Jim Harbaugh has made it perfectly clear now: There is no consideration of him leaving Michigan and returning to the NFL.
Rumors about his departure circulated Tuesday after FootballScoop reported Harbaugh’s people were eyeing a possible return to the NFL for the former San Francisco 49ers coach, publishing in an article with the headline: “Source: Jim Harbaugh eying exit strategy.”
Less than 24 hours later, Harbaugh had penned a personal letter addressed to the parents of his football recruits and disputing that specific headline with an assurance that he was committed to their sons for the future, according to a copy of the letter shared by Michigan inside Sam Webb.
“I am reaching out to let you know that the recent claims that I am ‘pursuing an exit strategy’ are total crap,” Harbaugh wrote in the letter. “It’s an annual strategy driven by our enemies to cause disruption to our program and to negatively recruit. By the way, I don’t even have an ‘agent or representative.'”
Michigan is currently 5-2 with ranked road losses at Wisconsin and just last Saturday at Penn State, but the Wolverines only have to wait until this Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. CT when they travel to take on No. 8 Notre Dame. Another loss would almost certainly doom their chances at winning the Big Ten East, long before they even get a crack at the Buckeyes in their regular-season finale.
Has Harbaugh Lived up to Expectations at Michigan?
The much-anticipated return of Harbaugh to the college game ended his four seasons in the NFL at the helm of the 49ers. Under his tutelage, the 49ers reached the NFC Championship Game in each of his first three seasons while making the Super Bowl — and narrowly losing — in his second year.
On Dec. 30, 2014, though, Harbaugh made his return official and became the latest Michigan head football coach with astronomically high expectations attached to him. His first season began with a 24-17 road loss to Utah but ended with a 10-3 record and a 41-7 win over No. 19 Florida State in the Citrus Bowl that reignited hope in the fan base.
Three of his four previous seasons, including 2018, saw the Wolverines finish with a 10-3 record while their eight wins in 2017 resulted in the only outlier. Depending on which team you follow, those are great results. Other Big Ten teams, such as Illinois or Rutgers, would gladly take a 10-win season — or, heck, even a five-win season. But Michigan fans don’t just want to make solid bowl appearances. They want to see the Wolverines contending with the Alabamas, Clemsons and Ohio States of the world for a national title.
The clearest reason why the Wolverines have not yet reached that point is reflected in how they have fared in difficult road environments. Michigan is just 1-10 against top-10 opponents during Harbaugh’s tenure, while they are 1-7 on the road against ranked opponents. They have also lost eight straight against ranked teams.
Notre Dame has bounced back nicely since their 23-17 loss to then-No. 10 Georgia on the road, making for another difficult week for Michigan as they attempt to break through a barrier they have so seldom done with Harbaugh leading the way.