In A Pivotal Year, Harbaugh Seeks To Change The Culture At Michigan

Through recent moves, Jim Harbaugh has assembled the youngest coaching staff among the Power Five - and that might be by design.

It’s been a head-scratcher for many within the Michigan fan base for years now. While the Wolverines routinely sign one of the top two recruiting classes within the Big Ten conference year after year, the success on the recruiting trail hasn’t translated to success on the football field - not in terms of the things that actually matter.

Whether it’s the record against Ohio State (0-5), the record against top-ten ranked teams (2-12) or the bowl record (1-4), Michigan has become a program that is loaded with talent but routinely comes up short under the leadership of Jim Harbaugh. With talent not being an issue in Ann Arbor, most have been left to speculate as to what is at the heart of Michigan’s issues. The general consensus? Culture.

Following Michigan’s historic blowout loss to Wisconsin at the Big House during the 2020 season, former Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer shared his thoughts on what is happening at Michigan.

“People are going to look at that game and ask, ‘What’s the problem? Let’s blame the players and coaches.’ That not the case,” Meyer said on FOX postgame.  There’s good players in that program. Every year, they recruit. Every one of those players on the field are highly-recruited guys. Those coaches are good coaches. You have to lift up the hood ask what is wrong. Those guys can play. They can coach. There’s a problem there. You lift up that hood and you’re not going to like what you see.”

Now I understand that many folks who bleed maize and blue might not care about what a former Ohio State coach thinks about the Michigan Football program, particularly a guy like Urban Meyer.  Even so, Meyer has proven to be an elite college football coach and his assessment of the Michigan Football program reflects what many within the fan base already believe.

The latest coaching changes by Harbaugh suggest, not only an effort to change the results on the field, but also an effort to change the culture within the locker room.  

Most recently, Harbaugh has added former head coach (and Wolverine) Ron Bellamy of West Bloomfield High School, former defensive backs coach Mo Linguist of the Dallas Cowboys, and former linebackers coach Mike Macdonald of the Baltimore Ravens.  The other notable addition to the staff is Mike Hart - Michigan's all time leading rusher and former running backs coach/associate head coach at the University of Indiana.

The common theme among the new hires is not only experience, but culture.  By all accounts, Bellamy, Linguist and Hart are guys who excel at developing relationships with players both on the recruiting trail and within the locker room.  All four new hires are also in their 30's, making Harbaugh's new coaching staff for the 2021 season the youngest in all of the Power Five.

If you're looking for an example of just how much culture means to a program, look no further to what Juwan Howard is currently building with the University of Michigan Basketball team.  When you watch Howard's Wolverines compete on the hardwood, there's no question that his team has a special bond and that they play hard for one another.

Here's hoping that the latest coaching moves by Harbaugh can bring some of that same success - and culture - to the Michigan Football program.