Michigan laid yet another egg this weekend getting handily beat by Wisconsin 35-14, though the game felt much more like a 40 point game than a 20 point game. Michigan fans and neutral fans alike are yet again wondering if it’s time for Jim Harbaugh to be shown the door in Ann Arbor. With a 40-15 overall record, no Big Ten East titles and only 1 bowl win in 4+ seasons, firing Harbaugh from a program that expects to be a national powerhouse may seem like the right idea, but may plunge Michigan even further away from where the Wolverines expect to be.
Following the retirement of Llyod Carr in 2007, Michigan has struggled to find a coach who can consistently win and meet the loft expectations of the program. Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke had flashes of progress and prowess, but both woefully underachieved on the field and in recruiting top-notch talent to Ann Arbor. Enter Jim Harbaugh. The former Stanford and 49ers head coach instantly brought credibility and the head coaching experience that had been missing for nearly a decade. In his first season, Harbaugh led the Wolverines to a 10-3 record and a win in the Citrus Bowl with a roster that had gone 5-7 the year prior. Michigan followed up that season win another 10 win season in 2016 and again in 2018 with a disappointing 8 win season in between.
What frustrates fans more than anything are the games where Michigan lay an egg, much like they did against Wisconsin this past weekend. Harbaugh has yet to beat Ohio State, only coming within two scores once in 2016. What’s more, the Wolverines have not made a Big Ten Championship Game appearance under Harbaugh, a major milestone that must be met to be one of the teams to compete in the college football playoff. In much the same way, Michigan has also struggled mightily in bowl games under Harbaugh, compiling a record of 1-4 in those games. Michigan’s fans judge the team’s success on beating Ohio State and challenging for national championships and Harbaugh has yet to prove he can do that.
What Harbaugh has lacked in bowl victories and Big Ten Championships he has made up for in consistency. Harbaugh’s average of 9.5 wins per season bests the averages of his two predecessors or Hoke (8.25) and Rodriguez (5). Harbaugh has also consistently brought in top-ranked recruiting classes during his 4 seasons in Ann Arbor which will only continue to help Harbaugh be a consistent winner in the Big Ten.
Though Jim Harbaugh has been unable to attain the lofty goals the university and fans set for the Michigan football program, he has done far more good than bad. He has re-established Michigan as a strong performer in the Big Ten, boosted the recruiting and brought stability to a program that was seemingly in turmoil for way too long. Instead of calling for Harbaugh’s head on a silver platter, Michigan fans should look at what he has done for the program and look at what the Hoke/Rodriguez alternative looks like.