Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is The Associated Press college football coach of the year after leading the Wolverines to their first Big Ten title in 17 years and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
Harbaugh is the first Michigan coach to win the AP Coach of the Year Award presented by Regions Bank, and the first from the Big Ten since Penn State’s Joe Paterno in 2005.
“It’s a tremendous reflection on the entire staff, players,” Harbaugh told the AP. “Everybody shares in it. A rising tide lifts all ships.”
He received 22 of 53 first-place votes and 103 points from a panel of AP Top 25 voters to finish ahead of Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, who had 16 first-place votes and 88 points.
Baylor’s Dave Aranda was third and Michigan State’s Mel Tucker was fourth. Georgia’s Kirby Smart was fifth with a first-place vote and Utah State’s Blake Anderson was sixth, receiving three first-place votes.
Alabama’s Nick Saban and Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson also received first-place votes.
Michigan is the first school to sweep the AP coach of the year in football and men’s basketball in the same calendar year since the football award was established in 1998. Juwan Howard won coach of the year in men’s basketball for the 2020-21 season.
Harbaugh came into his seventh season as coach of his alma mater on a hot seat after going 2-4 in the Big Ten’s abbreviated schedule in 2020. After his first losing season with Michigan, Harbaugh took a pay cut and had his buyout reduced, putting the school in better position to make a coaching change if this season didn’t go well.
Harbaugh also made staff changes on the defensive side of the ball in the offseason.
Everything came together for the Wolverines this season. They beat Ohio State to snap an eight-game losing streak in the rivalry and reached the Big Ten title game for the first time, where they routed Iowa.
While Harbaugh has chosen not to gloat about Michigan’s turnaround, when there were plenty of skeptics, his brother was not above it.
“He’s always been a great coach,” Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters. “And all those that want to pile on, especially some of the local media there, there you have it. Back in your face. That’s how I look at it. He’d never say that, but I’ll say it.”
No. 2 Michigan (12-1) faces No. 3 Georgia (12-1) in its first College Football Playoff appearance on Dec. 31 at the Orange Bowl.
“I love this team. I love this ’21 team,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve got a bounce in their step every day. They’ve got a smile on their face. They’ve worked incredibly hard.”
By Ralph D. Russo