In his first season as Michigan head coach, Jim Harbaugh led his alma mater to a 10-3 record and a 41-7 shellacking of Florida in the Citrus Bowl.
It was Michigan’s third 10-win season of the last 10 years and its first since 2011, when Brady Hoke led the Wolverines to an 11-2 mark and a Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech.
Wolverines fans, well, they’re happy Harbaugh came home.
“I love him,” Michigan grad and CBS Sports Network host and reporter Dana Jacobson said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “And what I love is when I go back there or talk to people back there, they’re just so pumped up. Even if they don’t win at the level that everybody wants, he gets like three years of just bringing back this pumped-up excitement there. Now, if they’re really bad for some unknown reason this year, I may have to go back on that because nobody’s expecting it. But there’s complete pride. The Michigan attitude is back. It’s great. The SEC is scared of him. How great is that?”
Pretty darn great, if you’re a Michigan fan. In seven seasons under Hoke and Rich Rodriguez, Michigan went 46-42 and finished with a losing record three times. That wasn’t happening under Harbaugh, who immediately injected life into the program. After a tough season-opening loss at Utah, Michigan won nine of its next 10 games and had a run of three consecutive shutouts.
In his looks and intensity, Harbaugh, 52, has morphed into a combination of his two idols: his father, Jack Harbaugh, and his former coach, Bo Schembechler.
“He wants all the pieces that were part of them, what he saw in them as coaches, he wants to pull from that,” Jacobson said. “I’m sure some psychologist would say it’s brilliant in a way because if you’ve convinced your mind that you have this – you have the hat, you have this demeanor, you’re taking the khakis – whatever it is, if that portrays itself in how you coach, it’s brilliant.”
Harbaugh won 10 of his final 12 games this season, with one loss coming on a freaky final play against Michigan State and another coming against Ohio State. Those teams finished sixth and fourth, respectively, in the final AP Poll.
Michigan has lost seven of its eight games to Sparty and 10 of its last 11 to the Buckeyes. Harbaugh, who turned Stanford into a powerhouse and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl, hopes to change that sooner rather than later.
“When you talk to him, you know he’s having fun,” Jacobson said. “I’m not saying he’s not a serious coach, but he’s having fun. This is what he lives for. It’s awesome.”