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Why Jim Harbaugh Will Succeed at Michigan

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Harbaugh just became the Wolverines head coach, and here’s why it’s a great fit.

Why Jim Harbaugh Will Succeed at Michigan

It's the most exciting time of the football calendar. The best bowl games are coming up in the college postseason, including the first ever College Football Playoff. The NFL postseason is kicking off this week with big Wild Card Weekend games in the AFC and NFC.

But the biggest news that is dominating the football landscape is now former San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh becoming the next coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

It's a high-profile move that saw one of the most in-demand coaches go from the pro ranks back to college, but after a couple weeks of speculation, the deal was finally made official today and Harbaugh held his introductory press conference in Ann Arbor. On paper it looks like a slam dunk, and if you look at Harbaugh's track record, all indications point to this being a slam dunk hire by the Wolverines.

The biggest reason Harbaugh is going to succeed at Michigan is because he has succeeded everywhere he has been. Harbaugh took over the Stanford Cardinal back in 2007 following a 1-11 season in 2006. In just four years, the Cardinal were a 12-1 team and took down Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. They experienced just two losing seasons before becoming bowl eligible in his third year, and at that point he had Stanford back on track to return as a college football power. In four years, Harbaugh went 29-21, but finished his final two seasons with a 20-6 mark.

After that 2010 season, Harbaugh took over a San Francisco 49ers team that went 6-10 the year prior. In his first season, the Niners went 13-3. The next year, they made the Super Bowl where they came close to beating the Baltimore Ravens. While the 49ers had a rough 8-8 season in 2014, Harbaugh still finished his four years with a 44-19-1 record, three playoff appearances and a Super Bowl appearance. Harbaugh wins football games, no matter where he is, and the Michigan team he's inheriting won't be as bad as the Stanford team he inherited back in 2006.

Harbaugh, a Michigan alum and former star quarterback for the university, will also have more resources at his disposal in Ann Arbor than he did at Stanford. According to 2012-2013 revenue reports, the football budget at Michigan was roughly $23 million, almost $5 million more than the budget was at Stanford during the 2010 season. Seeing that the football team brings in nearly four times its budget, an increase in football spending could easily be foreseen, especially when rival Ohio State spends close to $35 million annually on the football team.

The other advantage Harbaugh will have is in recruiting. Michigan has always been a great destination for recruits, but with Harbaugh on board it becomes even more desirable. Harbaugh already has a great track record in producing NFL talent at Stanford (Andrew Luck, Richard Sherman, etc.). Now with the allure of the Big Ten and playing for one of the more illustrious programs in the nation for one of the top coaches, it's hard to see why players wouldn't want to head to Michigan. Even before the hire was made official, 2015 and 2016 recruits were already buzzing about the move on social media. Harbaugh won't have any trouble attracting some of the best players in the nation, and that means Michigan won't be down for very long.

The marriage of Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines seems like one that can last longer than his previous four-year stints in Stanford and San Francisco. He has more history in Ann Arbor than in those places, and the chance to cement a legacy there really makes me believe this will work for both Harbaugh and the Wolverines. Either way, the Big Ten just got a whole lot more exciting.

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