Jim Harbaugh reiterates desire to remain Michigan's head football coach

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has not wavered when asked his desire to coach the Wolverines going forward.

Harbaugh, whose contract expires after the 2021 season, and Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel have said they plan to meet after the season, which concludes with the game Saturday night at Iowa, to discuss an extension. In the midst of the uncertainty regarding Harbaugh’s future at Michigan, where he has coached the last six years, sits the early recruiting signing day on Wednesday.

Jim Harbaugh told 97.1 FM on Tuesday he wants to remain the Michigan head football coach.

During his weekly appearance Tuesday morning on 97.1 The Ticket, Harbaugh was asked if he wants to coach Michigan next year. He did not hesitate.

“Yeah, I do, yes,” Harbaugh said.

He could coach, of course, with the remaining year of his contract, although that's not ideal for program stability and recruiting. A month and a half ago, Harbaugh was asked about NFL rumors linking him to potential openings. This has been an annual occurrence with Harbaugh, who arrived at Michigan after coaching the San Francisco 49ers. He said at the time to look beyond speculation.

“I don’t really have anything to say because I don’t have any real interest in listening to that kind of stuff,” Harbaugh said at the time. “I think you know me by now. I always let the actions speak for what you have to say. I’ve always thought this, that your actions speak so loudly that people can’t even hear what you’re saying. I’ll let the actions speak as they have in the past.”

Harbaugh said then that his actions indicated he planned to be at Michigan for a while.

“And no matter what I say to you, I’ve been here for 5½, almost six years, and I’ve experienced this, (that) no matter what I say, the next day, something else is said or the next year the same thing comes up,” he said in November.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, and Harbaugh reportedly spent the past weekend doing virtual in-home visits. Michigan has 21 commitments and the class currently is ranked No. 9 nationally by 247Sports composite.

He was asked on The Ticket about improving the program with this class of freshmen.

“If you were on these calls, you’d be inspired, too, and I am talking to the youngsters, their families,” Harbaugh said. “Their passion for attending Michigan, their focus on getting a degree from the University of Michigan and playing football at Michigan, that focus is inspiring. You would love to be on those calls as I am. Inspires me.”

But Michigan is 2-4 and has struggled mightily this season. The Wolverines canceled the last two games, including the regular-season finale at rival Ohio State last Saturday because of COVID-19 issues. Harbaugh skirted a question Tuesday morning regarding making changes to the program.

“All focus is on this (Iowa) game,” he said. “As I said before, a lot of people talk about what they’re going to do, how they’re gonna do it, we can do that now. We can do that right now. That passion, that fire, that enthusiasm, that energy can start today.

Harbaugh said he does talk to the Michigan fan base. Although the question was framed to ask about “disappointed” Michigan fans, Harbaugh turned upbeat.

“I do talk to the fan base,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve been so supportive. They love Michigan. We’re on the same team. I think they’d really love our players if they knew them all. They are inspired by them, I’m inspired by them. We’re gonna keep pushing, and that continues today, that continues tomorrow, the next day and all the way to Saturday and beyond. I’ve got great appreciation for the support we get from the Michigan fan base.”

Here are some other highlights from Harbaugh’s interview on 97.1 The Ticket:

On his reaction to the suggestion Michigan waved the white flag by canceling the Ohio State game: “What the thoughts are of some or they, don’t have a great interest or willingness to listening to what some say or they say. We’re excited about this challenge Saturday night against Iowa. I can’t really say enough about how proud I am of (his players). They’ve been through a lot. Been through a lot of adversity. Thing I’m impressed most with is how they’ve handled it and how they’ve grown and that’ll serve them well now and in the future.”

On what the team did during time away from football after canceling: “Once we paused the practices, accomplished getting the (COVID-19) spread back to normal, which I think was a really good accomplishment. Back to the weight room, back to conditioning did that last week Thursday and Friday.”

On how testing has gone: “The spike so to speak, the spread, there’s been quarantines, just really followed the medical protocols. Every day has been a daily process of what the results are and putting a plan in for the players to return to practice.”

On the disappointment of being 2-4: “I did say I really liked this team. I mean, love this team. Most impressed with how they handle themselves, how they’ve handled a lot of the adversity. I think it’s made them stronger. I think they’ve grown. I think that serves them well now and going forward. And we’re still in it. We’re still in the season. There’s a lot of people in general even in the football world that once the new year starts, the next year starts, they get very passionate about what their resolutions are going to be — get on fire, gonna do more, gonna work harder — (and) we’re still in that. So let’s get on fire, let’s get passionate, let’s do that today, tomorrow, the next day, while we’re still in this season. That can start today.”

On whether there will be players we haven’t seen yet play at Iowa: “Yes there will be. That’ll play out Saturday night. Right now, very excited for those opportunities that will come.”

On the way the crossover games shook out (not as Big Ten said with seedings): “My philosophy and thoughts on it have always been, the game gets scheduled, there’s time set, there’s an opponent set, and then you prepare for that game and that’s where you put all your focus in and your energy. It’s going to be a great challenge and one that I’m confident our football team will respond to.”


Twitter: @chengelis