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Jim Harbaugh fires back at Luke Fickell over James Hudson’s waiver denial

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The last Ohio State head coach to lose to Michigan and the current Michigan head coach who has never beaten Ohio State have found themselves entangled in a very public beef that, ostensibly, has absolutely nothing to do with The Game.

The very extended backstory, for those unaware:

After James Hudson transferred from Michigan to Cincinnati late last year, the offensive lineman cited “mental struggles” that arose at U-M as the basis for his appeal for an immediate-eligibility waiver that was denied by the NCAA, a denial that was in very large part based on Hudson never speaking up about the mental health issues while at U-M.  That could’ve been the end of it… except Jim Harbaugh decided to weigh in during the Big Ten Media Days on mental health claims by transfers seeking waivers through the NCAA.

“And the other piece that bothers me about it is, the youngster that says ‘this is a mental health issue, I’m suffering from depression.’ Or that’s a reason to get eligible,” the Wolverines head coach said in July. “And once that’s known that ‘hey, say this or say that’ to get eligible. The problem I see in that is you’re going to have guys that are ‘OK, yeah, I’m depressed.'”

The intimation that some transfers lie about mental health issues didn’t sit well with either the offensive lineman’s mother or his new head football coach Luke Fickell, with the latter very passionately stating in a very well-done piece that appeared in The Athletic this week that U-M could’ve gone to bat for its former player in the appeals process but chose not to.

“Here’s what I believe in the whole waiver process: the number one, most important thing, and all the power, comes from the school that a kid is leaving. No matter what,” Fickell told website. “(Michigan) didn’t back the waiver. They can say what they want to say, but the only thing they said that was positive was that if the NCAA chooses to make (Hudson) eligible, then they would accept it — that they didn’t have an angle. They are just trying to cover their ass. And I’m really, completely disappointed in it. …

“All the power is in the hands of the school a player is leaving. If they want to help, they can help them become eligible. … They can say they didn’t undermine it, but they didn’t work to help the kid out. ”

Tuesday night, Harbaugh fired back at his fellow head coach.  From mlive.com:

Unless I’m reading them wrong or mistaken, I believe [Fickell’s] under the impression that these waivers are decided coach-to-coach in some kind of deal fashion. That is not the understanding I’m under. I’m under the understanding that the NCAA decides these waivers.

“Unless he has something that he has and can bring forth and share, enlighten us and the entire football world, I would really like to know what that is. …

“And I told him, ‘Coach, I believe in telling the truth. Forthright, honest. What I told James, what I tell you, what I tell compliance is going to be the truth. I read the article. He asked the question in the article: ‘What’s most important, your personal beliefs or what’s in the best interest of the kid?’ And I can answer that: What’s most important is the truth.

“I’m astounded that he’s gotten to where he’s at by not knowing the answer to that question.

Bottom line?  Harbaugh and the U-M football program could’ve done something above and beyond to help Hudson in the waiver process but chose to do the absolute bare minimum, which is absolutely their right.

Juxtapose that, though, with Ohio State supporting and actively assisting Blue Smith‘s appeal for immediate eligibility at Cincinnati even as the wide receiver will potentially, after being granted a waiver, face his former team this coming season as the Buckeyes and Bearcats will square off in Week 2 of the 2019 campaign.  And then there was Alabama earlier this offseason supporting a run-off waiver for Kyriq McDonald, who was granted an immediate-eligibility waiver months after transferring from the Crimson Tide to the Bearcats.

“What Alabama did, what Ohio State did, they didn’t have to,” Fickell said in The Athletic piece.

There’s one way to handle these situations and there’s another way a classy program wouldn’t.  There is a right way and a petty way to do it.  Here’s to guessing that prospects on the recruiting trail, with the aid of rival coaches, will figure out which is which.

As of now, Jim Harbaugh plans to play Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game

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Michigan does not open training camp until Aug. 2 and does not play its first game until Aug. 31, so any “as of right now” statements are devoid of 20-odd practices worth of context.

Still, as of Big Ten media days, Jim Harbaugh plans to play both Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaffrey in every game.

“Yeah, I do (see games where they’ll both play). Where it stands right now, and that could change later or not, is I see them both playing,” Harbaugh told the Detroit Free Press. “Where it stands right now, I see it as maybe redefining what a starter is…. I’m really not talking about playing them both at the same time (on a play), when I say both in games it’d be they’re both playing quarterback during the same game. And in the way it stands now, in every game.”

Harbaugh has been a one-quarterback man for the entirety of his career, but Patterson’s inconsistency and McCaffrey’s talent may demand a change. Michigan did juggle quarterbacks in 2017 — John O’KornBrandon Peters and Wilton Speight each threw at least 81 passes — but that was due to necessity, not strategy.

Patterson completed 64.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,600 yards (on 8.0 per attempt) with 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions while rushing 76 times for 273 yards and two touchdowns. In his second year in the program, McCaffrey completed 8-of-15 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns whilst rushing 10 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.

The son of Ed McCaffrey and brother of Christian McCaffrey is certainly the heir apparent in Ann Arbor, and it appears Harbaugh isn’t willing to wait for the future to arrive in order to unleash arguably his most talented quarterback recruit since Andrew Luck.

