CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. — Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos summoned Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh to the microphone at the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa and asked him an easy question.
“What’s the temperature in Ann Arbor?” Cretekos asked.
Harbaugh was quick to respond.
“We don’t care!” Harbaugh shouted, in front of an ample crowd.
Cretekos may have exaggerated when he told Harbaugh that “it’s 40 degrees below 100” in Ann Arbor, Mich. But it was mild and in the mid-60s on Saturday on Florida’s west coast, and Michigan’s players took advantage of the afternoon to frolic in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Michigan football team took a break from Outback Bowl preparations and took advantage of sunny skies Saturday along Clearwater Beach. The Wolverines (8-4) face South Carolina (8-4) at noon ET Monday in Tampa, Fla.
Two days before the bowl game, the Wolverines snuck in an extra practice at the beach. It was an informal practice, as the Wolverines traded helmets and shoulder pads for board shorts, visors and sunglasses.
Michigan wide receiver Maurice Ways took command of the huddle, making handoffs and throws to his teammates, who darted into the turquoise water.
Freshman wide receiver Tarik Black won’t play in the Outback Bowl and likely will redshirt this season after sustaining a broken foot in September, but he eagerly took part in the impromptu game on the beach.
Michigan fullback Khalid Hill zipped in and out of the water. He caught several passes in his short stint as a receiver. Don’t expect him to take the place of Michigan’s experienced receivers or tight ends against South Carolina, though.
Just before Michigan’s players headed to the shores, Harbaugh prepared to exit the beach complex. However, a mob of frenzied fans greeted the Wolverines coach. He fist-bumped a man who got his photo taken with Harbaugh, and he hugged a woman who showed him a photo of him from his NFL playing days.
“I put your picture on my phone because I liked you!” a woman told Harbaugh. “When I was 16! And I still love him!”