Jim Harbaugh has been like the brand new car every 17-year-old shows off the minute they get it. Not everyone cares to see it, but for those who are actually interested, their eyes can’t look away.
From December 30 until present day, Jim Harbaugh has taken Ann Arbor by the throat and has not let go since signing up for the Michigan head coaching gig. That being said, as you could imagine, all eyes were on Michigan’s brand new car at the 2015 Big Ten Media Days.
Below is a full transcript of the Harbaugh press conference.
(Transcript Courtesy of the Big Ten Conference)
Q. I think it’s always interesting how Ohio State and Michigan refer to one another. Brady (Hoke) used to call Ohio State “Ohio,” and Urban (Meyer) calls them “the team up north” or “the rival.” Do you have a special adjective for your opponent, your rival?
COACH HARBAUGH: No. Ohio State in particular? Just Ohio State. But great to see everybody this morning. Glad everybody could be here. Wonderful turnout.
Q. How much have you learned from Paul Chryst and Mike Riley over the years?
COACH HARBAUGH: So much. That’s one of the exciting things about coaching in the Big Ten and knowing so many of the coaches. As you mentioned, Mike Riley, head coach at the (San Diego) Chargers when I was there, also Paul Chryst was a coach there and the staff. And some other connections.
Jerry Kill who had a lot of competition with my dad. My dad has always said that ‘Jerry Kill is one of the best coaches that he’s ever coached against’.
Pat Fitzgerald, had a chance to spend some good time with him in Ann Arbor this summer. Really appreciated. He came over and was our keynote speaker at our football camp. So a lot of friends in the Big Ten Conference.
Q. I wanted to obviously focus, there’s been a huge impact on your life in the days of Schembechler. Will you kind of incorporate those things that you will definitely keep in your system and maybe some of those aspects no way, I’m not going to do it the way that Bo Schembechler did it?
COACH HARBAUGH: Pretty much that if we could do it the way Bo did it that would be something to aspire to. Not a day goes by really where I don’t think about Coach Schembechler from the time I leave my house to go to the office. I live about five houses away from where Bo lived. And no matter which way I take to work, whether it’s Devonshire or Geddes or Stadium, I’ll often think, “well Bo probably took this right on to Washtenaw or took this left onto Hill. I know he took this left onto State Street,” and parked my car and walked by his statue.
Daily. I go to my office. I’ve got a picture of Bo. There’s a picture of Bo and myself when we were at the Rose Bowl in ’87. Yeah, so it’s to have his work ethic, to run the program like he ran it, yeah, those are things to aspire to.
Q. Michigan’s fan base has and will continue to be a perennial powerhouse in college football. It’s kind of one of the advantages of Michigan football. However, over the last couple of years, a little bit — the attendance because of on- and off-the-field problems, what is the team and the university doing to make sure that what is arguably the best fan section in sports, what are they doing to make sure that stays at 100 percent?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, I don’t know how many things you can really do. If people don’t want to come to a game, you can’t make them come. So — but doesn’t seem like we’ve had that problem at the University of Michigan as far as I can tell. So the spirit, the energy has been tremendous, I think everybody involved in Michigan and Michigan football is hungry for the 2015 season, including the fan base.
Q. All of us who have good dads learned from them how to be a man. But what did you learn most from your father about coaching?
COACH HARBAUGH: My dad. I think of things like who had the most influence on me in my life, my dad, Bo Schembechler, Mike Ditka, Al Davis. With my dad, it was just — he was always my dad. He played catch with me, took me to games. And most of all, he just always believed in me. When it comes to advice whether it’s personally or professionally, he is the one I go to. Sarah and my dad, and there’s others. But those two pretty much on every decision.
Q. Your return to Michigan has really reenergized people at Michigan, but it also created a buzz throughout the Big Ten. Did you expect that? And what do you think that means for the league overall and for Michigan?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know. Not striving to be creating any buzz. Just striving to coach the football team. Not trying to be popular or anything. Anyone who is popular is bound to be disliked. So just coaching football.
Q. What is John Baxter going to bring to the special teams aspect of the game? And how much time do you expect to be able to devote to that facet of the game in fall camp?
