Football

Approach to Mental Health Another Area Where Ohio State and Michigan Are Far Apart

Jim Harbaugh Michigan Head Coach

Six weeks ago, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day announced the creation of The Ryan and Christina Day Fund for Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Wellness at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The Days were two of the first donors to the project, announcing a gift of $100,000 to help the cause.

The fund is in conjunction with the On Our Sleeves movement to transform childhood mental health and bring awareness to the importance of providing resources to children, adolescents, and teenagers who are dealing with various mental health issues.

Much of the purpose of this particular cause is to simply bring awareness and conversation forward and help erase the stigmas that have long been attached to mental health. The more dialogues that can be created, the easier it is to talk about the issues at hand. And the more help that can be sought can also be found.

On Friday, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said that college football transfers lie about having mental health issues in order to be granted immediate eligibility.

Speaking with former Wolverine offensive lineman Jon Jansen and former Ohio State linebacker AJ Hawk on ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM during day two of Big Ten Media Days, Harbaugh was asked about his preference to allow a one-time free pass to any college football player who wants to transfer.

He explained his reasoning, but then took things in a new direction by saying that players lie about depression and the like.

Now, he didn’t say all who use this as their claim are lying, but he was clear that it is happening.

“And the other piece that bothers me about it is the youngster that says, ‘Okay, this is a mental health issue. I’m suffering from depression,’” Harbaugh began.

“Or that’s a reason that they’re getting eligible. And once that’s known, that, ‘Just say this’ or ‘Say that’ to get eligible. The problem that I see in that is you’re going to have guys that are, ‘Okay, yeah, I’m depressed. Mental health.’ They’re going to say what they’re going to say. But then, down the road, I don’t see that helping them if it’s not a legitimate thing, and nobody would know. But what are you going to say 10 years down…, ‘Oh, I just said what I had to say.’ I think you’re putting them in a position that’s unfair, not right.

“And as you said, Jon, you’re saying it just to say it. That’s not truthful. That’s not necessarily truthful. That’s not something we should be promoting at the college level. Telling the truth matters. Probably the number one thing that you need to do, especially at a college. You can’t have experiments that aren’t truthful. You can’t lie about experiments. You can’t lie about equations. You shouldn’t be lying in football and that’s a message that we should be teaching. I know I got a little long-winded there, but I think that would help all concerned.”

As Jansen then moved the topic to Michigan’s schedule, Harbaugh jumped back in to make it clear that he takes mental health very seriously.

“And can I say, don’t write letters,” Harbaugh said. “Please don’t write a bunch of letters in to me saying that, you know, I don’t (care about mental health). I care very deeply about mental health. I’m not saying that everybody’s lying about that.”

Yes, telling the truth does matter, but what good does it do if the head coach doesn’t believe you?

Why was this tangent on Harbaugh’s mind considering his aforementioned care about mental health and his desire to see players able to leave freely once for any reason?

Michigan had a few players enter the transfer portal this offseason, including offensive lineman James Hudson to Cincinnati.

Hudson cited depression as his reason for transferring, but his request for immediate eligibility was denied by the NCAA because he reportedly never told Michigan officials about his illness.

Harbaugh didn’t mention Hudson by name, but it’s easy to connect the dots.

But we don’t even need any dots. If James Hudson had never entered the picture, Harbaugh’s stance is one that does nothing to advance the understanding of a subject that he says he cares very deeply about.

He doesn’t want to see the NCAA duped by players lying about mental health, but is it worth being right about one liar if you’re wrong about somebody telling the truth?

Is this a mistake people are willing to make just so they don’t let one player get over on them?

And does this help anybody in Michigan’s program who is dealing with his own mental wellness issue? Does a player see Harbaugh’s comments and still see an advocate, or do they see one more person who won’t understand?

Does a claim of mental health inside Michigan’s football department immediately get met with doubt?

If so, maybe that’s why James Hudson never brought it up.

Which takes us back to Ryan and Christina Day working to remove stigmas and the doubting that comes along with mental health issues.

Day has seen first hand the need for understanding. His father took his own life in 1988, and while the Ohio State head coach doesn’t talk about it much, he does talk about how it shaped him and his need to see this cause championed.

“Without getting into too many details, I think that when you grow up and you’re young and something like that happens, you go through a range of emotions from angry to sad to resentment,” Day said last month. “And then as you get older, you start to realize in your 20s and 30s, it kind of makes more sense on what happened, you have a better perspective of what it is. And so, growing up, I didn’t quite understand what all went down.

