In five seasons at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh has restored his alma mater as one of the top football programs in the country. The facts bear that out. Only eight Power Five teams have more wins since his arrival.
But Michigan remains on the outside of the elite, and the gap feels wide. Well, not to Harbaugh. He believes the Wolverines are close to breaking through.
"Always want to do better," he said. "Striving to be the best. Right now, I think our team, we're kind of on the cusp. We haven’t gotten over the top and into the playoffs and the championships, and that’s what drives us, what motivates us every day on the field. Every day working toward that goal.”
While Harbaugh experienced quick success at his prior jobs, including Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers, it's been a more difficult climb at Michigan. There's the winless record against Ohio State, the exclusion from the Big Ten championship game and the College Football Playoff and the lack of success in bowl games.
Asked if it's been a tougher job than he thought, Harbaugh said, “We’ve been to the New Year’s bowl games and we’ve had success on the field. But you’re right, winning that championship, making the playoffs, that’s something our players and our coaches are pouring our hearts and souls into. We’re determined to get there.”
So, is there an aspect of the program Harbaugh has to fix in order for Michigan to reach its goals?
"An aspect to fix? No, it's been a joy," he said. "I love the guys that I coach with, our players have competed and we're really proud of them, the way they’ve played. I get to coach at a great university, my alma mater. It’s been tremendous. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it."