Jim Harbaugh, Michigan's prodigal coaching son, returns to Ann Arbor. He won big at Stanford, making the Cardinal a perennial title contender. Then he went to the 49ers, and brought them to the Super Bowl. Two years later they fired him, because his personality can apparently be hard to take after a while. Based on his sideline histrionics, it's not difficult to believe.
This man is the kind of driven, obsessed-with-winning, relentless, borderline psychopath that can work his way into the magic circle of truly elite college football coaches. Saban. Meyer. Kelly. Dantonio. Harbaugh obviously still has to prove it on the field with the Maize and Blue, but he has won everywhere he has been, and odds are it won't be long before Michigan is an elite program again. They have the talent - Brady Hoke was actually a very good recruiter, so Harbaugh's cupboard is far from bare. Now we will see if they have the coach to develop that talent and win.
So what about the Scarlet Knights? This is another big wolf hunting the same grounds we are, right? Maybe, but I don't think this is a big problem for Rutgers recruiting. And it might even be a good thing.
It's true Harbaugh is a huge name, and he can talk about returning the glory to the Maize and Blue, and he can tell kids he knows what it takes to get to, and succeed at, the next level. It's also true that Rutgers' division within the B1G now boasts three or four of the biggest name coaches in all of college football. Urban Meyer recruits like he is still coaching a top SEC program, bless his artificially-inserted monkey heart. Mark Dantonio has turned Sparty into a consistent winner and although he doesn't pull in star-studded classes, always seems to pull in guys that fit what he wants to do, and then go onto the NFL. And while the jury is still out on Coach Hype, we cannot argue with his first recruiting class as it currently stands (I wouldn't be surprised if he saw some more decommits before February).
But Michigan has secured great recruiting classes even during the Rich Rod and Hoke eras. It's still MICHIGAN, even during the dark times. That's why we rushed the field after we beat them, earning scorn from the haters - the winningest program in history, attached to a top academic university, will always attract top talent, and will always be worthy of celebration when we beat them. Last year, 247Sports rated the Wolverines as the 20th best class, in 2013 they were ranked number 4th, and in 2012 they were ranked 6th. Is the addition of Jim Harbaugh really going to make that much of a difference in the recruiting wars? They are already recruiting at an elite level.
This is just a hunch, but I don't think Harbaugh's Wolverines will be targeting New Jersey, Eastern PA and New York like Franklin has with ttfp. Most of his ties, both college and pro, are on the West Coast, and I would expect him to look to recruiting regions in this order of priority: 1/1a) Michigan and Ohio; 2) California; 3) everywhere else, with a national recruiting footprint. A few New Jersey guys are always going to be attracted to Michigan, but I don't expect a huge exodus of Garden Staters heading for Ann Arbor. Of course Michigan will be in play for the very top-end talent in New Jersey, but that's the case now too.
Here's how it may help Rutgers in the long run - the B1G East is now one of the toughest divisions in college football, and the aura of THE GAME between the Buckeyes and Wolverines has regained its capital-letter worthy status in terms of anticipation. While a strong Michigan makes Rutgers road to a bowl harder every year, there was no way they were going to stay down forever, and the conference is healthier overall - and sexier to recruits - when its blueblood programs are among the best in the country. Recruiting-wise, Harbaugh and Meyer and Franklin still only have about 25 offers every year, and 85 total. They can't scoop up all the talented kids, and kids will want to play for Rutgers for the chance to knock off the big teams. If the conference is strong at the top, it helps everybody all the way down. That said, Rutgers still has to be competitive on the field to pull in the prospects they need, and obviously one game a year just got harder, but that's the price of admission in a big boy conference.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.