When Jim Harbaugh was hired as Stanford’s football coach, the former Michigan standout predictably praised the school’s high academic standards but surprisingly bashed those of his alma mater — which plays No. 21 Mississippi State today in the Gator Bowl.
“Michigan is a good school, and I got a good education there, but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in, and, when they’re in, they steer them to courses in sports communications,” