Jim Harbaugh’s best moments at Michigan: Love of lawn care, recruiting sleepover highlights his coaching tenure
Jim Harbaugh leaves Michigan and college behind, returning to the NFL afterward. His departure comes weeks after he led his university to its first national championship since 1997.
The Wolverines’ nine-year journey with Harbaugh wasn’t always smooth, but it was always entertaining. This was never more true than in the coach’s milestone in 2023, where he missed six games as a result of two suspensions from two separate NCAA investigations.
From the podium to the sidelines and beyond, it’s time to revisit some of the most memorable moments from Harbaugh’s Wolverines coaching career.
Ultimate quotation machine
You never know what you’re going to get when you put Harbaugh in front of the microphone. It made routine Big Ten media days and midweek news conferences unpredictable. Harbaugh had a knack for coming up with unique analogies, whether it was comparing turnovers to an “olive jar” or likening Jesus to a “five-star” recruit before Michigan’s Rose Bowl win over Alabama.
Harbaugh wasn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he sometimes ruffled feathers, too. When Ryan Day took over for Urban Meyer at rival Ohio State in 2019, Harbaugh infamously said, “Sometimes there are guys standing at third base who think they hit a triple, and they don’t.”
Day and Ohio State won the season battle as the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines 56-27 en route to the Big Ten title and a College Football Playoff berth. However, it was Harbaugh who had the last laugh. The Wolverines would not lose to the Buckeyes again during his tenure.
And most recently in November 2023, HarbaughIn order to “beat adversity.” The “adversity” he spoke of was the NCAA’s investigation into sign stealing, an investigation that led to the Big Ten suspending Harbaugh for the final three games of the regular season.
There were also a lot of humorous and spontaneous shades that had nothing to do with football at all. Take, for example, the time Harbaugh offered advice on how trick-or-treaters could work the system to get extra candy on Halloween.
“I try to advise them to get two costumes.”“Being an entrepreneur. You can hit the block in one outfit, and you better run or run from house to house, and get more candy than anyone else. Then you come home, do a quick change into another outfit, and hit that The same houses again.”
Viral moments captured on camera
Harbaugh’s unfiltered persona often gave way to comedic and downright bizarre scenes. Did you ever think you’d see a Michigan football president trying to sing an opera while the cameras were rolling?
What about him participating in a cannonball competition — wearing his signature khaki pants — at a Michigan swim facility?
The addition of “reference cameras” to the television broadcast gave viewers a first-person view of Harbaugh’s animated confrontations with officials.
And he wasn’t afraid to show his fun side on his playing days, either. After Michigan’s National Football Championship win over Washington, footage emerged of Harbaugh leading the Wolverines’ locker room in a rendition of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” Not exactly a festive scene you’d expect in 2024.
How do you make a memorable first impression on recruiters? Harbaugh went so far as to throw slumber parties with prospective Michigan football players at their homes.
While Harbaugh didn’t hit 1,000 on the recruiting trail, the sleeper tactic was enough to win over former Michigan kicker Quinn Nordean, who flipped from Penn State to the Wolverines in the 2016 recruiting cycle. Nordean detailed what happened during Harbaugh’s unique visit.
“He was sleeping in the guest room at our house,” Nordean told MLive.com. “He came at 12:01 (am), just like the rule book said he could. I was laughing in my pajamas when he showed up at the door. I couldn’t believe it. There were fans in the street. We stayed.” “Until 1:15, 2 p.m. When I woke up in the morning, my mom made pancakes and waffles for the bus, and here we are having breakfast.”
It’s never been a bad time for McDonald’s
Harbaugh’s love for one of America’s most popular burger chains was on full display the summer before his first season as Michigan State’s coach, when he checked himself out at a McDonald’s while on vacation in Europe.
He went to McDonald’s during the first half of the Wolverines’ 2023 home win against UNLV during a suspension imposed by the school in connection with an NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations. Ironically, hamburgers purchased from another Ann Arbor establishment may have played a role in the alleged recruiting violations, according to a report by Yahoo Sports.
No lawn care service needed
A college football coach with a multi-million dollar salary mowing his own lawn? Why not? Harbaugh’s landscape hobby took center stage whenHe would be working in lawn care services if he wasn’t a college football coach. He also wondered why more Americans — children in particular — don’t mow their lawns.
“(I’ll be) the grass man!” Harbaugh told SI. “That’s what I do. Mowing the lawn is one of the great feelings I have in life.”
The good news for Harbaugh is that Southern California’s warm climate should give him more lawn mowing opportunities in the future.
You can always count on Harbaugh to lend a helping hand to the local community, even in unexpected circumstances. In February 2023, Ann Arbor police released a video of an accident in which a motorist was trying to remove a fallen tree blocking the street during a snowstorm. Not long into the video, Harbaugh can be seen getting out of his car to help remove the tree. The group eventually succeeded in removing the tree from the road, drawing praise from the Harbaugh Police Department on social media.
Who got it better than us? no one!
The seven-word phrase was first coined by Jim Harbaugh’s father, Jack. It proved to be a rallying cry during Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor. That was especially prevalent during Harbaugh’s last rodeo as the Wolverines ended a 26-year national championship drought. Chargers fans should prepare to hear those words a lot from their new coach as he begins the final chapter of his career.