Big 10

Jim Harbaugh says Michigan’s fighting prejudice against football and won’t give up

June 7, 2016

ANN ARBOR — Part of Jim Harbaugh’s issue with a recent NCAA rule that forced him to stop signing autographs and taking pictures on his satellite camp tour centered around what he believes to be a “prejudice” against football.

Michigan’s coach has maintained for some time now that the rules for football and the rules for other sports under the NCAA umbrella are, in his mind, very different.

And often times not exactly fair.

On Monday, speaking with CSN Mid-Atlantic, Harbaugh explained how he believes certain people are against the game he coaches, which, in turn compels him to fight for football on every level.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a prejudice against football, at the pro level, the college level, the high school level, the youth level. (Some people) have something against football. We’ll overcome it, though,” Harbaugh said. “People are against football. I kind of see it that way. Let’s take lacrosse for example. A white sport, a rising, affluent sport. They recruit them in the eighth grade, they have a dead period for a few days in August, it’s a totally different situation.

“It bothers us. But if it’s a test of wills, we’re going to fight for youngsters, their student-athletes, their families and the game itself.”

Harbaugh has maintained from day one that his massive satellite camp tour this month — which continues with three camps in two states Tuesday — has been more about promoting the game of football and providing high school players with exposure than anything else.

Critics have called his events recruiting camps and nothing more. Others say he’s only interested in spreading Michigan’s brand.

In reality, it’s probably a bit of all three — as Michigan has and will surely continue to offer (and accept commitments from) certain players who attend these camps. Some of the stops are held at high-level football powerhouses. One is taking place at the high school of the top-ranked player in America.

But Harbaugh says, in the end, it’s about providing a service to players who simply cannot afford to see every option they have.

“This is us coming to them,” he said. “They don’t have to travel 500 miles to pay for a plane ticket or a hotel or a camp fee for five or six different camps. (Several schools) are coming to them. My brother-in-law has a daughter who is a sophomore volleyball player and he called and asked if he should go to the west coast for a camp. I said ‘well, I think you’re going to have to if they’re recruiting her.’ He said it’ll cost $1,500 to do it, a plane ticket for her, for (him), hotel. That’s rough on the families.

“This is good for student-athletes, good for families and good for competition.”

Satellite camps have been polarizing from the start, no doubt. But Harbaugh hasn’t flinched.

Asked if he believes he and his critics will one day have to simply “agree to disagree” on the entire topic of satellite camps, Harbaugh said no.

He’s not going to settle.

“Alabama was here, Maryland was here, Syracuse was here, Towson, Wake Forest. For us, it’s connecting to football,” he said. “It feels good. I feel like we’re all doing a good thing and we’re learning something. The main goal is, the players themselves, they might learn one or two or three things and come out a more confident football player.”

“We’re passionate about the game of football, teaching it and bringing it to the doorstep of anyone who is interested in athletics or football. (We’re not going to just agree to disagree). We’re going to fight for it. We’re passionate about it.”

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