Harbaugh is the king of cool in Michigan’s world
Chicago — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh showed up for his scheduled appearances at Big Ten media day Monday wearing a suit, tie and his Michigan ball cap.
It was an unusual accessory, considering few coaches wear a hat with a suit other than on the day they’re being introduced for their new job.
But this is Harbaugh.
And he’s, well, different.
“I haven’t had a haircut in about five weeks. I do have hair,” Harbaugh said, lifting the cap during the first day of the two-day media days. “I wear suits and ties when I go to a wedding and they say you have to wear them for this, but I felt more comfortable with the hat. And I like the skinny M.”
This is clearly Harbaugh’s world, and he can do as he pleases.
Harbaugh, entering his second season coaching his alma mater, fielded plenty of questions Monday about his musical endeavor as a rapper in a recently released hip-hop video by Bailey.
He said he had fun writing some of the lyrics and being part of the video in which he is featured yelling: “Who’s got it better than us? NOBODY!”
“The feedback has been great,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve gotten texts from people, people have stopped me and tell me, ‘That’s really, really good.’ We did not embarrass ourselves with that. It’s a respectable song and video. And all cool people like it. Some uptight people don’t, but they’re very few.”
Harbaugh said he wrote one line: “Roughest team in the B-I-G.”
While he considered the next question that was not focused on his rap endeavors, he realized he had more to add to his comments on the video.
“It’s only some uptight white people that don’t like it,” Harbaugh said, laughing and drawing laughter.
Cornerback Jourdan Lewis wouldn’t offer specifics when asked his opinion of the video, but he apparently is one of the cool people, because he liked it and what it represents.
“I mean, that’s out of his element.” Lewis said. “It’s cool that he tried that. I’m kind of glad he’s trying different things. He’s not afraid to go out there and try new things. He’s just being himself. That’s him.”
Harbaugh has not rested since the bowl concluded, since signing day, since spring practice, since the satellite camps in June. He took his family to Disney and last weekend participated in the American Century Golf Championship in Nevada.
It was probably the only thing at which he has failed this summer.
“My wife and my kids expected that I was going to win the tournament,” Harbaugh said. “I told them that I wasn’t, that if you don’t practice something then you don’t have a chance to win. ‘Come on Dad, you’re going to win. You’re just saying that. You always win.’ I had to come back after each round and tell them I wasn’t winning and I didn’t win.”
He felt like the big winner this summer in terms of the extensive satellite camp tour that drew plenty of media attention and lots of headlines and radio talk show debates. Harbaugh and his staff had by far the most ambitious schedule of camps this summer.
Harbaugh was asked Monday what he got out of the camps, and he said his wife, Sarah — who is pregnant with the couple’s fourth child and is due early next year — helped illuminate why he finds them so important.
“Sarah came to about five camps that we did and sat up in the stands and watched,” he said. “We had one day where we had two camps in the same day and at the end of the day I said, ‘What did you think?’ She said, ‘That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. They just wanted to show their stuff. Their parents were all watching and they had their cameras and they felt so much pride.’
“I said, ‘Sarah, cute isn’t a word that we usually associate with football.’ But then as I thought about it, it was. It was really cute. That was the perfect word for it. I saw it over and over, the same things she saw, and it was wonderful, really wonderful. People living their dream, their having the opportunity to compete or learn something. It was wonderful.”
Harbaugh did field some somewhat contentious questioning Monday about his Twitter response to Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who earlier this year said the Buckeyes didn’t need to do things like spring practice in Florida as Michigan was doing to “jumpstart” their program. Harbaugh took offense and tweeted a more personal assault, “Good to see Director Smith being relevant again after the tattoo fiasco. Welcome back!”
Smith at that time did apologize to Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel, but Harbaugh said he will only apologize when it’s warranted.
“Somebody made a joke about us and our program and we fired one back over their bow,” Harbaugh said. “I feel like it was warranted and I still believe it was warranted. I don’t believe there was an apology necessary.”
Harbaugh last preseason took his team into what he called the “submarine” away from fans and media for nearly three weeks.
He said he hasn’t yet decided his plan when camp begins Aug. 8, but more than likely he will shut down media access until shortly before the season. Unless, he said, someone sticks “bamboo shoots” under his fingernails.
“Then maybe I’ll have to,” Harbaugh said, drawing laughs again.
There were a lot of reasons he thought that was the right approach last season.
“That gives our team the right and the ability to improve, make mistakes and correct and learn from those mistakes within a team concept,” he said. “I think a player and a team have the right to do that. When you’re at the beginning, I think it’s very good and beneficial to work together as a team, with the team only.
“It was fun. You have to understand, that’s the (most fun) time of the year. That’s when your team is forged.”
He addressed scheduling issues by saying they’re not an issue. Michigan will play Michigan State and Ohio State on the road this year, and in 2018 when the Wolverines and Notre Dame renew the rivalry for a two-game series, they will play all three rivalry games on the road. Manuel has talked about trying to work with the Big Ten on staggering the Michigan State and Ohio State games, so Michigan would play one at home and one on the road each season.
Harbaugh said he’s not concerned.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to work on that,” Harbaugh said. “The schedule’s the schedule. You play ‘em as they fall. And that’s an opportunity to go to another man’s stadium and beat their team and beat their crowd and maybe even have a chance to beat the elements.”
He has no issue with the 2018 schedule with the three rivals on the road.
“That gives us a chance to go to three different places, some of the best places in the world to play football all in the same year,” he said. “I’d hate to deprive someone of that. I don’t see any reason to try to work on any of that.”
And if you disagree, he’d probably consider you not cool.