Sports

Michael James: Even Bo Schembechler Would Fire Michigan's Jim Harbaugh


December 01, 2019, 1:38 PM

The author has spent more than 20 years in sports journalism at The Detroit News, New York Daily News and ESPN. He runs The Tribe Sports.

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Jim Harbaugh 

By Michael James

Jim Harbaugh needs to leave the University of Michigan Wolverines.

Not because he isn’t a great coach – which he isn’t. Not because he isn’t a good coach – which he is. Jim Harbaugh needs to leave because he simply cannot win the games Michigan must win to go where Michigan football really wants to go.

If Jim Harbaugh truly cares about the past, present and future of Michigan football as much as he claims, he won’t even force the university’s hand. He’ll leave on his own because it’s the right thing to do.

You cannot blame Jim Harbaugh for what came before. Losing 15 of the last 16 games to Ohio State isn’t on him. But losing five straight, including the last two in embarrassing, blowout fashion? Simply unacceptable.

Look, teams and coaches lose games. People lose in life. Losing, sometimes, simply comes with the territory. But HOW you lose? That’s an entirely different matter. And, to be sure, how Michigan continues to lose to its alleged rival under Jim Harbaugh’s command, really matters.

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It was one thing when Urban Meyer, a great coach, beat the pants off Harbaugh. It’s another when Ryan Day, a Meyer protégée in his rookie season, a man who is merely a good coach with a great team, beats Harbaugh’s team just like Meyer used to.

The facts are in. Five years of research and study are more than enough to reach an educated conclusion. Despite Jim Harbaugh’s heritage, his familial football bloodline and 10-win seasons, it’s the losses and failures that define him.

Be competitive, at least

If Bo Schembehler were alive today, he’d fire Jim Harbaugh.

And Jim Harbaugh would leave without a fight.

And Jim Harbaugh would donate the money remaining on his contract to a worthy charity or start a scholarship fund.

Because he is still a Michigan Man.

While Michigan men are not necessarily required to beat the likes of Michigan State and Ohio State all the time, they are required to, at the very least, compete.

Jim Harbaugh has proven he cannot beat Ohio State. He cannot get his players to rise to the occasion for the game that defines their entire college football careers. Based on the soul-destroying performances against Ohio State, there is no reason to believe that he ever will beat OSU.

Five years is long enough. The sample size is rich and dense enough to extrapolate, equivocate and prognosticate. Nothing on the horizon says things will get better for Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor.

We've seen enough 

Take a quick trip back down memory lane:

In five years, Shea Patterson was the best quarterback he could produce? How many did we see at Ohio State during that span?

In the biggest moments, Harbaugh’s star receivers somehow were never taught that consistently stopping two yards short of the marker won’t get you a first down? Decisions to go for meaningless field goals when only touchdowns would make a difference? Harbaugh coaching as predictably and conservatively as a pair of khakis might suggest?

Haven’t we really seen enough?

This said, it hasn’t been all that bad. What Harbaugh has done would be considered great for most coaches. And for most schools. But this is Michigan, and Michigan demands and deserves more.

He had a good run. He tried. It simply didn’t work out the way we all hoped and planned. There’s no shame in trying and failing.

I am sorry to say it, but it’s time for Jim Harbaugh to go. After all, he can leave Ann Arbor and still be a Michigan Man somewhere else.


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