Hayes: Jim Harbaugh is still here, still standing, still smiling. And might just win it all
So Jim Harbaugh showed up on ESPN’s Playoff selection show, and in no certain order, explained Michigan’s rise to the No. 1 team in America.
— His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
— A galvanized team — not by adversity, but by choice.
— The players. And while you’re at it, Jim said, share the Playoff revenue with them.
— And did I mention God?
“He has had His hand on this team the entire year,” Harbaugh said.
I think Harbs may be referencing the wrong deity.
Because somehow, someway, the Alabama-Florida State controversy — and the multitude of arguments on both sides that all make sense — has somehow overshadowed the deep, dark secret of this Playoff.
Harbaugh, the coach of the No. 1 team in the Playoff, has missed 6 games this season because of suspension. For 2 separate NCAA investigations.
How in the wide, wide world of sports is that not the story of this Playoff Selection Sunday? How is it that ESPN talking heads glorified Harbaugh as a coach who had overcome “adversity” — the “adversity” of a low level staffer spending the past 3 years scouting future opponents (and their signals) and the obvious connection to the coaching staff.
The “adversity” of cheating.
There’s a reason Michigan assistant coach Chris Partridge was fired days after Harbaugh and the university finally accepted his 2nd 3-game suspension. You do the math.
But there was Harbaugh — who has an elite team that could win it all — hitting all the right talking points. A seasoned politician couldn’t have done it better.
Praise God, praise his players — and rip those in power because the players aren’t getting their fair share of the Playoff bounty (as they should and eventually will).
It’s those same power brokers (see: the NCAA) that did everything they could over the past 3 months to bring down Harbs and Michigan. The NCAA is still ticked off that Harbaugh, it claims, misled investigators in the first of 2 NCAA probes.
The first: Michigan assistant coaches allegedly had illegal contact with recruits during the COVID dead period in 2020, when then-Big Ten commissioner (you say commissioner, I say dolt) Kevin Warren was declaring the Big Ten wouldn’t play during the pandemic and was floating some inane idea of spring football and 2 seasons in 8 months.
Great idea, Kev. But I digress.
The NCAA says Harbaugh misled investigators (which is to say, he lied), and wanted Harbaugh suspended for 50% of this season. Michigan, of course, laughed at the thought of it, and self-imposed a 3-game suspension — figuring they’d deal with the consequences long after what could be a national championship season.
So then Michigan’s bitter rival Ohio State jumped into the fray — however it did is up to interpretation — and suddenly there was information available about Michigan’s alleged illegal future scouting. Even though the scheme allegedly had been executed for nearly 3 years, the information magically appeared out of nowhere.
It’s just a fabulous coincidence that it appeared when Ohio State realized it didn’t have the quarterback to beat Michigan. But again, I digress.
So the NCAA realized it could get Harbs after all, this time on an end around. All it took was rookie Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti, staring down a mutiny of his league’s coaches suddenly furious over the future scouting, to join the party.
Then the NCAA, in a dramatic and rare move, shared investigative information with the Big Ten so the Big Ten could use the NCAA’s coach responsibility bylaw (see: the end around) to suspend Harbaugh for — wait for it — 3 more games. Or the 6 total the NCAA wanted all along.
This, everyone, is the “adversity” of which the ESPN talking heads spoke. It would be absolutely hilarious if it weren’t so pandering.
Make no mistake, Michigan has the talent and coaching to win the Playoff. The defense is suffocating, and the offensive philosophy of ball control adds to Harbaugh’s sweet symphony of winning because you’re tougher than the guy across from you.
This is Michigan’s best team under Harbaugh, and arguably its best in more than 3 decades. A team that’s always facing forward, no matter the obstacle — inside or outside the football building.
“The next game is always the goal,” Harbaugh said. “Win the next game. I wish I could tell you it was more than that, but thanks to God for keeping us galvanized.”
Maybe, just maybe, the higher power may not be what Harbaugh thinks it is.
I don’t know who has their hand on Michigan, but whoever it is, they threw big, bad Alabama into the fork in the road.
That sounds a whole lot like deceitful irony.
Which, of course, fits perfectly with this Michigan season.