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Jim Harbaugh pushes back on criticism of UM trip

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh takes questions from reporters on the field at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, on Monday.

Bradenton, Fla. — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was asked, moments after his team concluded its first practice of the spring on Monday, about the benefits of spending a week in Florida.

First, he discussed how great it is to be outside. But the rest of his response clearly was making a point to those who have criticized his decision to bring the Wolverines to IMG Academy to hold four practices during the university’s spring break. The SEC and ACC commissioners were the first to question this decision and suggest it violates a time issue for student-athletes.

“Ever seen the movie ‘Remember the Titans’? Check that out. Take a look at that,” Harbaugh said, adding the team planned to watch it Monday evening. “Team building, team development.”

In the movie, the high school team is taken off-site so the players can bond during preseason camp.

Harbaugh said he can’t remember when he hatched the idea to take the team to Florida. The players are staying on the IMG campus and will have time to take part in a number of optional activities. Two busses packed with players left after practice Monday for the beach. Harbaugh on Wednesday will coach first base for the Tigers and Pirates during Wednesday’s game, and the players can attend if they wish.

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The Friday practice will be open to the public. Many have suggested this is a thinly-veiled attempt to recruit at IMG Academy, which features some of the nation’s top football talent. Harbaugh has invited any Florida high school coach to attend practices this week.

He was asked if there is a recruiting advantage by holding practice here.

"I don’t know that there is one,” Harbaugh said.

Michigan receiver Grant Perry catches a pass while safety Jabrill Peppers defends during Michigan's practice Monday.

He was then asked about the pushback from southern coaches regarding this idea and if he thinks this will be the last time the NCAA allows such travel.

“I don’t know that,” Harbaugh said. “Our tennis team will be hitting balls here this week, as a matter of fact.”

But, a reporter asked, can Harbaugh understand the time concerns being raised?

“I can’t really see that,” he said.

Asked if he cared that other coaches are upset, Harbaugh was blunt.

"No,” he said. “Good. You got your headline now?”

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