Mother of former Michigan OL James Hudson takes issue with Jim Harbaugh’s mental health comments

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Jim Harbaugh‘s statement during Big Ten media days saying he’d support granting a one-time waiver for all players to transfer and play immediately figures to win him many fans in the pro-player camp. But a comment Harbaugh made did not win him any fans in a household of a player that tried to transfer and play immediately but was denied.

“And the other piece that bothers me about it is, the youngster that says ‘this is a mental health issue, I’m suffering from depression.’ Or that’s a reason to get eligible,” Harbaugh said, via the Detroit Free Press. And once that’s known that ‘hey, say this or say that’ to get eligible. The problem I see in that is you’re going to have guys that are ‘OK, yeah, I’m depressed.’

On Friday, Glenda Hudson criticized Harbaugh for not practicing what he preached. Hudson is the mother of former Michigan lineman James Hudson, whose waiver to play immediately at Cincinnati was denied because, according to him, he and/or Michigan did not provide proper documentation for the mental health issues that Hudson says forced him to leave Ann Arbor.

“Not just as a mom but as a professional that deals with mental health, this is why people don’t come out and say these things, because people don’t believe them,” Hudson told WTOL-TV. “So it upsets me because there are lots of athletes that suffer with depression I’m sure that don’t say things. But, again, hearing these type of things, they won’t. They will not do it in the future because you get, ‘Oh, he’s lying.’ You get blamed for feeling the way that you feel.”

For what it’s worth, Harbaugh seemed to hear the click-bait headlines being written and backtracked his comments during a radio interview.

“And can I add, please don’t write a bunch of letters,” he said. “I care very deeply about mental health. I’m not saying everybody’s lying about that. Just saying ‘OK, this is America. You started at this school, you didn’t like it and for whatever the reason is, you’re freely allowed to transfer to any other school like any other human being would have a right to do.’ That’s really the bottom line.”

In Harbaugh’s defense, he was not involved in the NCAA’s decision to deny Hudson’s eligibility request.

Jim Harbaugh: Michigan close to scheduling football game overseas

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Jim Harbaugh hasn’t yet conquered the Big Ten but he sure is trying his best to plant the Michigan flag all around the globe.

Speaking to reporters at the conference’s media days on Friday, the Wolverines head coach was asked about his program playing an actual football game abroad and he indicated that plans are in the works for just that.

“Yeah, you know, we like travel. Mexico City would be great,” Harbaugh remarked. “I know you can talk about this, we’re scheduling — I think we’re really close to announcing, actually, playing another team on foreign soil. I won’t say what it is because — have you heard anything about this? Then I’d better not say it because we’re probably not ready to release that yet. But I think there’s something really imminent. There will be an announcement soon on that.”

Michigan AD Warde Manuel played coy in a subsequent message to the Detroit News and said nothing was finalized but the school may do just that at some point.

Harbaugh has already taken his team to Italy, France and South Africa for visits during the spring but this would be the first time he’s indicated something for the fall. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany indicated he would be in favor of playing a game somewhere like Mexico City on Thursday but did not seem to suggest that anything was in the works for a game to be played south of the border in the near term.

It’s not known if the Wolverines are thinking about taking a conference or non-conference game abroad but something says they can find a willing partner from the Pac-12 if so.

Jim Harbaugh on Urban Meyer: ‘Controversy follows him everywhere he’s been’

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Jim Harbaugh just couldn’t help himself after a relatively quiet offseason.

The out-spoken Michigan head coach has kept pretty much to himself and not followed through with some of the antics he has typically saved up to keep the Wolverines in the headlines in recent years. There’s been no shirtless strolls through summer camps or celebrating commitments in pools.

But right as Big Ten Media Days kickoff in Chicago this week, the coach is back in the news for comments he’s made about an opponent. Appearing on Bay Area journalist Tim Kawakami’s podcast that was released on Thursday, Harbaugh waded into choppy waters when asked about a former coach he never seemed to beat at a rival Big Ten university.

Urban Meyer’s had a winning record, really a phenomenal record everywhere he’s been,” said Harbaugh. “But also, controversy follows him everywhere he’s been.”

He’s not wrong, to be fair, given incidents at Ohio State and Florida over the years. But given the animosity between the two programs and the two men themselves on and off the field, it’s not hard to see the remarks as a bit of a shot at the out-going rival who is now in the interesting position of commentating on Michigan games for Fox’s new pre-game show.

Harbaugh was at least realistic about how he’s being judged by that 0-4 record against Meyer and the Buckeyes, especially in light of last year’s disastrous 62-39 outing in Columbus and the pressure to not only beat Ohio State, but win the Big Ten and make the College Football Playoff like many predicted when he was hired.

“We welcome the accountability,” Harbaugh added. “You’re judged on your record. What your record is overall, what it is in the conference and what it is head-to-head against other teams. I think Ohio State is the only team that has a better record overall, a better conference record than us and head-to-head matchup against us.”

It was already going to be must-see TV when UM and OSU got together on the last Saturday in November but something says these comments will make the pre-game show for that game even more interesting.