For the record, Jim Harbaugh is not comfortable being compared with Jesus Christ. He’s also not comfortable guaranteeing long-awaited wins against Ohio State and Michigan State or any Big Ten and national championships.
Everything else, though, is on the table.
His athletics director, Jim Hackett, called him the best coach in all of football. “There are a lot of great coaches out there, his brother is one, but when you look for a coach that has won at all levels – college and pro – it’s hard to find a comparison,” he said.
Harbaugh said his prevailing thought when landing in Detroit and driving through the Ann Arbor campus was “homecoming,” but the word that most often came out of his mouth during the Tuesday afternoon press conference that felt more like a pep rally was “greatness.”
“Top to bottom, Michigan is about excellence, is about greatness, and you have my pledge that I will carry forward the tradition of excellence of the University of Michigan football program.”
Harbaugh didn’t offer many specifics and, frankly, didn’t seem interested in directly answering a number of questions asked of him, but spoke like a coaching planning on staying longer than the three years he spent at San Diego and the four years he stayed in Palo Alto and San Francisco. Comparing himself to a construction worker, Harbaugh said he built houses at San Diego, Stanford and with the 49ers, and then moved on. He’ll build another house at Michigan, and said he wants to live in it for a while.
“Michigan’s always been great, and I’ve always believed in it. In terms of selling something, you’re selling something that you believe in in your core,” he said. “To everything you know, like you know your name, I know Michigan football and believe in Michigan football.”
Jack Harbaugh says his son wants to be here for the long haul. He firmly believes that.
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) December 30, 2014
In one of the few specifics offered Tuesday, Michigan will do its best to keep him in his new Ann Arbor home. Harbaugh signed a seven-year contract worth $5 million a year with 10 percent bonuses after years three and five, plus a $2 million signing bonus, up to $1.325 million in annual bonuses, and a deferred compensation arrangement to be determined at the end of the 2015 season.
Harbaugh also declined to elaborate who he planned to bring on board as staff members or how quickly they may be hired. “We’re in the process right now. Can’t tell you that it’s going to move fast or slow. Hopefully it’s going to move right, and that’s what we’ll strive for,” he said. “Measure twice and cut once.”
While he offered no guarantees on when Michigan would contend for titles again – “I learned from that” he said, of guaranteeing a win over Ohio State in 1986 – Harbaugh’s return isn’t about anything else but a return to glory. A program that hasn’t won a Big Ten title since 2004 and hasn’t played for a national title since winning one in 1997 is now on the clock to do it again, and that clock started ticking today.
“This is Michigan. There are no turnarounds at Michigan,” Harbaugh said. “This is greatness.”