Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh brushes aside sign-stealing scandal: ‘We knew we were innocent’

Michigan went 15-0 this season, winning each of its first nine games by at least 24 points and securing its first national championship in 26 years. That doesn’t mean the year was necessarily the smoothest for coach Jim Harbaugh.

Harbaugh was suspended twice. The first ban was self-imposed by Michigan in an attempt to placate the NCAA amid claims he lied to investigators, while the second was the result of a sign-stealing scandal that took the college football world by storm. In total, he missed six of the Wolverines’ 12 regular season games.

When asked if overcoming “off the field issues” made winning a championship even sweeter on Monday night, Harbaugh pushed back on the idea the Wolverines had any off the field issues at all. 

“Off the field issues — we’re innocent. And we stood strong and tall because we knew we were innocent,” Harbaugh said, asserting that the season went “exactly how [Michigan] wanted it to go. 

“Off the field issues — we’re innocent. We stood strong and tall because we knew we were innocent.”

– Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh after winning National Title pic.twitter.com/V5FYIohgJE

— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) January 9, 2024

Michigan handled business in Harbaugh’s absence, defeating Ohio State to take a decisive step toward the College Football Playoff, and the polarizing coach got the last laugh on Monday night in Houston. Harbaugh enjoyed every last moment of it.

After evading one Gatorade bath and getting doused by another, Harbaugh saw his team’s story in something championship-winning coaches might not have noticed: confetti.

“You watch this confetti come down and it’s like thousands of confetti that tell a story. There’s a story in every one of those pieces of confetti,” Harbaugh told ESPN’s Holly Rowe on the field at NRG Stadium. 

Harbaugh is known for some unusual lines, and this was one of them. Still, it’s clear the 60-year-old was referring to the long journey Michigan took to the title, starting when he was hired after the 2014 season. Harbaugh didn’t pick up a win over rival Ohio State until his seventh season, and his tenure briefly appeared to be in doubt after a 2-4 season in 2020.

Then, an early College Football Playoff exit in 2021. Then, serious consideration of leaving for the NFL. The same sequence played out in 2022, when Michigan was upset in the semifinal and Harbaugh entertained interest from the Denver Broncos. Then, the self-imposed suspension. Then, the sign-stealing suspension.

Michigan has been one of the nation’s most prominent college football programs since the day Harbaugh stepped on the sideline in Ann Arbor, but growing from a prominent brand into a prominent contender required a long, winding path, nearly derailed by the Harbaugh’s own decision-making.

“It was a journey. A spiritual journey,” Harbaugh said during Michigan’s trophy presentation before exclaiming, “We did that! We did that!” 

Harbaugh was able to take a weight off his shoulders after the win, telling reporters, “My dad won a national championship. My brother won a Super Bowl. It’s nice to now be at the big table in the family.”

The NFL may or may not be next for Harbaugh, but what comes next cannot take away the stamp Monday night’s win put on his career as a college football coach. 

Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *