The national shock from Jim Harbaugh’s decision to take the helm at Michigan remains alive and well. Heck, there are still Wolverine fans in a perpetual state of disbelief.
But for those who know him best the sentiment is more like, “we told you so.” His former quarterback coach in Ann Arbor, Gary Moeller certainly felt confident about the Maize & Blue’s chances. So too did longtime friend and the man Harbaugh shared the backfield with at Michigan, Jamie Morris.
“It’s his alma mater,” Morris said explaining his confidence in Harbaugh’s return. “His dad coached here. He was the ball boy. From ball boy to head coach… what do you expect? It’s an opportunity. He played for a legend himself in Bo Schembechler, so everything pointed to Michigan for this man.”
During the search process Morris wasn’t at all bashful about telling his former teammate how much their program needed the deft touch of one of the game’s best coaches. However, he made sure to do it in a way that wasn’t overbearing.
“I just wanted him to do what was right for his family first and foremost,” said Morris. “I wanted him to know that Michigan loved him and Michigan was open for him and we looked…if he took the opportunity to come coach at Michigan, we would welcome him with open arms.”
That’s exactly what happened in Ann Arbor Tuesday, and the party hasn’t stopped since. It probably won’t for some time… at least for the fans. The players, on the other hand, have another thing coming. Morris sees a lot of Bo Schembechler in his former teammate.
“(Harbaugh) is going to be a taskmaster,” Morris stated. “He’s going to hold everybody accountable. He’s going to expect nothing but the best. These guys are really going to have to work their tails off.”
“I think what you’re going to have is the players buying in,” he later added. “They’re going to buy in pretty quickly. They’re going to work harder than they’ve ever worked before. So as long as they buy in and willing to work hard, this team will turn around pretty quick. There will be some surprises in this upcoming season and they’ll compete in the next two seasons following that.”
That sounded an awful lot like a guarantee. That was a tack that the typically brash Harbaugh steered clear of during his introductory press conference. There was no sign of the player that brazenly predicted victory over Ohio State in 1986. There was so hint of the coach that three months into his tenure at Stanford called out a college football titan (at the time), in Pete Carroll.
"Pete Carroll's only got one more year (at USC), though,” Harbaugh said in March of 2007. “He'll be there one more year. That's what I've heard. I heard it inside the staff."
When an incensed Carroll (who actually coached USC for three more seasons) fired back telling Harbaugh to “get his facts straight,” Harbaugh got even bolder.
"I definitely said that," Harbaugh said defiantly. "I said what I've heard… that he won't be there past next year."
"We bow to no man. We bow to no program here at Stanford University.”
And his team certainly didn’t bow down to the Trojans when they traveled to the Coliseum in Los Angeles later that fall and pulled of what still stands statically as the biggest upset in the history of college football.
Is that Harbaugh gone? Is the kinder, gentler more politically-correct Harbaugh the one Michigan fans should expect to see? Do friends like Morris buy that he has permanently turned over a new leaf?
“No I don’t,” said Morris.
“Once he gets established and he feels comfortable, you’ll see it come out.”
“Once he gets established and with he’s at, he’ll be the old Jimmy we’re used to.”
Even Moeller believes the bravado Harbaugh has long exuded won’t stay dormant very long.
“I think some of it will come back, but he’ll be calm,” Michigan’s former headman stated. “He’ll be in control of things. It’s a big pressure game when you’re standing on that sideline making some of those calls.”
That may be, but it’s pressure that Harbaugh has handled well at every turn. Much like the man that coached him during his days in Ann Arbor.
“Bo Shembechler is Jim Harbaugh,” said Moeller.
So if a young cocky player happened to pop off in the media and guarantee victory, Harbaugh said he will tell his team that they have to get out there and back their teammate up.
Why, you ask?
“That’s what his coach said to him when he (made the guarantee versus Ohio State), said Morris. “We’ve got to back it up.”
To see the interview with Jamie Morris in its entirety, press play below.