Josh Kendall

Why the SEC hates Jim Harbaugh

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh AP

If the old truism was to never argue with someone who buys their ink by the barrel, its new world successor is to never argue with people who have the word “Network” after their name. And yet Jim Harbaugh keeps doing it.

And Harbaugh keeps holding his own.

Michigan’s coach took direct aim at his third SEC coach last week (Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze) and has lobbed shots at the SEC in general for months. Harbaugh vs. Freeze started after the NCAA banned satellite camps, which allowed a college coach to travel anywhere in the country to put on summer camps.

Harbaugh held a “Summer Swarm” tour, with seven camps in seven states, and then followed that up with a week of spring practice in Florida during the Wolverines’ spring break.

The SEC didn’t like it, and eventually the NCAA banned it (with the SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big 12, Sun Belt and Mountain West voting for the ban and Big Ten, American, Mid-American and Conference USA voting against).

Harbaugh didn’t take that laying down. As a reminder, Harbaugh takes nothing laying down.

He fired off at the NCAA and at Freeze, who said he was against satellite camps because he had no interest in adding more dates to his calendar in the summers.

“You’ve got a guy sitting in a big house, making $5 million a year, saying he does not want to sacrifice his time,” Harbaugh said. “That is not a kindred spirit to me. What most of these coaches are saying is they don’t want to work harder.”

Freeze responded on the “Mike and Mike” radio show. (Like the SEC Network, the radio show is a property of ESPN. It’s easy to see how Harbaugh might feel he’s fighting a multi-front war here.)

“I think we work very hard; I don’t think working hard is an issue,” Freeze said on “Mike and Mike.” “If you’re asking me if I want to add more nights away from my wife and kids, I do not. I’ve been very complimentary of coach Harbaugh and him thinking out of the box, but we’re probably not a kindred spirit in regards to making comments toward other coaches in a public forum like he has done.”

On this point of the argument, Harbaugh is absolutely correct. SEC coaches have no interest in traveling all over the country to “evaluate” (that means recruit) players because they don’t have to. Coaches who need to, for instance small schools and power programs outside of target rich environments, want to. This was strictly a party-line, looking-out-for-No. 1 vote, and Harbaugh came out on the losing side.

This is the point in “Rocky IV” where the trainer is telling Rocky, “Stay down, stay down.” Raise your hand if you thought Harbaugh was going to stand down.

Exactly, here he is to Sports Illustrated: “The incompetence of the NCAA has reared its ugly head yet again. (It’s) knee-jerk ... like somebody was shaving in the morning, cut themselves when they were shaving and said, ‘Let’s just ban satellite camps.’ I mean, what’s it based on? A survey? There wasn’t a lot of discussion or study. What are the facts? What are the perils and merits of making that decision? It just seemed lacking in that regard. During the NCAA basketball tournament we discuss the term ‘student-athlete’ ad nauseam in promoting our governing institution and our member institutions. Then, when we have an opportunity to truly promote the ‘student-athlete’ with a concept shared by educators and football men from all backgrounds, our leadership goes into hiding.

“I suggest we drop the term ‘student-athlete’ for consistency.”

Harbaugh’s refusal to take his loss gracefully drew a rebuke last week from the SEC Network’s most recognizable voice – talk show host Paul Finebaum, who called Harbaugh, among other things, “the Donald Trump of college football.” Harbaugh took that as high praise.

“The one thing I like about Donald Trump is he’s not afraid to fight the establishment,” Harbaugh told reporters in Detroit. “In that regard, I will take that as a compliment.”

That wasn’t all Finebaum said, though.

“Jim Harbaugh has hijacked college football,” Finebaum said on his show. “I think he has been an entertaining entrant to college football since he arrived in Michigan a year and a half ago. Entertaining. That was then. I find him growingly and increasingly annoying now. His satellite tour (last summer) was groundbreaking, but it also was about Jim Harbaugh. It was about promoting the brand of Michigan football, but mostly, ‘Look at me, I’m Jim Harbaugh. I’m taking my shirt off. I can come into Nick Saban’s backyard.’ Jim Harbaugh is all about Jim Harbaugh, and that’s fine, but I think it’s finally caught up to him, and I think he has gone from the most entertaining person in college football to the most annoying. And I for one am really getting sick of him.”

Unpopular opinion alert: I’m not.

Harbaugh makes college football more interesting, and I hope he keeps poking the SEC bear if, for no other reason, than somebody ought to.

What happened

The NCAA has banned traveling satellite camps for the country's highest level of college football, preventing teams from holding camps for high school players anywhere but on their own campuses.

Michigan coach Jm Harbaugh is among the proponents for satellite camps.

The SEC and ACC were the only conferences that had existing rules preventing their coaches from holding camps outside a 50-mile radius from their campuses.

Who’s for and who’s against

The NCAA has banned traveling “satellite camps.” A look at coaches and officials who are for and against the ban:

In favor of ban

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Pat Narduzzi, Pitt

Bill Snyder, Kansas State

James Franklin, Penn State

Jim Delany, Big Ten commissioner

Sonny Dykes, Cal

Kirby Smart, Georgia

Les Miles, LSU

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

Barry Odom, Missouri

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

Butch Jones, Tennessee

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Greg Sankey, SEC commissioner

Nick Saban, Alabama

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Opposed to ban

Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma AD

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

Mike Riley, Nebraska

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

Mark Helfrich, Oregon

Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Mike Leach, Washington State