First-year Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has taken college football by storm before ever coaching a game at this alma mater. For Harbaugh’s one-time right-hand man, Stanford head coach David Shaw, that’s no surprise.
“He wants to store Michigan football,” Shaw said at Thursday’s session of Pac-12 media days in Burbank, California. “And there’s going to be some fireworks along the way.”
Shaw coached with Harbaugh at the University of San Diego before going to Stanford in 2007. The Cardinal languished in the cellar of Pac-10 football when Harbaugh and his staff arrived on the scene, but the fireworks popped Stanford football to life almost immediately.
The first glimpse major college football got of the Jim Harbaugh it’s seen so much of in his first few months at Michigan were evident when Stanford upset top-ranked USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum in the 2007 season.
Shaw described a scene upon the Cardinal’s return to The Farm, in which Harbaugh “somehow got a bullhorn” and delivered a perfectly Harbaugh’ian address to the thousands of Stanford students who were on hand to greet the team.
That night was indicative of the atmosphere Shaw described when working with Harbaugh: “It’s not boring.”
Not boring, and very much winning. By 2009, Stanford had a Heisman Trophy finalist in Toby Gerhart. By 2010, the Cardinal were in a BCS bowl. Harbaugh left Stanford for the NFL following the 2010 season, but the infrastructure he established gave Shaw a smooth transition into two Pac-12 championship seasons in 2012 and 2013.
Stanford’s transformation under the Harbaugh tree – both in his tenure and Shaw’s – is among the more remarkable in recent college football.
Michigan’s fallen well short of the expectations held for it, both internally and externally, but the Wolverines aren’t nearly as far from contention now as Stanford was when Harbaugh arrived in 2007.
There’s no lack of talent in Ann Arbor. Shaw pointed out the outstanding recruiting classes Brady Hoke and his staff signed in their time there.
What Harbaugh brings is a certain edge.
“He’s always in competition mode,” Shaw said. “There is no Off.”
If that was true at Stanford, expect it to double at Michigan. Harbaugh told reporters at Friday’s Big Ten media days he takes a certain level of responsibility for restoring the Wolverines as national powers.
Harbaughon Michigan job: "It's more than personal. … I can't screw it up. I have to do good."
— Nick Baumgardner(@nickbaumgardner) July 30, 2015
“When it’s all said and done, Jim Harbaugh bleeds Michigan Blue. He’s a Michigan Man through and through,” Shaw said.
Once Michigan kicks off 2015, Sept. 3 against a tough Utah team, Harbaugh’s fireworks take on a new look. The attention paid him will be less about shirtless camp appearances or sporting sideways hats in Vines.
It’s all about Michigan’s performance on game day. And Shaw offered a guarantee for the long-term outlook.
“They’re going to win,” he said.