“And then as I get older, I start to realize that it was a sickness, and that there’s people out there that need help. And that there’s a stigma attached to it that I don’t think is right. And it’s a stigma that maybe even as a young person, I bought into. And then as I got older, I don’t buy that anymore. It’s just like any other sickness. I think if somebody has cancer or somebody gets ill, they need treatment. Well, it’s the same thing with mental health. And I think that’s the biggest thing is breaking these stigmas. Breaking the stigma, especially men, of not having those conversations, that they need help.”

This topic needs more green lights and far fewer red ones. Too many young people already don’t know who to talk to about this, and they certainly don’t want to be called a liar when they finally summon the courage to reach out.

Jim Harbaugh is an old-school coach brought up on old-school teachings. But this isn’t something you can just “rub some dirt on.”

If you have seen his social media posts, or if you have seen Michigan’s Amazon series last year, you’ll see that Harbaugh is an amazing, loving father. He spends time with his kids and has fun doing it, which is something that too few coaches can say.

There isn’t a lack of compassion from Harbaugh, simply a lack of understanding.

He needs to realize that this isn’t about catching the liars, it’s about helping those who haven’t even spoken out yet.

It’s about giving them an open door and providing confidence that their feelings will be understood.

Or at the very least, believed.


If you would like to contribute to the Days’ fund, you can do so here.

Update: Late Saturday afternoon, former Michigan football player Henry Poggi tweeted out the following.

15 Responses

  1. “For my upcoming book, “OVERTIME: Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines at the Crossroads of College Football,” (out Sept. 3) I interviewed U-M athletic director Warde Manuel, who told me,”

    “No one ever talks about it, but we currently have 20 former student-athletes on medical scholarship, including mental health. The NCAA doesn’t require it, the Big Ten doesn’t require it, a lot of schools don’t do it. But we think it’s the right thing to do.” (cont’d)

    https://twitter.com/Johnubacon/status/1153325029079298050

  2. Seems to me that every time Harbaugh comments on almost any subject, he puts his foot into his mouth. There was no need for him to rip Meyer, other than to show he’s still seething over getting butt whipped 62-39 last year. He can’t put that one in his past, and he’s giving the Buckeyes some good bulletin board material for getting ready for the season and The Game.

    Harbaugh has his share of controversy, too. One of them punching former Bill star Jim Kelly in the mouth. Another is a long list of his 49ers players getting arrested. He hasn’t learned how to keep quiet when he should be quiet. And BTW, Harbaugh, Meyer had no controversies when he was head coach at Bowling Green and Utah, so he’s wrong telling everyone that Meyer had controversies and problems everywhere he coached.

  3. —-Break the stigma??

    Break the habit of participating in saying there is one.

    There is no requirement that any of us have to.

  4. Ryan Day is a class act. Harbaugh is not. Best way to give Harbaugh the treatment he deserves ? Just ignore him. Write about anything else. I would rather read a column about the difference in the weather in Columbus and Ann Arbor in late November than any article even partially about Harbaugh.

  5. James – just a word of advice – when you start off a written comment with “mollification of whiny, spoiled little chicken shit crybabies……..PERIOD.” it will cause a lot of people to:
    a. not read the rest of your comment because they don’t care to be infused with acid-tongued vitriol
    b. read it but not really grasp any of your possible valid points because their opinion of your comment has already been formed
    c. have similar anger issues and agree

    You can be angry about an issue and still write without the use of foul language. But if you just can’t get over it, you can drive to Columbus and tell Coach Day that he is a wussy for mollifying these “whiny, spoiled little chicken shit crybabies” that are mentally defective and should be mercifully exterminated. Or better yet, get on a step stool and put your face right in Jonah Jackson’s face and tell him what you really think of transfers – don’t hold back – give him both barrels! Or even better, try to lift this web site and be supportive. Supportive doesn’t mean you have to agree it just means you are obligated to disagree in a tasteful manner.

    GO BUCKS!!!!

    1. D. If they don’t want to read it……I couldn’t care less.
      E. If they can’t grasp simple, common English they should run back behind mommies skirt.
      F. If they agree, that’s fine. If they disagree, that’s also fine.

      I don’t post to make friends, or to be concerned that some will run away crying. They say that some things should be better left unsaid. I don’t believe that. Freedom of speech doesn’t end where College Football forums begin. Post a topic like this you can believe it’s going to get hammered from both sides.

      Coddling the PC crowd by striking someones Elohim given rights is far worse than any comments I could possibly make. If someone is offended, maybe they should search their own passions and learn why they’re offended. Being PC does NOT make someone right, it makes them afraid of the truth.

