Rumors popped up in the past week — from no less a source than former Ohio State wide receiver Cris Carter — that Jim Harbaugh was open to returning to the NFL. Tired of banging his head against the scarlet and gray wall in the Big Ten, the story went, Harbaugh would pack up his bags and leave Ann Arbor for a second time.
He was intrigued by the chance to coach Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, the rumors said. Maybe he’d cross Lake Erie and coach the Browns. Or maybe Dolphins owner and Michigan booster Stephen Ross could lure him to South Beach.
The story is wrong, Harbaugh said.
Speaking to ESPN on Sunday, Harbaugh said this:
“This is a choreographed message that comes up at this time every year before signing day. It’s people spreading messages to further their own personal agenda.
“But I’m on record right here, right now: I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying at Michigan. We have big plans here, and there’s a lot we want to accomplish.”
There are ways to deflect coaching rumors without outright confirming or denying them, but this isn’t that. It’s hard to be any more unequivocal than, “I’m staying at Michigan.”
Four years into his return to Michigan, Harbaugh has undeniably improved the program from where he found it, going 38-13 with two top-15 finishes and another on the way, though hasn’t lived up to the expectation that he’d wrest control of the Big Ten away from Urban Meyer and return the maize and blue to national prominence.
With Meyer leaving Columbus, the second stage of Harbaugh’s Michigan tenure will see even more pressure to push the Wolverines past the Buckeyes, once and for all. And it appears Harbaugh is open to the challenge.