1. Hope Springs Eternal in Ann Arbor
The lights dimmed low during halftime of Michigan basketball’s Big Ten opener versus
Illinois as the players shuffled to their locker rooms in order to make way for the real
spectacle. Strolling out in a sharp maize and blue suit complete with a block “M” pin,
smiling and waiving to the nearly 14,000 Michigan fans who paid four times the normal
ticket price to be there, hometown hero and newly appointed head football coach Jim
Harbaugh belted out in a raspy voice “Thank you for the enthusiasm and support. Even
though we have not done a darn thing, it is much appreciated” for a Crisler crowd who
were eager to get their first look at the prophesized savior of the sinking ship that is
While his speech was short, it was accurate; Jim Harbaugh hasn’t done anything yet, no
Big Ten titles, no bowl games, no victories over rivals in East Lansing and Columbus,
But that hasn’t stopped the Michigan faithful from bravely catapulting the upcoming
football season atop a pedestal of promise and expectation.
Surely Jim saw one of the many billboards littered around Ann Arbor that flaunt his
name, and if he hasn’t already, he’ll soon get a look at the Harbaugh merchandise that
local retailers have been mass producing for weeks in anticipation of his return, $8 khakis
and all. Without a single Michigan coaching victory to his name, Jim Harbaugh has put
the football program back where it’s accustomed to being — the national spotlight.
There is hope in Ann Arbor. The buzz is back.
“Our savior has arrived. The program is going to completely change back to what it used
to be,” boasted optimistic Michigan student Max Hill.
Despite going just 8-8 and missing the playoffs in his final season in San Francisco,
there is a confidence lingering in the Ann Arbor air that suggests Michigan football will
more closely resemble the Harbaugh led 49ers who reached three straight NFC
championships before this season’s stumbles.
There’s confidence in part because the alternative is too frightening to think of. No one
dares fathom what would happen if Harbaugh fails to make any progress, struggling as
bottom feeders of the Big Ten, suffering annual embaresment at the hands of a smirking
Mark Dantonio and Urban Meyer, listening to NFL owners say “I told you so”, and
having to give away free tickets with the purchase of coke products in order to lure fans
to the once great Michigan Stadium.
But, more importantly, there is confidence amongst fans because they know what they’re
getting with Harbaugh — a quintessential “Michigan Man”.
2. Jim Branstatter, a gentleman who has been intertwined with Michigan football for 46
years as a player, student, and radio commentator, assures the Wolverines that Harbaugh
is the perfect fit for Michigan.
“He was destined to be a player and a coach. He’s very passionate about the game,
extremely competitive, loves the nuances, and more than anything, he loves the idea of
coaching”, he said. “He loves what Michigan represents, winning with class, winning
with integrity, winning with student athletes. As a Michigan guy, Michigan is the perfect
place for him.”
And Brandstatter knows that it won’t solely be Harbaugh’s previous success as Michigan
quarterback under the iconic Bo Schembechler that justifies a fifty million dollar
contract; It’ll be his disciplined tactics and coaching philosophy that gets the job done.
“He’s going to be very fundamentally sound. He’ll be able to run the ball as well as stop
the run. Because of his background with Bo, he knows the importance of playing
physical…He’ll put each player in the best position to excel.”
And while the fans lick their chops at the idea of Schembechler era success, so too do the
“The attitude around the locker room is of excitement and high anticipation. The guys
can’t wait to start winter conditioning and spring ball…everyone is excited to see what
Harbaugh will do and what he will bring to Michigan,” says Drew Berube, a student team
manager. “He will be a great mentor and coach for these guys and soon Michigan will be
back to national contention and their winning traditions.”
It’s clear that aspirations of maize and blue royalty are creeping back into the minds of
Michigan fans. There is a hope spreading like wildfire amongst those ready to forget the
mediocre reality of seasons past, and although the celebration may be premature, the
thought of “what could be” has a much sweeter taste than “what has been”.
Michigan fans got the guy we wanted. They’ve endured the darkest days. It’s time to