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What Harbaugh returning to Michigan means for the Wolverines and the rest of college football in 2023

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh high-fives defensive players as they forced Penn State into a fourth down during the first half on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

Hours after the deadline for college football players to enter the draft, University of Michigan President Santa Ono announced thrilling news for Michigan sports fans. 

“I just got off the phone with Coach Harbaugh and Jim shared with me the great news that he is going to remain as the Head Coach of the Michigan Wolverines,” Ono stated. “That is fantastic news that I have communicated to our Athletic Director Warde Manuel.”

A main takeaway from this press statement is that Harbaugh had the conversation with Ono only and then Ono shared the news to Manuel. That means Ono was one of the main reasons Harbaugh stayed at Michigan because Harbaugh notified the president before the AD. There also have been rumors Manuel and Harbaugh were close to a deal and then Jim Harbaugh confirmed he was interviewing for the Broncos head coaching vacancy hours after the meeting. 

John U. Bacon, a journalist and author who does sports commentary for Michigan Radio, had an interesting take on the whole situation

“Yes, Harbaugh called the president and not the AD,” Bacon twitted. “I’m sure the deal could not have been done without Manuel, but probably true it would not have been done without the president either. And it is not a good look for the AD-coach relationship.”

Bacon suggests that Harbaugh and Manuel may no longer are on good terms and Manuel could be one of the reasons Harbaugh was interested in multiple NFL coaching jobs in the first place. What does this whole situation mean for the AD at Michigan and his future? It is not a good look and it is worrisome if the president has to intervene with a situation dealing with the AD and head coach of the football team. Some fans believe it is time to fire the AD and others are empathetic toward him since Harbaugh promised he would not test the NFL waters after the 2021 fiasco with the Vikings.

Heading into the 2023-24 season, the Michigan Wolverines bring some much needed experience back to go for three straight Big 10 championships. With the introduction of NIL to college sports, Michigan decided to create One More Year Foundation, which rewards players deciding if they want to declare for the draft or come back to Michigan for one more year. The foundation raised over $100,000 in just a few weeks which ended up yielding results. All-American running back Blake Corum was the first Wolverine to decide he would come back for his senior season. Not long after, senior offensive lineman Trevor Keegan announced he would also return to Michigan for the 2023 season. Three more Wolverines returned for their final season, including offensive lineman Zak Zinter, defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, and middle linebacker Michael Barrett. Michigan also has the ninth ranked transfer portal class according to 247sports with only seven commits. The key players returning mixed with a talented transfer portal class sets Jim Harbaugh’s expectations the highest they have ever been during his tenure at Michigan. 

Now with Harbaugh back on the Michigan sideline, what should the college football world expect out of the Wolverines. Noting all the players either coming back or in, the expectation should be the same as last year. The development is the best it’s ever been at Michigan which means their expectation should be National Championship or bust. All the players returning shows they were  not satisfied with making the College Football Playoff and want more than that. 

With Michigan being another playoff contender this year, how will that impact the landscape of college football? The reigning national champ, the Georgia Bulldogs, are still going to be the team to beat. Nick Saban and Alabama will have a bounceback year in the SEC while being a playoff threat. A team that could make its first playoff next year is the University of Southern California Trojans. They were very close this past year, but after two losses to Utah, they were left out of the playoff. Finally, there will be a three-way battle for the King of the Big 10. The reigning Big 10 champs, the Michigan Wolverines, will do everything in their power to keep their crown. Michigan’s biggest rival, the Ohio State Buckeyes, will give the Wolverines a run for their money. Lastly, don’t underestimate Penn State as they have one of the best backfields in college football along with a five-star recruit at quarterback. 

Michigan still has a while until its season begins but bringing back Harbaugh as a huge win for the Wolverines moving forward.

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