McCollough on Michigan: “No one’s happy” with Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh has not lived up to expectations at Michigan, Brady McCollough says, and the program feels “trapped”

Reiter Than You
November 06, 2020 - 3:11 pm
Jim harbaugh Michigan

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After an embarrassing loss to three-score underdog Michigan State last Saturday, Jim Harbaugh’s future at Michigan is very much in doubt. 

“I think the patience is definitely running thin,” LA Times national college football reporter and Michigan alum Brady McCollough said on Reiter Than You. “It’s already been running thin for Jim Harbaugh. Next year will be the last year of his contract. He has never extended his original contract, and that’s very rare in college football to have a head coach entering basically a year-and-a-half out from his contract being up and he doesn’t have that extension to be able to recruit with. So there’s a lot of uncertainty.”

Harbaugh, 56, is the fourth-highest paid coach in America. The three coaches who make more money than him – Nick Saban, Ed Orgeron, and Dabo Swinney – have all won national championships.

Harbaugh hasn’t even won the Big Ten East.

“Is Harbaugh going to, for the good of his alma mater, step down and say, ‘Hey, I’ve gotten this as far as I can get it. I don’t want to wear out my welcome?’” McCollough asked. “Are they going to let him go into the last year of his contract next season with that uncertainty hanging over the program? It’s a fascinating situation to watch because Michigan fans are very divided on this. Sure, Harbaugh has underperformed. No one’s happy right now with Jim Harbaugh when you’re losing games like that to your rival, who just lost to Rutgers; when you’re 0-5 against Ohio State; when you lose four of five bowl games. No one’s happy with him. 

“But the unknown of the next guy and how bad that could be in comparison, it kind of keeps the program trapped a little bit because they’re so afraid of what would happen if they make the wrong decision after Harbaugh.”

Harbaugh came oh-so-close to beating Ohio State in 2016, ultimately losing 30-27 in double overtime. In 2017, Michigan lost to Ohio State, 31-20. The last two years, however, have been downright embarrassing, with Ohio State winning by a combined 118-66.

Why is the gap widening? McCollough has a theory.

“Ohio State is an SEC-thinking program,” he said. “It feels like a semi-pro operation the way they do everything. There’s a reason they’re killing it in recruiting. Their priority as an institution almost is that football program. The only reason the Big Ten is even playing football right now is so that we could get Ohio State its title shot with this really talented roster they’ve put together. Ohio State, the priorities are different, and that matters in recruiting, and they’re putting together one of the greatest recruiting classes right now in the history of the 247 Sports composite. Ohio State is just playing a different game.”

Michigan, meanwhile, just hasn’t been able to keep up.

“Harbaugh and his defensive coordinator, Don Brown, they’re very stubborn in their ways,” McCollough said. “They have not adapted to spread-offense football, which is crazy because we’ve been seeing spread offenses . . . for well over a decade now, and Michigan continues to just bang its head against the wall. Harbaugh feels like he’s got to coach like Bo [Schembechler] did in the ’80s when he was the quarterback. So you combine those things, and you have a program that is not even close to its rival. Part of it is you ran into a rival that is rising at a rate you cannot keep up with, but your own stubborn coaching philosophy is also not helping.”