      1. Elohim given rights? If you use the words you use and spout the hate you spout – continuously – I have to wonder if you even know Elohim, or Yeshua. Remember, we will all have to account for every word that comes from our mouths. I have a lot of accounting to do but at least try to refrain from foulmouth syndrome. Not only do you not try, you are proud of yourself and twist this into some patriotic bill of rights position

        The ironic thing is that the original article was pointing out Hairball’s ignorance and intolerance and you seem to agree with… HIM! Mental health is not PC it is health. Some people are depressed all of the time and some people are angry all of the time. If they have been beaten by mean spirited parent, sexually abused by someone, never loved, never supported , chemically inbalanced – screwed up by life and can’t break free on their own they should seek help.
        I am far more upset by groups that label people they disagree with as fascist, PC, (pick a label) and therefore worthy of being assaulted physically or verbally than I am about someone in the portal. If you ask me, the players are the ones putting it on the line, sustaining injuries – sometime life changing – pouring their whole life into a game where 5.8% make the NFL – all so the Universities, ESPN, Las Vegas etc. can make a scheistload of dough and you and I can sit around on Saturdays and be entertained. If a few hit the portal so be it.

        1. Absolutely words will be used, and I’ll answer for mine when the day comes for that reckoning. Words are a construct of man, and they were designed to be used. I’ll use them to whatever use and end I choose.

          I don’t care what percentage make the NFL (aka Romper Room). You say that the players are who are “putting it on the line.” So they should be held to THAT standard and that level of accountability. Nobody put a gun to their heads and forced them to sign to play for whatever program they committed to. They’re supposed to be becoming men instead of spoiled and pampered little children. If they fail to properly vet their chosen school…………..and later want to change their mind for ANY reason? BooHoo……run away crying like a little sniveling coward. I was one of them who signed to play for a smaller College. By my sophomore year I had several programs, including Ohio State, ask me if I wanted to change schools. I was insulted by every one of them. When a person gives their word, regardless of their change of heart (barring sport killing injuries) stick by it…..they gave their word. Honor it..period, or be prepared prepared for the criticism you are GOING to get for your lack of character and absence of honor and loyalty.

          But most of all, they committed to the education being given. You owe not just the institution, but every other student, especially those who walked onto a program, and, the student body in general to honor your commitment. Schools have invested a lot of money and time in recruiting you and, ensuring your well being and care if any bad thing or injury happens along the way.

          I agree with my mothers analogy. “You made your bed, now lay in it.”

          Free agency in amateur sports is a HORRIFIC idea. It teaches dishonor is okay, your word means nothing because someone will be there to babysit your double minded stupidity.

          It doesn’t matter in the least who you would rather side with. That’s your choice. I would defend that right to speak your mind no matter the cost, or HOW your chose to say it. I’m never surprised when people call me names, or call me out, or disagree with me. Neither am I offended. Is what they’re saying true? It’s those who find offense in my way of speaking who have the problem……not me. I’ll never be a coward hiding behind political correctness. You’ll get the truth the way I see it, and let the chips fall where they will.

            1. Below you said that “I” was the one with mental health issues. So why you stalking me them. No matter how hard you try, I don’t swing your way. You’re the A-typical little internet troll.

  6. The transfer portal for NON graduates shouldn’t exist. That’s a mollification of whiny, spoiled little chicken shit crybabies……..PERIOD.

    If a player is, or becomes depressed, the football field and college in general isn’t the place for them to begin with. All the transfer portal does is allow unstable “young adults” the opportunity to take their inability to focus and reason and dump their problems on another University. If they truly do have a mental handicap or illness? It should be treated as any other health issue/injury. Don’t play the game of football because that illness is a detriment to the entire team. If you LIE to gain a crybaby transfer, you should be disbarred from ever playing the game.

    I don’t care how talented a guy might be, it doesn’t change the FACT that this stupid idea of a transfer portal is nothing more than a pampering mechanism in a failed……….and USELESS society of cowards.

    1. If a person becomes or is depressed school, a football field or anywhere else is a place they have the right to be. You are so ignorant and clueless it’s shocking. If those with mental health issues, which covers many, many things, we’re kept off the football field, I guarantee the history of your beloved Buckeye football team would be DRASTICALLY different. Don’t forget, YOU have mental health issues!!!!! Enlighten yourself fool!

      1. To extrapolate further on your mental health issues, you’ve made the exact same comments regarding the transfer portal about 10 times. I don’t understand why someone would do that other than senility or instability. These kids get one college career so they should do whatever the he’ll they want for whatever reason they want without worrying about pathetic, unstable fans being mad at them because their couch potato asses are chafed!!!

        1. Awwwwwww, did I hurt your pathetic little feelings………frigging coward.

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