Michigan's Jim Harbaugh 'makes his own seat hot' in drive to win, Manuel says

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh

Ann Arbor – Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said he doesn’t have to apply any pressure on football coach Jim Harbaugh.

Manuel says Harbaugh does that to himself.

Manuel, 51, played football for the Wolverines under coach Bo Schembechler then, after suffering a career-ending injury, he changed course and moved up the ladder in athletics administration. He was athletic director at Buffalo and then Connecticut before moving into this role at Michigan in 2016.

Manuel joined Angelique S. Chengelis on The Detroit News’ “View from the Press Box” podcast this week and shared his insights and opinions on a number of college sports topics, while also revealing he is an avid cook had a catering business while working on his master’s degree at Michigan.

Harbaugh is entering his fifth season with the Wolverines determined to lead the program to a Big Ten championship and a national playoff berth. The Wolverines open the season on Aug. 31 against Middle Tennessee State in a night kickoff at Michigan Stadium.

In this podcast, Manuel addressed night games, his take on Harbaugh’s proposal of a one-time transfer, baseball coach Erik Bakich and the team’s World Series run, and what it was like to play for Schembechler.

But with the start of football season nearing, Manuel turned his focus to Harbaugh.

“He puts himself under a lot of pressure,” Manuel said. “He wants to win. He wants to drive success. He wants Michigan and Michigan football to win. From his perspective and what he puts himself under, he feels that weight, right? I feel that weight for our teams to succeed. I will say, Jim has done an outstanding job, three 10-3 (seasons), one 8-5 season. Five, 10 years ago, people would have stood up on the chairs and given a standing ovation for that record.

“But now, people are ultimately critical of one thing and one thing only – his record against (Ohio State), our record, not just him. He’s the head coach, he takes it. I’m the AD, I take it, but it’s the team. It’s a team game, we are all striving to win and drive success.

“I want him to win, but if the question is, from my perspective, am I telling him if he doesn’t win, he’s not going to have a job? The answer is no. I don’t threaten any of my coaches that way. I don’t lead that way.”

Jim Harbaugh

Harbaugh is 0-4 against Ohio State, and Manuel said he doesn’t believe “hot seats” for coaches.

“Because I know I have the right person trying who is trying to drive success and trying to win every game,” Manuel said. “Not just that game (OSU) – every game. More importantly, if I believed he was OK (with losing), then I would have more of a problem. Every now and then I listen and I hear what fans say about him and I just can’t believe that people actually believe some of the things they say about him not having a strong sense of winning and the importance of winning against Ohio State. Come on. Some of the things get outrageous.

“We have an expectation – I, he, the team – to go out and to win against Middle Tennessee State, win every game and win the last one against Ohio State and go to the Big Ten championship, go to the playoff. That’s the expectation. Michigan never walks on the field and expects to lose to anybody. I don’t need to put any additional pressure on him. I don’t do it with Jim, I don’t do it with any coach because the coaches I have here are all so driven, because if I have to say it, they need to go. 

“He makes his own seat hot because he wants to win and drive success every day. Just like I make this seat hot that I want to come in here and push myself and my teams and my staff drive success every day. Nobody can say anything outside of here that makes me more driven. Nobody.”

Harbaugh made several staff changes in the offseason, including the addition of offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, who has changed the offense. It is now a no-huddle pro-spread and Gattis will call the plays.

“Nobody wants to beat Ohio State and Michigan State and any institution more than Jim – more than me, more than the members of the team,” Manuel said. “Nobody is working harder than the coaching staff and the team to win in any sport. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be there. Ultimately, the outcome needs to be different, we want it to be different, they’re working to make it different. Nobody is more disappointed when it doesn’t’ happen than Jim the staff and the team.

“We don’t make any excuses for the record.”