FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Jim Harbaugh is clearly on the national college football radar, with his big personality, his offbeat Twitter posts and his viral video moments.
Oh, yes, and in his second year as Michigan’s football coach, he’s elevated the Wolverines back to their perch among the nation’s college football titans.
Now, with Michigan playing in a New Year’s Six bowl — and being one controversial call away from joining the four-team College Football Playoff — Harbaugh and the No. 6 Wolverines (10-2) enter the Orange Bowl on Friday against No. 11 Florida State (9-3) firmly in place in an already sports-saturated South Florida.
Harbaugh is one of the nation’s highest-profile college football coaches, and not just because of his immediate success at Michigan. He cavorts with superstars such as Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter, and sometimes seeks moral guidance from “Judge Judy.” He’s quirky. He’s blunt. He sometimes operates within his own football-centric bubble, the outside world be damned.
Harbaugh, though, has kept a low profile during Michigan’s stay so far in South Florida, save for a few well-timed tweets. So far on this business trip, Harbaugh has not met with reporters since Michigan’s arrival Sunday night at Miami International Airport, and even that was brief, to say the least. That will change, though, when Harbaugh meets with the media at 9:45 a.m. Thursday.
He hasn’t been spotted in South Beach, a la Johnny Manziel or any of the celebrities who are descending upon South Florida for New Year’s Eve. His name hasn’t been mentioned anywhere other than in the sports pages of the three daily newspapers down here.
But Harbaugh is certainly on the radar in the days leading up to the Orange Bowl.
People know who Michigan’s coach is, especially Florida State’s players, who use just one word when asked what comes to mind at the mention of Harbaugh:
“Michigan,” Florida State defensive back Marquez White said.
Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker discusses Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh
“Michigan,” Florida State defensive back Trey Marshall said. “That’s who he coaches. He’s just the coach at Michigan to me.”
Does Harbaugh’s star shine in Florida, the same way it does in southeast Michigan and across college football?
Florida State’s players may not act like they’re enamored with Harbaugh, but they can’t scoff at the results — a pair of 10-win seasons, productivity and national respectability. (All of which are on-the-field standards at Florida State.)
“He’s a good coach,” Florida State defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi said. “He does what he needs to do to help his team get motivated to come out with a win. It maybe a little different than how coach Fisher does things, but through his way, he gets things done.”
One player may have even confused Harbaugh for his younger brother, John, the head coach of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
“He’s an NFL coach that won a Super Bowl,” Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph said. “Just doing a great job coaching for Michigan, with a winning record.”
(Actually, Ravens coach John Harbaugh is the family’s Super Bowl winner; the Ravens defeated Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII in February 2013. But it might be easy for someone to get the two head coaches confused.)
White, however, is aiming for another viral video moment from Harbaugh.
“Everybody’s got their own personalities, and he feels like he’s the guy,” White said of Harbaugh. “I like to watch him on TV and see how upset he’ll get.
“That’s kind of the goal going into the game. To try and piss him off.”