By RICKY LINDSAY, Sports Editor
Wherever he has gone, Jim Harbaugh has won.
He won 18 straight games at San Diego and transformed Stanford from a bottom feeder into a national contender. The NFL wasn’t too great, either, as he won 49 games with the San Francisco 49ers and reached the NFC championship game in three straight seasons.
Now Harbaugh will be tasked with rebuilding Michigan.
Harbaugh was introduced as the 20th coach in Michigan football history on Dec. 30, a mere days after agreeing to a mutual split with the 49ers.
It was a dream come true for the former Michigan quarterback.
“There have been times in my life where I’ve thought and dreamed about it. Now it’s time to live it,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve thought about being coach at Michigan, my dad coached at Michigan. That was something I really looked up to and wanted to emulate from the time I was a youngster.”
Michigan went 5-7 last season and fired Brady Hoke on Dec. 2 after four seasons as head coach. The Wolverines search for a new leader lasted only 28 days and resulted in a homecoming of sorts.
“We thought about a way to signal Jim’s coming home, and I looked around campus and realized that maize is everywhere,” interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett said. “I’m wearing a maize watch, and I’ve gifted these to family and friends as a reminder of this very special day, our guy came home.”
Born in Toledo, Ohio, Harbaugh spent his childhood in Ann Arbor, Mich. while his father, Jack, was an assistant coach for the Wolverines. He attended Pioneer High School for two years, graduating from Palo Alto High School (California).
Harbaugh played for the Wolverines from 1982-1986. He led the team to the 1987 Rose Bowl and was the Big Ten’s Player of the Year as a senior.
Harbaugh’s 14-year career as an NFL quarterback came to an end in 2001, but a new career was quickly born. Once his playing career was over, he quickly rose the coaching ranks, going from an unpaid assistant position with Western Kentucky in 2001 to his first head coaching gig three years later.
Harbaugh has not stayed long at his three previous head coaching destinations: three years at San Diego and four years each at Stanford and San Francisco. But the man who does not view himself as a savior looks at Michigan in a different light.
“I look at it like I’m going to construct a home or as a construction architect. I think of myself as more of a construction guy,” Harbaugh said. “You build a home, and hopefully it’s a great cathedral. Then afterwards, they go tell you to build another one. There’s some dirt down there, go build another home.
“I feel like that again. I’m at that point where even though you’ve done well and built some pretty nice homes, you have to do it again, and you have to prove it again. But I would really like to live in one permanently. That’s what I’m very hopeful for here.”
Michigan returns loads of talent for Harbaugh’s first season, headlined by Jack Miller, Desmond Morgan, Derrick Green, and Jake Butt. But the Wolverines have only six committed players for the Class of 2015, with just over one month until National Signing Day.
Brian Cole, Tyree Kinnel, Grant Newsome, Alex Malzone, Jon Runyan, and Andrew David are all committed to the program. Potential members have been buzzing with Harbaugh’s hiring, though. And his sales pitch is a simple one.
“Michigan’s always been great. It’s always been great. I always believe in it,” Harbaugh said. “I know Michigan football and believe in Michigan football. And that will not be a hard job.”
Michigan begins winter conditioning Jan. 6. Harbaugh’s debut as the Wolverines’ head coach will come in the team’s annual spring game in April.