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Michigan's Eternal Commitment to Jim Harbaugh Isn't About Actually Winning

Kyle Koster
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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No one likes the person who makes a habit of taking victory laps, but considering the ridiculous things that were said in 2015 when Michigan opted to bring favored son Jim Harbaugh back into the mix, it's worth mentioning two predictions published on this here website which have aged beautifully and not necessarily needed any tweaking.

The first: Harbaugh would be an overall disappointment and fall far short of the national titles forecast by so many excited FS1 hot-takers. The second: that it wouldn't matter because Harbaugh was essentially signing a contract with the tacit understanding that he could stay as long as he liked, provided he do the one thing that the stuffy program values more than actually winning.

Trick the elites into believing that they still matter. Create the perception of winning and hope no one digs in too deep on the fact-checking to see if that perception matches reality.

With news coming down the pike that Michigan and Harbaugh are about to agree to a deal keeping him in Ann Arbor through 2026, it's essential to understand this unique situation. Because for the uninitiated, this doesn't make much sense.

Harbaugh is 49-22 in his six seasons guiding the Wolverines. With the important caveat that this current year shouldn't really count, Michigan stumbled to a 2-4 record. He has never beaten Ohio State and trades victories with Michigan State. His teams don't win big games or tough games. One could make the argument they are no closer to competing for a playoff spot than when he started. He may never, ever find a reliable quarterback even though he's been dubbed a mystical quarterback whisperer.

But he's a Michigan Man, the import of which you'll never understand unless you're a member of the club. A great fundraiser and enthusiastic recruiter, he blends new-school fun and old-school tradition flawlessly. The marketing people love him.

The dirty little secret is that perpetuating the Maize Myth is the most honorable thing a Michigan Man can do. This is a program that for all its bluster has one shared national title since World War II. No conference crowns since 2004. No Big Ten Championship Game appearances.

Michigan beat up on a ton of teams when it was the Big Two and Little Eight but Bo didn't exactly know what it was like atop polls. But don't let that get in the way of a good story. A story with beginning chapters stocked to the gills with victories over Hillsdale or Albion or Ann Arbor Pioneer High School or a group of guys they had taught the rules of football to a few hours before kickoff.

And yes, this is a bit harsh and hyperbolic. There's nothing wrong with approaching things the Michigan has through the years. Understanding some the backstory is essential.

Biased as I may be, it's worth considering who will be happiest about news that the Harbaugh era will extend another five years. It's not Wolverines. It's the Ohio States, the Penn States, the Michigan States of the world. Everyone who has grown accustomed to the status quo and doesn't want any fresh blood or faces running that program.

He may turn things around. In fact, it wouldn't be the biggest shock to see him win all of his non-rivalry games one of these years. That won't change the fact that right now, there is no justification for Michigan to prolong this experiment of winning is the top priority. They are destined to live in this purgatory because the devil they know is well-liked and their type of guy. More importantly, though, is the crippling fear of another Brady Hoke or Rich Rodriguez.

Harbaugh is the perfect magician to continue this sleight of hand that's kept far too many people from realizing Michigan is more Tennessee than Clemson, more Nebraska than Oklahoma.

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