Jim Harbaugh has lost his right to complain about entitlement.
His last two teams have visited sunny Florida during spring break and vacationed in Rome. That's right, I said "vacation," because that's an apt description of the Michigan's three practices this week in Italy.
Coaches complain about the modern athlete all the time -- having to deprogram recruits who figure the world owes them a living. How about this self-induced distraction? It took nine months to plan the trip the Wolverines are on this week.
Sure, there will be cultural enhancement, fine food, but I don't how three practices overseas -- out of sight of NCAA extradition laws -- are going to help beat Ohio State. In other words, what specific amount of progress gained in Rome will be cited in late November? (Michigan got the actual spring game out of the way April 15.)
As spring practices around the country wind down, this trip isn't exactly a stunt, but let's face it: There aren't going to be many noses to grindstones this week. This comes from someone who has been to Italy multiple times. The sites, the sounds, the people, the food, it all captures your senses.
Distractions? Yeah, just a few. Virtually nothing Michigan does this week in Italia is going to help it stop J.T. Barrett on a quarterback keeper. Wait, how did that go the last time?
This is a working vacation. There's everything wrong with it, but at the same time, it's absolutely brilliant. Coaches around the country no doubt are steaming.
Their school won't/can't go to Italy. Meanwhile, there's not a camera Harbaugh hasn't mugged for in Rome.
You noticing, recruits?
Just when the NCAA gets its arms around the satellite camp issue, here comes Harbaugh with another subversive idea (to opponents) to pub his program. Competitive advantage? You're damn right. Michigan Stadium is a recruiting advantage. Jim Harbaugh is a recruiting advantage.
So is a week-long, all-expense paid romp. I don't doubt Harbaugh's sincerity. This is an awesome educational experience. The team will visit Syrian refugees and reportedly get an audience with the Pope.
It's doubtful the NCAA can crack down this time. Teams in other sports head to Europe in the offseason all the time. The market is so big there are companies that exist to do nothing but line up travel packages for teams and schools.
The difference is there is a lot less interest in even a top 25 basketball team playing a series of exhibition games in France. This is Jim Harbaugh thumbing his nose at convention.
This is a recruiting pitch transmitted by, well, us. The media's breathless coverage of Harbaugh's lastest end run around the regulations is unique.
Look, there's nothing wrong with it and Harbaugh isn't breaking one damn rule, but let's call it what it is: A photo op with shoulder pads. Pasta with (spring) practice. A trip to Europe that reflects the growing divide between the haves and have-nots.
Michigan's trip was paid for by an anonymous donor. Even if it wasn't, such a line item in Michigan's $7 billion budget would be petty cash.
My point? You don't see Western Kentucky or Texas-San Antonio doing it.
So is Michigan's European Vacation the wave of the future? Perhaps. There are plenty of schools that can afford it. Cal and Hawaii played in Australia last year. But that was a game. This is the biggest, baddest roadie a lot of these players will ever experience. Oh, and the legal drinking age over there is 18. Just sayin'.
Michigan and Harbaugh are doing this because they can. Put it this way: How many coaches can you think of who could possibly hope to hear these words, "The Pope will see you now?"