The San Antonio Spurs aren't the only ones making sports headlines this year - Jim Harbaugh, the head football coach at Stanford, has led a complete turnaround of its previously embarrassing football program in the several years he has been there. The team has (incredibly) beaten Southern Cal three times in the past four years. It sent Toby Gerhart to the Heisman ceremony this past year. And now the Cardinal has another future millionaire in Andrew Luck, the accurate, strong armed quarterback who has flourished under Stanford's pro style offensive system and is sure to be one of the top QBs drafted in April.
But ever since 2007 when the Cardinal first beat USC under his tutelage, the rumors of Jim Harbaugh leaving the school for greener pastures elsewhere have not subsided. First it was the rumor back in the fall of 2007 that he would leave the school to coach the NFL's Oakland Raiders. Then the next season it was the Detroit Lions or the St Louis Rams, both hapless teams much like the Cardinal was before Jim Harbaugh arrived in town. He actually did show up to interview for the New York Jets head coaching position before that one went to Rex Ryan. Since then he has been mentioned in connection with Notre Dame and even Kansas.
Michigan May Fire Rich Rodriguez
But if there is one job Jim Harbaugh was custom fitted for, it might be the Michigan job. First of all, he is a Wolverine through and through, having come through as a quarterback under the late Bo Schembechler in the 1980s. Second, he has an offensive system that is very different from RichRod's, a pro style offense that might be more palatable to the fan base out of Ann Arbor. And third, he does seem to have enough personality and attitude to survive the constant spotlight that the Michigan job creates. Rodriguez is on the hot seat as he has been almost from day one; but it is at a whole level after his team collapsed in the second half of the regular season, capping off with a bad loss to archrival Ohio State. The Buckeyes have now won seven straight games, hardly the numbers you'd expect out of a true "rivalry".
If Jim Harbaugh is to leave Stanford to coach elsewhere, money may be a big issue, not that he has trouble paying for teen car insurance. Lane Kiffin at USC, the school Jim Harbaugh beats every year makes way more money than he does. Most coaches in the top programs do, as a matter of fact. But if it is the Maize and Blue and not some other college or pro job that he takes, money will not be the only motivating factor. As much as Jim Harbaugh has to like defeating the Trojans, it would surely be much sweeter to do the same to the Buckeyes the way he used to as a quarterback in his younger years.
Stanford's Chances Looking Slim
There are a combination of factors that would seem to work against the possibility of Jim Harbaugh staying put. The team can't pay him what other teams would, in college or pro. They can't fill the stands, with the lone sellout coming when the Trojans (and their fans) came to town. And they have probably plateaued in terms of their talent level, with a one loss season going at the moment, that loss against top ranked Oregon. If there was ever a time when his marketability hit its peak, for Jim Harbaugh that time is now. The San Francisco 49ers are reportedly looking at Jim Harbaugh. But these days, that's not even a story, because who in football isn't?