Q & A with Jim Harbaugh

After he was formally introduced at Michigan's 20th head football coach, Jim Harbaugh fielded questions.

QUESTION: You've already got guys in the NFL saying that this is a stopover for you. Can you talk about this as a destination job?

COACH HARBAUGH: "I've coached now at the University of San Diego. I've coached at Stanford University, at the 49ers for four years. 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. 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."

QUESTION: Jim, you said you grew up dreaming of this. When was the first time in the last couple of months that this seemed real to you? When did you make the decision that this is going to happen?

COACH HARBAUGH: "As I said, I remember thinking about this as a young youngster, nine, 10 years old. There was a time sitting in Coach Schembechler's office. I was sitting in his chair and I had my feet up on the desk, and he walked in and said, 'How are you doing?' and I looked at him and said, 'I'm doing great, how are you doing?' He said 'What are you doing?' 'I'm sitting in your chair, coach.' I couldn't think of anything better to say. There have been times in my life where I've thought and dreamed about it. Now it's time to live it. 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."

QUESTION: There was a belief that this was a possibility earlier in your career. Why is now the right time for you and Michigan with this fit?

COACH HARBAUGH: "Again, I want to thank the Board of Regents. I want to thank the president, our athletic director for having the confidence in me to coach at the University of Michigan. I'm honored, I'm humbled, and I'm very happy. I want my family to be happy too. This time, we flew in, and they had a gift bag for the kids, hats, scarfs, sweatshirts, and that took me back to walking into Moe's Sport Shop and looking at everything with big, wide eyes hoping you would get something. Moe's Sports Shop gave us a 10- or 20-percent discount on coach's families, and that's what I would save my money for. I would cut lawns, shovel snow and rake leaves so that I could go to Moe's Sport Shop to get a pair of basketball shoes or something with the block M on it. My kids were wearing, that and that took me back to a place."

QUESTION: As I was out last night in East Lansing and someone asked me if I was coming to see the messiah. I was wondering how comfortable or uncomfortable you are with this perception that you're the savior of Michigan football?

COACH HARBAUGH: "I'm not comfortable with that at all. As I said, I'm standing on a foundation that's been built over 100 years by some great men. I feel like I'm standing on their shoulders. I want to do a good job. I want to be good. I want to win on the practice field, the classroom and the community. We want to win on fall Saturday afternoons, and we have great expectations for that. We'll have great expectations for the first team meeting and the first week of winter conditioning. I can't wait."

QUESTION: To follow up on Fred's question, there are so many people who see you and all your success and how quickly some other coaches have done it in college football. How quickly do you think winning in Ann Arbor will be the norm, Big Ten championships, National championships, et cetera?

COACH HARBAUGH: "As I said, we have great expectations for the first week, really great expectations for the first day of practice, the first team meeting. And I don't have any guarantee for you if that's what you're looking for."

QUESTION: Financially, you're going to get paid the same you were in San Francisco. You could have gotten more money in the NFL. Was it important to you? What's the reasoning behind all that?

COACH HARBAUGH: "Some people asked me that. I don't have that list. I didn't make a pros and cons list. I really made a decision that was from the heart which I thought was best for myself and our family, and I'm very excited about it and very challenged by it."

QUESTION: If the man who coached you here (Bo Schembechler) was able to be standing here today, what do you think he'd say to you?

COACH HARBAUGH: "That's a great question. Steve Kornacki already asked me that question. And what I told him was I feel like he is here. I feel like when I'm standing next to Lloyd Carr and Gary Moeller and my dad and Jerry Hanlon and Jon Falk, to me that is the same, that's the same people, that's the same feeling. And they said they're happy to have me here. And also that they would be willing to do anything to help, which I will be taking you up on, Lloyd. I will be taking you up on, Moe. I appreciate that."

QUESTION: How are you going to be able to sell the program that's been down in the dumps the last couple of years to future players that you're going out to meet?

COACH HARBAUGH: "Michigan's always been great. It's always been great. I always believe in it. What's the best thing you could possibly in terms of selling something you're selling something that you believe it in your core. To everything that you know and like you know your name, I know Michigan football and believe in Michigan football. And that will not be a hard job."

QUESTION: I want to say actually I interviewed your dad at Western Michigan, he was the very first interview I ever did when I worked at the sports information department there. So this is exciting to have another Harbaugh to interview. I'm curious to know the way that Michigan has been roughed up against the rivals over the past years, if you have any guarantees or perhaps anything about Ohio State and Michigan State that you can lend here today to the fan base?

COACH HARBAUGH: "They're outstanding programs. No, I make no guarantees. I made a guarantee a long time ago. And I've learned from that. I've grown. (Laughter) I understand that you don't make guarantees."

