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Harbaugh: Negative recruiters manipulating young players

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jim Harbaugh

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, when he joined Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari on his podcast, discussed at some length what he thinks about negative recruiting and how rival coaches use the threat of Harbaugh-to-the-NFL rumors to sway recruits.

Calipari’s “Cal Cast” with Harbaugh posted on Tuesday.

The two hit on a number subjects, but Calipari was mostly interested in Harbaugh’s recruiting techniques, along with how he handles a situation similar to his – many suggest Calipari will head back to the NBA and many speculate about Harbaugh to the NFL.

Calipari asked Harbaugh how he deals with that.

“I love going down the path with a youngster and a family,” Harbaugh said. “If we go down this path together, we go down this path all the way where all my friends are your friends, all my contacts are your contacts. This is something I envision being a long and trusting, lasting friendship. That’s the thing being a college coach, you’ve got the opportunity to be somebody’s favorite teacher, somebody’s favorite coach that they ever had in their entire life. I want to be that. I really strive to be that.

“As far as the negative recruiting, a lot of that comes from people that have been saying that for six months or a year. They’re our enemies, they’re our competition. They try to manipulate a youngster and their family any way they can. My philosophy and thought on it – if you have to talk about somebody else and somebody else’s program and negative recruit them or their situation, then you’re really not concentrating on your own program and the situation you have at your school. That’s what you should be presenting and that’s what you should be encouraging a youngster to look at, not the negative side of recruiting. Definitely people use that against you and they use that against me and I’ve long referred to those type of people as jive turkeys.”

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Calipari also said he would like to come to a Michigan practice and watch Harbaugh coach, and Harbaugh said only if he gets to watch Calipari coach.

“To be out on a football field, to be outside, to me that’s the medicine for whatever ails you,” Harbaugh said, describing his passion for football. “You’ve got a cough, you’ve got something in your personal life that isn’t going great, but when you hit that field, that’s the medicine. Being outside, footballs being thrown around and you’re practicing football, that’s the best part of every day.

“Being a head football coach, it’s an amazing job because head coach allows you to coach anybody. That’s what I truly love to do. There’s going to be some moment in practice you say something to a player. In football, you stand behind them, and if you can give a coaching point to somebody that helps them improve, gives them a tool. You know the look, they just turn around to you, John, and you can see it in their eyes. There’s a click there. They get it. And that’s the most gratifying moment there is to coaching. I love coaching. I love football. Blessed to be able to have this job.”

Since they were discussing recruiting, Calipari asked about Harbaugh and his sleepovers at recruits’ homes.

“Did you wear a onesie? Did you shower? Did you bring a toothbrush? Tell me how you would do a sleepover in case I want to do one,” Calipari said.

Harbaugh said he wears sweat clothes.

“The rules in football are, a head coach can make a home visit one time and the way the rule reads, one time in a 24-hour day,” Harbaugh said. “I just want to get to know them. I want to get to know the family, I want to get to know the teachers, the counselors, the sisters, the brothers, everybody, and I want them to know me. So my idea was, I’m going to knock on the door at 12:01 a.m. and spend a little time.”