COACH HARBAUGH: He brings so much to the game. He’s been coaching 30, 40 years right here from Chicago. Great Chicago guy. You talk about the city of broad shoulders and charismatic, knowledgeable football coach at the highest level.
How much time we’re going to devote? I’ve gone through this practice schedule meticulously over the last months. And a lot. We’re going to devote a lot of time to special teams. It’s an area we feel like we can improve and that needs to be improved. And starting with Coach Baxter, feel very confident that we will. He’s just a heck of a guy to be around. Have you been around him? He’s awesome.
Q. I have to follow-up on the Ditka comment since you mentioned him. What are some things you took from that experience?
COACH HARBAUGH: So many things. It’s your coach. It’s your coach. When you’re a player, your coach is — it’s like family. There is your family. There is — sometimes there’s a favorite teacher that you had growing up, grade school or high school. There’s sometimes a neighbor that you were very close to. Maybe somebody in the church or the clergy and your coach. And it’s so close to your family that — I had a chance to spend the evening with Coach last night at his restaurant. And Diana was there and Sarah was there and it was just really, really special to be with my coach. So, in fact, I picked up a Ditka jersey from the restaurant.
Q. Did you get it autographed?
COACH HARBAUGH: No, no, he didn’t autograph it. But — I’ll be proud to wear that.
Q. Coach, it seems like you have a lot of options right now at running back. Is there a particular name right now that’s especially impressed you so far?
COACH HARBAUGH: You know, that’s — I’m hoping that happens. We’re at the start of camp here. And there will be plenty of license and plenty of opportunity for one, two, three of our running backs to assert themselves, come to the fore and be counted on. That we’ll be watching very closely and hoping that occurs early here in camp.
Q. When you got to Michigan in the last several months, what is the — what did you definitely figure out you had to change culture-wise or whatever?
COACH HARBAUGH: I really don’t have that list in front of me right now. But just — how long have you been at “The Columbus Dispatch”? ’77. So I was thinking about this. Remember — were you around when the Big Ten had the press caravan and go from — on the bus, right? You go from — that was the ’70s. You never did it?
Has anybody here ever done that or is everybody too young? You can see why the game has gotten — must have gotten a lot more popular since then. You could never get everybody here on a bus.
My favorite story. Were you there when — I remember reading this. The caravan went to Columbus and reporters got out of the bus, and they have chairs and sandwiches set up on the sideline for all the reporters. And if things are weren’t going well in practice, Coach Hayes got upset and kicked everybody out of the practice. Threw a couple chairs. And all the reporters got on to their next destination a little bit earlier. I read about that. I would have loved to have been there.
Q. (Question off microphone.)
COACH HARBAUGH: Big, very big, as they all are. I don’t compare really one game to the next, but it’s big. And you know, the biggest one right now is Utah. As Coach Kill talked about earlier. I mean, that’s — we’ve got the same type of opponent first game on our schedule. Great team. Did not fare well against them last year. We go out this year to play them first game in college football. I believe it’s going to be the first game on September 3rd.
We’re preparing for it. We know it’s coming. And that’s where our focus is, you know, winning that game.
Q. What’s your general take of the talent level that you have to work with there? You just need to get everybody going in the right direction and things should be just fine?
COACH HARBAUGH: Well, I mean it’s like every year that your team changes, no matter what football team you’re on. And it’s a work in progress, every single season, every single year. And that’s what we’re enjoying doing. And it’s coming along.
And then you go through the winter conditioning and then the spring ball, and then the summer conditioning. And now it starts. This is the beginning, the training camp. And the rebirth of football, the rebirth of the season. And then you watch and you watch and you observe. And you can learn — you can observe a lot by just watching. And I feel like I’ve been doing that. And I feel like our team is getting better every day. I really do.
Q. I saw a couple weeks ago you posted something from Paris on social media. That was you, right?
COACH HARBAUGH: Yes, sir.
Q. What made you go there in July? Were you able to stop being a football coach? Did you take anything away from that?
COACH HARBAUGH: Yes. The most important thing, Sarah and I, we figured this out that it’s been eight years since we’ve spent more than a day just her and I and not all the kids and or some football function or some work-related thing. Eight years since her and I had just spent time alone, so we decided to go there, and that’s where she wanted to go. And I really enjoyed it. And yeah. Hopefully she enjoyed it.