Finebaum: Harbaugh has 'hijacked college football'

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, not unexpectedly, has drawn plenty of reaction since he called the NCAA’s vote to ban satellite camps a “knee-jerk” reaction, criticized Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze for not wanting to “work harder” and said the term “student-athlete” should be dropped for “consistency.”

Harbaugh made his first public comments in a Sports Illustrated interview Tuesday responding to the NCAA Council voted last Friday to ban the camps for which Harbaugh was such a proponent to share Michigan with young players who could never afford to travel to a camp in Ann Arbor, and, also, to help the UM staff identify potential recruits. Last summer he launched the nine-city "Summer Swarm Tour" across the country.

Noted radio show host Paul Finebaum, whose show appears on the SEC Network, said Tuesday night at the end of his show that “Jim Harbaugh has hijacked college football” and has gone from being the most entertaining coach in college football to the “most annoying.”

Finebaum also took exception to Harbaugh’s comments to SI about Freeze. Freeze told the Clarion-Ledger last Sunday he was happy the camps were banned because he is “selfish with my time. I’m away from my family enough, and I just did not want to go.”

Harbaugh blasted Freeze in the SI piece, criticizing a coach who makes $5 million a year and living in a big house, “saying he does not want to sacrifice his time. That is not a kindred spirit to me.”

Freeze appeared Wednesday morning on the “Mike & Mike” show on ESPN — the show hosts on Tuesday had vocally opposed the NCAA decision to ban camps — and defended himself.

Harbaugh blasts ‘knee jerk’ decision to ban camps

“I will never apologize for wanting to be a good father,” Freeze said. “That is a priority for me.”

Freeze, who said he was preparing to work camps with Oklahoma State and Missouri, said he reached out to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to discuss what could be done to help the mid-major programs like those in the Mid-American Conference that have always benefited from working camps at bigger Division I schools.

“I am a proponent of allowing these other schools to come to these Power Five camps to continue to evaluate kids that may not make it in the Power Five to give them opportunities,” Freeze told Mike & Mike. “I don’t know any staff that doesn’t work hard at recruiting. I know there are two sides to this and I respect both sides.

“For us, and again, I said it’s skewed based on your region, your location and how you value the relationships you think this could be a negative toward that … we can evaluate these kids with the normal recruiting calendar the NCAA has in place. So we don’t think we’re going to cost kids scholarships near the number I’ve heard thrown out there.”

Nebraska coach Mike Riley, who appeared Wednesday morning on Sirius XM College Sports, explained that while he leads a Power Five program, he still faces challenges recruiting to Lincoln.

“I was disappointed to see that,” Riley told SiriusXM of the ban. “I think everybody, including me, will come at this with a self-serving attitude. I love recruiting here. This is a great place, but one of the issues is, many of our recruits have to come from pretty far away.

“The satellite camps, when I was at Oregon State it was kind of the same thing — we were rural so to be able to work a camp in California or Texas, it gives the university to see some more players and be involved with players and those players get the opportunity to work with coaches. Through that, the player may find an opportunity he never dreamed possible. I look at the satellite camps as opportunities for schools, opportunities for high school student-athletes. I think they needed to probably have more regulation, maybe the number you could have, maybe look at some things like that. But I really think it provided a lot of opportunity for many different folks.”

Finebaum has said he considers Harbaugh the Donald Trump of college football, a coach who moves the needle and does so in entertaining fashion. His opinion has changed and he shared that during his final thought segment on Tuesday on “The Paul Finebaum Show”.

“So once again, Jim Harbaugh has hijacked college football, “Finebaum said. “I think he has been an entertaining entrant to college football since he arrived in Michigan a year and a half ago. Entertaining. That was then. I find him growingly and increasingly annoying now.

“His satellite tour (last summer) was groundbreaking, but it also was about Jim Harbaugh. It was about promoting the brand of Michigan football, but mostly, ‘Look at me, I’m Jim Harbaugh. I’m taking my shirt off. I can come into Nick Saban’s backyard.’ But not once did he ever beat Saban for a player, did he ever beat Huge Freeze for a player or (Tennessee coach) Butch Jones, but that hasn’t stopped him from taking cheap, unecessesary shots.”

“Jim Harbaugh is all about Jim Harbaugh, and that’s fine, but I think it’s finally caught up to him, and I think he has gone from the most entertaining person in college football to the most annoying. And I for one am really getting sick of him.”

Twitter: @chengelis