QUESTION: When did Jim Hackett first approach you, and when did he offer you the job and how quickly did you accept? How quickly was this deal made?

COACH HARBAUGH: "Pretty quick. It was a very quick process."

QUESTION: Can you say when he first contacted you?

COACH HARBAUGH: "I don't remember the exact day. It was in the last couple of weeks."

QUESTION: When did you accept?

COACH HARBAUGH: "Yesterday. (Laughter) I signed on and flew out here yesterday."

QUESTION: There were some comments you made a few years ago, critical of the academics here at Michigan and how things were handled. How has that changed in your mind? Are you going to be instrumental in any further change moving forward and how might your stance on that have changed over the years?

COACH HARBAUGH: "That's a good question. That was another thing that I didn't understand at the time and didn't fully understand and made the mistake of not knowing that you don't compare things. You don't compare, especially you don't compare great to great. And that's what I did, and that was a mistake. I've since learned that you don't compare, compare one thing to another or one person to another or two great institutions compared to each other, because somebody always gets diminished when you do that. So that's another lesson I have learned since eight years ago."

QUESTION: Where are you at as far as finding assistant coaches and what sort of criteria are you looking for in that?

COACH HARBAUGH: "The best. And we're in the process right now and can't tell you that it's going to move fast or slow. But hopefully it will move right. And that's what we'll strive for. Measure twice and cut once."

QUESTION: You obviously have a history of, quote/unquote, turnaround projects, San Diego, Stanford, San Francisco, looks like a turnaround situation here. How do you attack that and you've done it in the past obviously experience-wise, what do you think you need to attack most quickly here to get Michigan turned around?

COACH HARBAUGH: "Like any team -- I'm not agreeing that it's a turnaround, this is Michigan, and there are no turnarounds in Michigan. This is greatness, and there's a long tradition of it. But the important thing is the relationships as a team and getting to know the players and getting to know us as coaches. And ultimately that's what a team is. It's a group of relationships that is focused on achieving a goal together, and that's the most important thing that I truly believe."

QUESTION: Just from a distance, how much did it pain you to watch Michigan struggle the last six, seven years?

COACH HARBAUGH: "I didn't see the struggles you're talking about."

QUESTION: You don't want to make any guarantees about Michigan State or Ohio State but can you talk about how you'll approach it as you have played in great rivalry games. What are you going to tell your guys about how will you approach the intensity they have to have?

COACH HARBAUGH: "First understanding what their intent is, what our team's intent is going to be, and you've got to be willing to work for that, got to be willing to earn that.
That's why I'm so excited for the first week of winter conditioning, to get that started. Finding out exactly what our intent is."

QUESTION: Your emotions flying here, your emotions walking in here, knowing you were going to be the head football coach of the University of Michigan last night and today.

COACH HARBAUGH: "As I said, very excited, very challenged."

QUESTION: Nothing more than that?

COACH HARBAUGH: "Yeah, as I said it's very special. This is a homecoming. That would be the top of the list."

QUESTION: Given your fiery personality, the way that you approach the game, do you feel like maybe you're going to be able to connect better back in the college game than maybe at the professional ranks, how do you feel your personality translates to the college game again?

COACH HARBAUGH: "I feel like it's the only personality I have. (Laughter) The other ones were all taken. So I got this one. But we all had a great desire -- it's a human agency to be a part of a team, to be part of something great. To be a part of something that's bigger than yourself. And I have that great desire, and I couldn't be more excited, honored, humbled to be a part of, to this great team. I'm very excited about that."

QUESTION: You talked to the team earlier today. What was your message with them?

COACH HARBAUGH: "I told them, I said it's a little bit uncomfortable. I've never talked to a team through a little speakerphone. I was talking to Coach Carr and Coach Moeller earlier, I said, Give me your thoughts, what would you say to a speaker? But basically told them that we'll see them back here in a few days, the fifth or sixth, we'll schedule a meeting, and we'll get to work on our winter conditioning."

QUESTION: I hear you saying that you've mellowed with age, right, you've mellowed with age. Let's say that you have a young, brash, cocky, confident player who steps to the microphone and he offers a guarantee, how do you handle that?

COACH HARBAUGH: "If you do that then you've got to back it up."

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you. There's a lot of people saying that you would never leave the NFL and that you were too competitive and wanted to be at the highest level. Can you talk about the decision, did you look at college and NFL differently? Was it just because of Michigan, why did you decide to leave the NFL and come back to college?

COACH HARBAUGH: "As I said earlier, it was a decision I basically made without a list, without a pros and cons approach to it, and something that I've dreamed about. I felt it was time to live, felt it was a decision I ultimately made with my heart for myself and my family."

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