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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

So, yeah, should probably address this bad publicity from Jim Harbaugh:

"Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there, but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in and, when they’re in, they steer them to courses in sports communications. They’re adulated when they’re playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won’t hire them."
As you might expect, this has sent the sort of Notre Dame fans who are always looking to dump on Michigan into a veritable tizzy. Also in a tizzy: various insulted Michigan fans who declare that this forever bars Harbaugh from the sainted halls of Fort Schembechler. He's sold us out! Tizzy tizzy tizzy! (This is probably an overreaction to the reaction, but "tizzy" is a fun word.)

There are many vectors of personal opinion here that don't lend themselves well to one flowing column thing, so let's do some section headers:

Harbaugh basically speaks the truth. Michigan does get anyone who meets NCAA minimums admitted and has a tendency to funnel them into easy classes and majors. (His assertion they can't get jobs after they graduate is unsupportable, though.) I don't have a problem with this. It seems odd to expect people who are in the top percentile in one field to also be competent in another. Hey, concert-level violinist! Do this calculus! This goes double and triple when the persons in question are usually black and, more to the point, poor and thus blessed with largely dysfunctional school systems. Most of these kids have already been hard done by educationally and now they are expected to join a major university, swing a full-time job on the side, and be students that require no shepherding? While we're having a fantasy, I would like Scarlett Johannson to ride in on a unicorn wearing nothing but lingerie made of bacon. Mmmmm. Scarlett Johannson bacon lingerie.

It's not the fault of the university that by in large the average football player is not a very good student. All they can do is help their players along as best they can. There's an enormous gray area here; the APR numbers and the anecdotal things I hear lead me to believe that Michigan is doing its best in an imperfect world. And I'm fine with that. Michigan doesn't have to be the last beacon of integrity in a world gone mad (they let kids move out of the dorms!) because I didn't go to a cult masquerading as a university.

Harbaugh is still the same guy who guaranteed victory over Ohio State. Maybe if this was an isolated outburst it would feel more insulting, but not two months ago Harbaugh got in a media slapfight with Pete Carroll when Harbaugh asserted Carroll would be in the NFL next year. When Carroll fired back, Harbaugh didn't back down. This marks the second controversial thing he's said in the past few months, and given his history we can expect more uncensored, potentially unconsidered comments from him in the future.

Whether this is a positive or negative is a matter of personal taste. Bay-Area media are probably high-fiving each other. Stanford's program is happy whenever anyone is reminded of their existence. And certain Michigan fans would treasure the "swagger" the rootin'-est, tootin'-est coach on either side of the Pecos River would bring. Personally, I prefer a coach more inclined to Spurrier-esque zingers than incendiary comments but either is preferable to Carr's style of mostly boredom.

This affects Harbaugh's chances for the job in no way. The presumption Carr is retiring after the season is universal and Harbaugh just can't be a candidate after one year at Stanford. Anything multiplied by zero is zero.

Other takes: IBFC. MATW.