Michigan football recruiting under Jim Harbaugh has been the subject of scrutiny recently, a topic he briefly addressed with the media on Friday.
A lot went right for Jim Harbaugh in his first year as coach of the Michigan football team. Progress on the field was evident as the season went on, especially with a blowout of the Florida Gators in the Citrus Bowl to make it a ten win season.
But one area that Harbaugh has been the subject of criticism is in his recruiting. Whether it be reports of odd behavior like sleepovers and climbing trees, or with the seeming practice of dropping commits, Harbaugh’s headlines aren’t always positive these days.
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"“It’s a meritocracy,” he added. “They’ve got to continue to perform when there’s early commitments. Both in the classroom, on the field and as a citizen in the community. That’s how we’re going about it.“I don’t hide from that at all and I won’t. That’s what we demand.”"
There is no denying there is a competitive fire that burns in Jim Harbaugh’s heart and, right or wrong, it’s clear he wants to see that in the kids he recruits such that there isn’t any coasting or complacency between committing and signing day.
In a way, it isn’t so different from a player being named a starter then having to perform at a level worthy of keeping that status. If not, the depth chart gets reshuffled.
Harbaugh can’t speak in specifics because of NCAA rules preventing schools from discussing unsigned prospects. That keeps him or anyone else in the athletic department from giving their side of the story in cases like long-time commit Erik Swenson, whose offer was pulled last week. The Wolverine’s Michael Spath reported details that show Swenson may have come up short of expectations for an early commit, but that still leaves open criticism that a commitment is anything but a commitment.
Interim athletic director Jim Hackett offered support of his head football coach, adding further explanation of expectations and communication. Via Rivals.com:
"“If we’re seeing a drop-off in performance here [for example]… more of that is communicated to the high school coaches because we don’t want to interfere with the student-athlete’s high school participation,” Hackett said. “So there’s a lot of communication with high school coaches, as well. So the stuff I’ve been reading is not accurate.“I can assure you of this – Michigan, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Hackett, Warde Manuel operate with total integrity, total transparency, so if a bad perception that we haven’t been transparent is out there, of course you’d get criticized because that’s not what Michigan stands for.”"
Perception matters even if it doesn’t align with reality. Time will tell if Michigan’s perception problem is a passing phase or something bigger. The good news for Michigan football fans so far is that there certainly haven’t been any problems with results in recruiting. Harbaugh’s 2016 class is currently ranked number three in the nation according to 247sports.com.
Michigan’s 2016 recruiting class stands as follows:
Commits who are not early enrolees can begin signing a National Letter of Intent beginning on February 3 (national signing day).