Jim Harbaugh to Michigan Will Change the Landscape of the Big Ten


It took awhile to get there, but the inevitable happened earlier in the week when it was announced that former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh would go back to coach the Michigan Wolverines. With such a headlining name planted in the heart of Ann Arbor, the landscape of the Big Ten has now shifted drastically.

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

Anywhere that Harbaugh has gone he’s been successful. His first stint as a head coach was at the University of San Diego beginning in 2004. He would coach for three seasons and have a winning record all three years going 7-4 his first year and back-to-back 11-1 seasons. Because of his quick success, Harbaugh would head to northern California in 2007 to become the next head coach of the Stanford Cardinal. And it would be in Palo Alto where Harbaugh would really make a name for himself.

Harbaugh would coach Stanford for four seasons, improving each and every year he was there. The first season wasn’t a banner one by any means, going just 4-8 and finishing near the bottom of the Pac-10. Also that year, the 2007 recruiting class at Stanford was ranked just 44th in the nation according to 247Sports.com. Harbaugh’s second season is where he really started to get his feet wet at a big time program, even though he improved by just one win a season ago and the recruiting class for 2008 staying right around where it was previously as well.

I’m a big proponent on new head coaches going through the three-year plan, meaning if a head coach does not improve or at the very least show improvement by their third year they never will. Well Harbaugh blew that right out of the as his third season he improved drastically in both on the field and on the recruiting trail. In 2009, Stanford would go on to defeat #24 Washington, #7 Oregon and #11 USC on their way to a Sun Bowl berth. Although they would lose to Oklahoma, this was the year that Harbaugh’s stock really began to rise.

In my opinion, Michigan’s hiring of Jim Harbaugh has completely changed the landscape of the Big Ten. Khakis and all. Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

That was also the year that Stanford would vault all the way to 18th in recruiting rankings and was the first bowl appearance by the Cardinal since 2001. Running back Toby Gerhart also finished second in the Heisman Trophy race as well.

It was Harbaugh’s fourth year at Stanford that would get him that sweet deal in San Francisco a year later. In 2010, the Cardinal would see their most successful season in program history up to that date. Stanford dominated that season and dismantled almost every opponent set in front of them with their only blemish coming to an Oregon team that would play for the National Championship at the end of that season. The 11 wins would be the most in program history and their Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech would be Stanford’s first BCS bowl win in school history. It would also mark the second year in a row that a player from Stanford would finish runner-up in the Heisman Trophy voting as quarterback Andrew Luck would finish second that year.

Harbaugh’s track record at the collegiate level speaks for itself. Brady Hoke did great things his first season at Michigan, but declined the three years after that and left the program in a mess.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Harbaugh is going to turn the Michigan program right around to where it once was. Unfortunately for the rest of the Big Ten, that’s not good news. Especially for the Wisconsin Badgers as they will face Michigan once again in the 2016 season and at least the three years after that. Not to mention recruits have another reason to go play for Michigan once again, especially with a former NFL coach at the helm.

The tides are starting to shift. You might see change right away, but it won’t be long before it starts to scratch the surface. Wisconsin will get a first hand look at the changing landscape in the coming years. Hopefully Paul Chryst has weapons of his own to counteract Harbaugh’s aresenal.