Fox analyst Urban Meyer urges Michigan to 'fix' flat football program if Jim Harbaugh stays

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, now a college football television analyst, praised Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh during the Fox Big Noon Kickoff show on Saturday, but made clear suggestions to areas that should be re-examined if Harbaugh remains coach of the Wolverines.

Harbaugh, in his sixth season at Michigan, has one year remaining on his contract, which expires after the 2021 season. Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said earlier this week he and Harbaugh will discuss an extension after the season, which is Dec. 19. Michigan canceled Saturday’s game against rival Ohio State because of COVID-19-related issues, and awaits its Big Ten crossover matchup.

Jim Harbaugh

Two weeks ago, Meyer, who was 7-0 against Michigan before retiring following the 2018 season, said “it’s time to blow it up” at Michigan. “I think it’s time to really evaluate the culture and dig deep. There’s something going on.”

Meyer revisited those comments during Saturday’s show as the group of Fox analysts discussed Harbaugh’s future. He entered this season as the only Power Five coach with fewer than two years left on his deal.

More:Michigan mailbag: Harbaugh's future, waving white flag on season?

“Is Jim Harbaugh a good coach? He’s a heck of a coach,” Meyer said Saturday. “He’s won 70 percent of his games in the NFL. I made a comment, ‘You blow it up.’ I didn’t say change coaches. Blow it up. Evaluate your recruiting strategies, evaluate your player development and get that right. Do not lower your standards. I’m telling you, don’t do that, because that’s a tremendous history in that organization, in that university. Get it right.”

Urban Meyer

Reporter Bruce Feldman opened the segment discussing Harbaugh’s future and discussed “preliminary contract talks” for an extension between Harbaugh and athletic director Manuel that would feature a lower base salary with big incentives.

“To put this bluntly, people close to Jim Harbaugh have told me they wonder if Jim Harbaugh’s ego would allow him to accept this deal going forward,” Feldman said. “The question is, what are his other coaching options? Right now, is his NFL stock that high? It wasn’t a few years ago, and it’s only seemed to have gone down a little more. So what Jim Harbaugh is gonna do going forward is a big question hanging over Ann Arbor right now.”

More:Michigan redshirt freshman Zach Carpenter enters transfer portal

A pay cut was referenced at the end of the show and Meyer was heard saying, ‘Oooo, oooo,” suggesting that would be a blow to a head coach. But with the Michigan athletic department facing what Manuel has estimated to be an $80 million hit because of the pandemic, offering a lower salary always seemed logical.

The two former quarterbacks on the Fox how were at odds, however, in their opinions on Harbaugh and Michigan. Brady Quinn, the former Notre Dame quarterback, was asked if Harbaugh is the right fit with the Wolverines.

“I don’t think so anymore,” Quinn said. “On the way in he looked like the right fit, but unfortunate how things have gone. I don’t know that he’s the right fit right now. They’re not getting the wins against Ohio State, they’re not getting the wins against the top-25 teams, bowl wins, things of that nature and really reaching expectations. Bottom line is, expectations for Michigan are way blown out of proportion anyway. This is a team that hasn’t been able to compete for national championships like Ohio State.”

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Quinn pointed to Harbaugh not developing an “elite” quarterback he has recruited to Michigan.

Former USC quarterback Matt Leinart chose to look at the Harbaugh situation through a different lens.

“Sometimes there’s fatigue on both sides, and maybe it’s time for a change, but for me, I look at the positives — he took over a program and made it better than it was before,” Leinart said. “There hasn’t been a lot of coaches that have had success against Ohio State in the last 20 years. I think Michigan has beaten them twice in 20 years. So if you judge him by, ‘Hey, did you beat Ohio State? Did you win a Big Ten championship?’ no, he’s failed at that. But the bigger picture is the expectation. He’s averaged nine, nine and a half wins per season  … sometimes it takes more time and patience, which we know patience is lacking in college football these days.”

Cade McNamara

Quinn suggested that perhaps Cade McNamara, the redshirt freshman quarterback, could be the answer. McNamara entered the Rutgers game with Michigan trailing, 17-0, and helped lead a triple-overtime comeback victory and then started the next week against Penn State. He suffered an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder early in the game. Meyer said the only thing that concerns a coach is the locker room and figuring out issues an

“That’s all that matters,” Meyer said. “And fix problems. Fix problems. Go find you a darn quarterback and this kid looks like he’s pretty good.”

achengelis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @chengelis