Even before 2019 Big Ten Media Days kicked off in Chicago, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is at the center of attention.
Harbaugh appeared on “The TK Show” podcast with Bay Area-based sportswriter Tim Kawakami, and fired a shot at former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.
“Urban Meyer’s had a winning record. Really phenomenal record everywhere he’s been. But also, controversy follows everywhere he’s been,” Harbaugh said.
He later expanded on the natural comparisons between Michigan and Ohio State:
“You welcome the accountability that all you can be judged on is your record,” Harbaugh said. “What your record is overall? What your record is within your conference and what your record is head-to-head matchups with the other teams you play?
“I think you find right now that Ohio State is the only team that has a better record than us, has a better conference record than us and has a better overall head-to-head matchup with us.”
Meyer, of course, retired from Ohio State following a turbulent 2018 season. And his Florida program was riddled with off-field issues during the end of his tenure there as well.
But it’s also worth noting that his exits from Utah and Bowling Green were mostly drama-free, and Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor hasn’t exactly been spotless, either.
The more surprising element of the story is just that Harbaugh said it.
It’s rare for coaches to publicly bad-mouth another program or coach.
Think about how often you’ve head coaches deflect a question about another team some variant of “we’re just worried about our program.” Or “we have great respect for our rivals.” Or “we’re just focused on getting better this season.”
They’re cliches, but that’s just because everyone says them.
Harbaugh’s interviews aren’t generally a waterfall of interesting quotes, either. He seems to approach every press conference with the sole intent of saying the fewest interesting words possible.
To publicly go right after a rival coach is not only out of character for Harbaugh, but for coaches on the whole.
Was it Harbaugh trying to deflect or spin his program’s on-field failures against its biggest rival?
Was it simply frustration from years of season-ending losses boiling over?
That’s impossible to know. But it seems very unlikely that it wasn’t planned for one reason or another.
Harbaugh is scheduled to speak Friday at Big Ten Media Days. He’ll get a chance to explain in more detail then.
Harbaugh: "Urban Meyer's had a winning record. Really phenomenal record everywhere he's been. But also, controversy follows everywhere he's been." https://t.co/zFKSngtRMo
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) July 18, 2019