Harbaugh: SEC, ACC backlash to trip ‘fake outrage’

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh called the reaction from the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference commissioners “fake outrage” to his decision to take the Wolverines to Florida for spring practice during spring break a few weeks ago.

Harbaugh, appearing on the Mike & Mike Show on ESPN on Wednesday morning, broke new ground in college football by taking Michigan off-campus to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, for six days during which the team practiced four times while also getting in beach time and participating in a number of non-football activities.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer over the weekend told a reporter he is “looking into” taking the Buckeyes on a similar spring trip in the future and will “probably do it” and Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio has called it “creative” and said last month he would think about a trip like that.

The SEC and ACC commissioners objected to Harbaugh’s plan, saying it takes too much free time from the student-athletes. Harbaugh has repeatedly mentioned that every other college sport travels for similar trips.

“I thought it was fake outrage. I thought it wasn’t really real,” Harbaugh told Mike & Mike when asked his reaction to their reaction. “The moral high ground of the sanctity of spring break, that’s what people chose to use as their moral stance? I thought it was fake. I thought it was fake outrage.”

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The Michigan football players said they had a great time being in Florida. The trip concluded with a practice March 4 that was open to the public.

“I really think it’s a great idea,” Harbaugh told the show. “I’d recommend other coaches do it. It’s nothing new, really. College teams do this. It’s just something our lacrosse teams, baseball team, softball team, wrestling teams, basketball teams do the same. It was all positives from our view. Building the team and getting to know each other and connecting with your teammates.

“Experienced a lot of good times together. It was good getting to know a guy’s story. Everybody has one and being together as a team doing football, it was all positives for our team.”

Harbaugh was asked if he thinks the NCAA will ban this type of trip for football.

“It’s possible,” he said. “I don’t see on what grounds they could. I would recommend it to other coaches for their team. It was all positives for ours. Let them play, let them have fun. What’s the problem?”

Harbaugh addressed several other topics on the Mike&Mike Show:

■ Asked what percentage he is now as a quarterback compared to when he was in the NFL: “I don’t know. I don’t know what that would be. Put it this way: I know it’s passed me by, for sure. There’s a day in there where you feel pretty good, you feel like the throwing part is pretty darn good and then the next day, the arm’s sore. It’s different. Football is the young man’s game. There used to be a part of me that said, ‘I can still do this,’ but that’s passed. I dream about playing, though. I still dream about playing the game. All my football dreams are actually still playing, which is fun. You wake up and some of the same smells are there and feelings. I get it that way.”

■ On why athletes have a sense of entitlement — does that start with the current college recruiting process: “My thoughts on recruiting, as the coach or when I was a player, you want to connect with the people you’re gonna be coached by or coaching the next four years. Not only that, but the entire family. This goes back to Bo Schembechler when I was recruited. Bo would come into your home, he’d take off his shoes, he’d sit on the couch, he wanted to know mom, he wanted to know dad, he wanted to know the grandparents, play with younger sister and you felt like coach knew you, wanted to know you. To me, that part is vitally important being able to go somebody else’s hometown, to be able to go to their school, to their house and begin the process of a long and trusted friendship is vital to a ball team. That hasn’t changed, that’s the relationship building trust is a foundation of any relationship, I believe, a marriage or a ball team.”

■ He was asked if he was saying recruiting has changed: “My point is it’s not that different. I remember Bo talking to my younger sister Joani and they were playing with the dollhouse in the corner of the living room. I went outside with Drew and Dylan, (incoming freshman) David Long’s seven-year-old brother and sister and were throwing the Nerf football around in the driveway, that led to climbing a tree. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t get up the tree. Drew got up the tree, but I never got up the tree, so technically I didn’t climb even the tree. There’s so much more that goes into it than climbing a tree or sleep over or I go to (incoming freshman Michael) Dwumfour’s house and never felt more welcome in a home. (His father) said, ‘Coach, I want you to come into, take off your shoes, this is your house, treat this as your house, my wife has prepared this African meal,’ that was the top-five meal I’ve had in my life. I walked out of that house, I knew Mom, I knew Dad, I knew sister, I knew her husband, and Michael so much more better. I know that’s not great English there. I hope you know what I’m saying.”

■ On his brother-in-law Tom Crean’s Indiana basketball team being a 5 seed in the Tournament: “I love the team, I love watching them play. I’ve been in their locker room, and that’s a real ball team. Tom’s got himself a ball team. I love the way they play and there’s nothing better than when you know you’ve got a ball team and they’re heading into the tournament this weekend and I like their chances. I think they’re going to have at it, and that’s the way he feels and that’s the way I feel. I’ve been in that locker room more than a few times. They’re going to be darn tough to beat, I can tell you that.”