I’m going to be honest, I have been a die-hard Michigan State fan since elementary school. Nothing makes me happier than watching Michigan lose to MSU. Being an MSU fan in Ann Arbor I have noticed more than a deserved share of hate for certain Michigan athletes and coaches. Despite all of the hate from the press and fans for the Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh, he has proven his worth at Michigan. Maybe he hasn’t proved himself worthy of eight million dollars a year. However, he deserves to keep his job nonetheless because of how he has elevated the standing of Michigan football on the field, off the field, and in the eyes of national analysts and recruits.
Since he arrived, Jim Harbaugh has led Michigan football to an impressive regular season record of 42-11, a 79% win percentage. This win percentage is higher than some of college football’s big names in coaching like Penn State’s James Franklin, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. In three of Harbaugh’s first four seasons, Michigan reached a bowl game, and three times Michigan has finished in the top 15 of the final AP Poll, including his first season in which Michigan entered the season unranked. This record and rankings are a substantial increase in the results Michigan football had been achieving nearly a decade before Harbaugh with Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez. In those seven seasons before Harbaugh’s arrival Michigan had a dismal record of 46-42. This, coupled with only one top 15 finish and four bowl appearances, is quite subpar for a major program like Michigan. Not only has Harbaugh outpaced his predecessors in the win-loss column, his impact has extended far beyond Michigan Stadium.
Some debate that the majority of Michigan’s wins have come against inferior competition. One thing that isn’t up for debate, however, is that Harbaugh has done an excellent job bringing in the pieces needed to win big games. When Harbaugh came to Michigan, he was viewed as a big time recruiter of high school prospects. According to the 24/7 Sports composite rankings, Michigan’s football recruiting ranked 19th nationally on average before the Harnaugh era, leaving quite a bit to be desired. Under Harbaugh, Michigan has excelled and his average class has ranked 10th in the nation, a substantial improvement from the pre-Harbaugh years.
Some in opposition with Harbaugh will point out his record against Ohio State. It is important to note however, that former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer lost only nine games and his career win percentage ranks third all time according to Sports Reference. Only one coach in all of college football was even able to pull off beating Ohio State more than once: Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio. It’s unrealistic to measure him solely based on his record against a coach and a team that have been dominating the Big Ten since long before he was roaming the Michigan sideline. Harbaugh’s record before his time at Michigan also speaks volumes. Before he came to Stanford, their football team was downtrodden and perennially at the bottom of the Pac 12. Four years later under Harbaugh, Stanford was a Rose Bowl Champion and ranked number 4 in the final AP Poll. Before Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49er’s were coming off a 6-10 season and a third place finish in their division. Two years later under Harbaugh the 49er’s were in the SuperBowl for the first time in nearly twenty years. Obviously not all of Harbaugh’s success at Stanford and San Francisco can be attributed to himself, however it is undeniable that Harbaugh has found success wherever he has coached and raised the level of play of every team he has coached.
The era of Jim Harbaugh has undoubtedly been a success on and off the field. His record, AP Poll finishes, and recruiting classes have proved his worth to Michigan fans and shown that he was the right choice for the job. Yes, he has struggled against Ohio State, but to say he should be fired for struggling against such a reputable program would be ridiculous. My advice for Michigan Football fans feeling frustrated by the team’s current state is this: take a deep breath, calm down, and remember wherever Jim Harbaugh has coached good results have followed. If given time he can lead Michigan to the extremely successful season fans have been hoping for.