On December 30, 2014, Jim Harbaugh stood at center court of the Crisler Center to introduce himself to Michigan fans. He thanked them for their support and pledged “that we will do our very best to carry on the great tradition of Michigan excellence all across the board.” Expectations were sky-high in the arena named for legendary Michigan Head Coach Fritz Crisler. Now, 8 years later, Harbaugh has passed Crisler on an illustrious list in the Wolverines program.
No college football program has won more games than the Michigan Wolverines. With the win against Illinois, Jim Harbaugh earned his 72nd career win as Michigan head coach, passing Fritz Crisler for 4th all-time. Harbaugh has a way to go to climb the list again with Lloyd Carr (122), Fielding Yost (165), and Bo Schembechler (194) only ahead.
Crisler coached the Wolverines from 1938 to 1947 and continued with an incredible 27-year run as Athletic Director. Crisler’s marks on this program are still seen today, most notably with the iconic winged helmet. For football, Crisler innovated the “platoon” system, having separate groups for offense and defense. On the field, Crisler took over a program at its lowest point. After 4 years where the Wolverines went 10-22, Michigan under Crisler lost more than two games only twice in 10 years. Michigan won the Western Conference twice, including in Michigan’s 1947 National Championship season.
Jim Harbaugh is now 11-0 in his eighth season as Michigan’s head coach. Last season Harbaugh checked off accomplishments on a list that has impacted the perception of his time at Michigan. He won as an underdog, and on the road for the first time. He defeated Ohio State and won the Big Ten Championship for his first time as coach, earning him AP Coach of the Year honors. The Wolverines are undefeated heading to Columbus for the first time in his tenure. If the Wolverines were to win it would be the first time at Ohio Stadium since 2000. The first time Michigan defeated its rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State in the same season since 2003. Michigan would be a game away from its first back to back Big Ten Championships since 2004.
So while Harbaugh is deep into his time in Ann Arbor, he has the program he loves in the best place it has been in decades. It is not hard to image Harbaugh continuing to rewrite the record books and change narratives as long as he is the head coach at Michigan. He can start again this coming Saturday with win at Ohio State.
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