Jim Harbaugh knows the expectations are high. Michigan is college football’s winningest program, yet the Wolverines have not won a conference championship in 12 years, and haven’t won a bowl game since 2011.
And a national championship? That streak is going on 17 seasons.
The Michigan faithful have a reason to be confident again because the 51-year-old Harbaugh, who is on the regional cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, has won wherever he has been: a 29–6 record at San Diego, a 29-21 mark at Stanford that included an Orange Bowl victory and a successful four-year stint with the San Francisco 49ers.
Harbaugh admits that his demanding style of coaching can rub people the wrong way, telling HBO earlier this year that, "It must be true. Because I'd wear out my welcome. People just don't want to be around you for a while."
San Francisco 49ers guard Alex Boone was one of those who said Harbaugh’s coaching style and philosophies belong in the college game.
"I think he's a better college coach than he would be as an NFL coach," Boone said. It's different for college kids than pro players. I don't think college kids can say, 'Hey, Jim, you're pissing me off today.'"
“I’m sure he can make people want to quit,” adds wife Sarah. “He wants their very best.”
Harbaugh answers critics by quoting Winston Churchill.
"You have ememies? Good. That means you've stood for something some time in your life."
Whatever way Harbaugh chooses to coach the Wolverines after receiving an almost fully guaranteed, seven-year, $40.1 million contract in December will be one of college football’s most intriguing stories this season.
So expect a lot of strange philosophy, khaki-wearing and Judge Judy-loving for the foreseeable future.
For more on Harbaugh, check out this week's Sports Illustrated (subscribe here).
Also in this issue: More on the Deflategate fallout, and features on MMA star Ronda Rousey, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, the new look San Diego Padres and the 1985 NBA draft.
Subscribers and newsstands in Michigan, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Eastern Missouri will receive this cover.
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2015 Sports Illustrated Covers