Jim Harbaugh loves attention for his Michigan football program. As long as he gets to dictate how it’s drawn and disseminated.
Otherwise, there might be problems.
While his social media posts have been gladly gobbled up by media across the country, his actual in-person interactions with the press have been up and down during his time in Ann Arbor.
He has alternated between withholding commonly shared roster information with long dissertations on the game he loves. He also had a famous blowup with then-ESPN radio personality Colin Cowherd, though they eventually buried the hatchet.
Last spring he responded to a fairly harmless comment about the Michigan program with a thoughtless personal attack on Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith then passed on a chance to take it back in July.
The latest episode began Monday when Harbaugh decided he didn’t want to tolerate being pressed on the status of three players who apparently weren’t in the Wolverines team photo.
After a testy response to a reasonable question, Harbaugh ended the interview – but not before letting it be known what he thought about how he was being treated by the people there doing their job of finding out what is going on with the team for fans who hang on every morsel available about the Wolverines.
Per the Detroit Free Press, the players in question were true freshmen Ahmir Mitchell and Kareem Walker and redshirt freshman Shelton Johnson.
After Harbaugh said two players are suspended, the newspaper confirmed with a team official Walker (a former Ohio State commit) is not one of them.
When or how an update on Mitchell and Johnson might come remains to be seen, but the story is still going strong.
Of course it made the social media rounds yesterday, but then Jim Rome picked it up. And sports radio’s original national shock jock not only touched on the controversy, he went to bat for the reporters on the ground in Ann Arbor.
Naturally, Harbaugh couldn’t let that go without a response via his favorite method of one-way communication, but Rome had a fitting comeback.
What comes next? It’s hard to tell. The Wolverines are a preseason top 10 team, and Harbaugh’s recruiting indicates that could soon be the norm again.
If not – if Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor flames out like it did in San Francisco with the 49ers — maybe he could always consider politics.
After all, his love/hate relationship with a press that at once gives him a free platform to spread his messages without much consideration of its veracity but also gets under his skin by… spreading information that happens to be negative can’t help but remind us of someone else who’s been in the news a lot lately.