The fight with Jim Harbaugh was lost the minute Tim Brewster tried to pick it.
The Florida State assistant tried to troll Harbaugh twice after the NFL draft, first with a reference to a meaningless bowl game win and then with a photo of the gaudy ring that came with it. But all Brewster did was made himself look silly.
If anything has become clear in the two years since Harbaugh returned to Michigan, it’s that he owns college football. Anyone foolish enough to try and test that is bound to lose.
Now, before you folks in Ohio, Alabama and the San Francisco 49ers front office start howling, hear me out.
Harbaugh was considered buttoned-up and humorless when he was at Stanford and in the NFL, as exciting as those khakis he loves so dearly. But returning to Michigan, the school where he spent his childhood and then played, has turned him into Ferris Bueller with a whistle.
Seriously, nobody has more fun than this guy.
He just got back from taking Michigan to Rome for “practice,” a bigger spring break boondoggle than one of those all-inclusives in Cancun. He and the Wolverines saw the sights, gorged themselves on pizza and gelato, and played paintball (as one does in Rome, of course).
They also went to the Vatican, where Harbaugh, a Catholic, met Pope Francis. Gave him a Michigan helmet and a pair of Nikes, too. In maize and blue, of course.
“I’ve never seen my husband at a loss for words,” Sarah Harbaugh said afterward.
That’s just one of the cool things Harbaugh has done. He took the Wolverines to Florida last year, prompting a hissy fit by the entire Southeastern Conference. He’s had a campout and climbed trees to woo recruits.
He threw a Signing Day bash in 2016 with special guests Derek Jeter and Tom Brady. He’s coached first base for the Detroit Tigers. He’s embraced Twitter, unafraid to show the world how much of a dork he really is. (Four words: Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind. And yes, the capitalization is his.)
It all has served to make Michigan one of the hottest destinations in college football. Which is why Brewster’s trolling attempts were so ill-advised.
It’s true the Wolverines haven’t made the College Football Playoff yet under Harbaugh. It’s also true Michigan lost to Florida State in that Orange Bowl; the Wolverines were without their star, safety Jabrill Peppers, and then lost tight end Jake Butt in the first half.
But consider that Michigan was basically a train wreck when Harbaugh arrived in December 2014. The Wolverines had had one season with double-digit wins in the previous eight seasons – a span that included three coaches. They had no blue-chip players.
Yet two years later, Harbaugh has the Wolverines back among the country’s elite. Michigan has gone 10-3 in each of his first two years, and there was an argument to be made that the Wolverines should have been included in last season’s playoff.
The Wolverines also had more players chosen in last week’s NFL draft (11) than any other school – the source of Brewster’s pettiness – and his blockbuster recruiting class in February means there will be more to come.
Brewster might have thought he was being clever, taunting Harbaugh with his Orange Bowl ring. But the college game is Harbaugh’s now and no one is playing it better.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.