91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Weekday mornings on Michigan Radio, Doug Tribou hosts NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to news radio program in the country.

BACON: Harbaugh delivered on his promise

University of Michigan Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh (file photo)
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
University of Michigan Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh (file photo)

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

Some University of Michigan football fans find themselves channeling Charles Dickens after the announcement that head football coach Jim Harbaugh is leaving to accept a job in the NFL. The news came just weeks after fans celebrated the Wolverine's national championship.

But Lions fans, on the other hand, are excited for more playff action, as the Lions prepare to face the 49ers in the NFC Championship game Sunday.

For more on all of that, we spoke with Michigan Public sports commentator John U. Bacon.

NFC Championship Game: Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers - Sunday, 6:30pm

This is an abbreviated version of the interview. Listen to the audio for the full interview.

Doug Tribou: Jim Harbaugh is now the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. Harbaugh previously coached the San Francisco 49ers. And in recent years, he explored the possibility of returning to the NFL. Oftentimes, it’s failure that leads to change in football, but in this case it feels like Michigan’s success was a driving factor in Harbaugh’s decision.

John U. Bacon: No question about that, Doug. I would say it's three things. One, they won a national title, the first one in 26 years and the second in 75, so this is a big deal. Second, he's always had an eye on the NFL. The third thing, Jim Harbaugh and the athletic director Warde Manuel positively hate each other. Michigan could have handled this a lot better, but I'm not sure if that would have kept Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.

DT: This creates an opening at U of M. And one unusual part of the situation is there’s a candidate on the staff who has very recent experience as head coach of the Wolverines. Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Sherrone Moore filled in for Harbaugh and led the team to four wins, including one over Ohio State. Does Moore have the inside track for the job?

JUB: That's cute, Doug. Moore has the job, period. They looking for a waiver to end the seven-day process to post a job at the University of Michigan. Everyone wants Sherrone Moore to have it. Jim Harbaugh and Warde Manuel both want him. It's one of the few things they agree on. He's never been a head coach, but has one four games as a fill-in for Jim Harbaugh, including huge games over Penn State and Ohio State.

"It's pretty simple. He came, he saw, he conquered. He promised Big Ten titles. He got a national title."
John U. Bacon on his view of Jim Harbaugh's tenure as Michigan's head football coach

DT: The Harbaugh era was probably shorter than most U of M fans wanted it to be. Nine seasons. But it ended on the highest of notes with the national championship. How will you remember Jim Harbaugh’s time as head coach in Ann Arbor?

JUB: Well, it's pretty simple. He came, he saw, he conquered. He promised Big Ten titles. He got a national title. And one thing no one ever talks about is that they also scored a perfect 1000 on the academic progress report, which had never been done before. Outside of Ann Arbor, I suspect he'll be remembered very differently by Michigan State fans and Ohio State fans.

DT: Okay, let’s turn to Lions. The Lions have their biggest game in decades on Sunday evening. Detroit will face the 49ers in San Francisco in the NFC Championship game. The winner goes to the Super Bowl, something the Lions have never done. This is a tough matchup. What are the keys to the Lions’ success?

JB: It sounds corny but keep doing what you're doing. They're playing extremely good football these days. They also know how to take a shot, have a bad quarter and come back strong in the fourth quarter. The 49ers are the best team in the NFC, but the Lions are almost as good. I think they have a very real chance here, and the 49ers are not invincible.

DT: John, the oddsmakers have the 49ers favored by 7 points. How do you like their chances against a very good San Francisco team.

JUB: You know what, if you're going to drink the Kool Aid, drink the Kool Aid. Lions 31-27.

DT: John, thanks a lot. We’ll talk to you Monday.

John U. Bacon is the author of several national bestsellers. His latest book is "Let Them Lead: Unexpected Lessons in Leadership from America's Worst High School Hockey Team."

The University of Michigan owns Michigan Public's broadcast license.

Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Public staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
John U. Bacon has worked nearly three decades as a writer, a public speaker, and a college instructor, winning awards for all three.
Related Content