INDIANAPOLIS -- Jim Harbaugh wanted to talk. Michigan's coach wanted to talk bad. Oh, Harbs had plenty to say Thursday at the 2023 Big Ten Media Days ... just not about one of the hottest topics in the sport.
Harbaugh continues to await what is expected to be a. The Wolverines coach is expected to be penalized for being dishonest with investigators (a Level I violation) in a case involving Level II recruiting violations.
Embarrassing stuff for the ultimate Michigan Man. Juicy stuff for hundreds of reporters awaiting Harbaugh's appearance to further the discussion.
"I'm with you," the coach told CBS Sports after he was asked for comment on the subject. "I'd love to lay it out there. Nothing to be ashamed of. [But] now is not that time."
Harbaugh cited the confidentiality of the NCAA investigation, and with the NCAA national office literally across the street from Lucas Oil Stadium (the site of Big Ten Media Days), that was probably a wise choice.
Still, you get the impression that when this blows over -- and it will -- Harbaugh will have some pointed comments. Sources told CBS Sports the coach doesn't believe he made false statements intentionally to the NCAA regarding those relatively minor violations.
"It hasn't been a distraction to the team," All-American running back Blake Corum said. "We know what the goal is. We know Coach Harbaugh is going to be there for us. With him or without him, he'll be there in spirit."
That's how loaded Michigan is in 2023. It can win without its iconic, $9 million-a-year leader. Of course, if Harbaugh is suspended, Krusty the Clown could coach the Wolverines to four victories in September. Those games are against East Carolina, UNLV, Bowling Green and Rutgers (combined 2022 records: 23-27).
For now, the (perceived) cover up is again worse than the (alleged) crime. Harbaugh could (should?) have cooperated with the NCAA because the penalties likely would have been a slap on the wrist. But that's not Harbaugh.
"Everything motivates us," he said.
It should. Harbaugh told CBS Sports he believes this is his best Michigan team. The heart of a program that has been to two straight College Football Playoffs returns and remains so confident it added a "Beat Georgia" drill to the spring practice routine. It is meant to emphasize heavy personnel and battles in the trenches -- and prepare to beat the two-time defending national champions.
"Like our good friend Ric Flair [says], 'If you want to be the man, you've got to beat the man,'" Harbaugh said.
Why stop at Ohio State or the Big Ten title when the last hill to climb in the Harbaugh era is winning a natty?
"If we don't go all the way, I would call it a bust," Corum said.
Harbaugh calls the current Michigan's current state of mind "cultural momentum." Sounds like a new-age football cliché. The momentum for this season may have started when Harbaugh told Corum to head to the NFL after late-season knee surgery in 2022. The talented back essentially had nothing left to prove.
Corum was headed for a possible Heisman Trophy when he injured his ACL in the penultimate game of the regular season against Illinois. He lasted a couple of plays the next week against Ohio State. Corum then found himself watching the Big Ten Championship Game against Purdue from a hotel room in California. That's the state where a specialist had repaired his knee.
The ordeal may have changed Corum's mind about returning.
"All I could think about is what would I do if I was in," Corum said of that Big Ten title game. "It was something that I needed to go through."
As with all things Captain Quirk, it didn't stop with a heart-warming football tale. Harbaugh spoke glowingly of his youngest child, 6-year-old Johnny who "defies my authority at every turn."
The coach has gotten even, signing Johnny up for karate classes. That'll teach him discipline.
A riff on quarterback J.J. McCarthy turned into a study of marine life.
"You ever been on open water and seen dolphins together playing?" Harbaugh asked. "That's what J.J. reminds of at practice, in meetings, in the weight room."
The definition of a depth chart took an odd turn.
"Nobody really owns the position," the coach said. "If you really look at it, they're leasing it at best … If you don't do well for four games, there is somebody else possibly sitting there who can pay more rent."
Wrapping up Thursday, Harbaugh reflected on plenty. There's a bit more gray in the hair of the coach about to turn 60 in December. By that time, the Wolverines figure to be playing for another Big Ten title. That will be a bus stop compared to another shot at the CFP.
That ultimate Michigan Man was chatty about almost everything. Almost. For now, the NCAA has made it personal. They've questioned Harbaugh's character.
"I can't comment on any aspect of it," he said of the investigation. "I treat everything like a football game … As a football player, football coach, I lay it all out there. This is one of those situations where I cannot do it."
Not yet at least.