they’re no longer Michigan commitments. Weaver had a very positive response to the situation.

“There’s no anger, just disappointment,” Weaver told The News. “There’s no reason to be angry, I know how it works.

“A lot of high school kids wish they had this stress right now.”