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Harbaugh: U of M head coach job "lifelong dream"

Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio

Jim Harbaugh displayed a ready wit, apologized for some past mistakes, and refused to guarantee a win over Ohio State at his first press conference as head coach for the University of Michigan football program.

The former San Francisco 49ers head coach and U of M star quarterback says he's dreamed about the job ever since he was a ball boy for the team, who once sat down at Bo Schembechler's desk and put his feet up on it.

Now the coach's desk – and team – are his.

Harbaugh introduced his family, said arriving in Ann Arbor was "a homecoming," and said he feels he's "standing on the shoulders of tall men," who built a great foundation for a storied football team.

One reporter asked how his "fiery" personality would transfer from the NFL to college football.

"I feel like it's the only personality I have. The other ones were all taken," he quipped. 

Harbaugh was also asked about some famous quotes that got him in a bit of trouble in Ann Arbor. 

In May 2007, Harbaugh told the San Francisco Examiner, "Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there, but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in and, when they're in, they steer them to courses in sports communications."

He also said the University of Southern California was the best college football team in the nation.

Then-U of M head coach Lloyd Carr called his comments "elitist and arrogant," and tailback Mike Hart went so far as to claim Harbaugh was no longer a "Michigan man." 

All seems to have been forgiven, however. A smiling Carr attended the press conference. 

"You don't compare great to great," said Harbaugh. "And that's what I did, and that was a mistake."

The Wolverines had a losing season and did not go to a bowl game this year. The team also hasn't won the Big Ten championship since 2004. 

Credit Tracy Samilton / Michigan
U of M grad Kristen Kubik and her sister, U of M junior Jacqueline Kubik, wait outside the Big House for the Harbaugh announcement.

It would not be an overstatement to say some fans have feelings for the Wolverines program that border on the sacred. Many are discouraged and desperate for better times. 

That led one reporter to ask, "I wonder how comfortable or uncomfortable you are with this perception that you're the savior of Michigan football?"

"I'm not comfortable with that at all," shot back Harbaugh.

Harbaugh refused to guarantee wins, even over Ohio State. But, "you have my pledge that I will carry forward the tradition of excellence of the University of Michigan football program."

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.