By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
The Summer of Harbaugh was one for the ages.
It started with a nine-day cross-country camping trip, featured trips to two continents and ended with a three-week stay inside an imaginary submarine.
Michigan’s first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh captivated the nation with his enthusiastic attitude and riled the south as he staked claims on their land to enlist teenaged football talents. He ran shirtless with campers in Alabama, virtually rubbed elbows with celebrities and formed a one-of-a-kind partnership with Michael Jordan.
For the past three months, Harbaugh’s summer raged like a wildfire, while the man at the center of it practically became a religion in Ann Arbor.
But it is waning in favor of a new era of Michigan football.
The once-iconic program has been lodged in mediocrity for nearly a decade. Since 2007, it has seen three coaching changes and posted a combined 2-12 record against Michigan State and Ohio State. Michigan isn’t even the best team in its state anymore; the Spartans snatched that title with dominant play this decade.
Michigan was in need of a savior last fall. It needed a glimmer of hope.
Harbaugh was that and more.
There’s an excitement around Michigan that hasn’t been felt in a long, long time. In the past, there was always reason for optimism. “This is Michigan,” they’d quip, gripping dated claims from when the Wolverines were powerhouses.
But for the first time in years, fans can legitimately feel at ease knowing their program is in good hands.
They see Harbaugh’s track record, his history of quickly constructing programs from the bottom-up. He did so at two rock-bottom football programs. Not only did they become relevant, they competed. And more importantly, they won; something that Michigan hasn’t done since 2007.
Harbaugh is the guy fans wanted; a Bo Schembechler protege, an old-school, basket case who thrives on competition and winning, and could right Michigan’s ship. They have their guy now, the one that turned down NFL glory to return home. There’s no consolation prize this go-around.
Maybe winning won’t be an issue for Michigan under Harbaugh. Maybe it takes time to properly build the program for longterm success. The results will matter starting tonight, but in nine months on the job without coaching a single game, Harbaugh has Michigan in a place it hasn’t been in years: the program is relevant again.
The Wolverines and their new coach have made headlines for the simplest of things.
A philosophical-like Tweet, samaritan acts, a make-believe watercraft; you name it, you’ve read it somewhere. And starting next fall, they’ll become the first college football team ever to be outfitted by Jordan Brand. That sort of thing doesn’t happen with irrelevant programs.
The summer of Harbaugh is over, but a new era of Michigan football is just beginning.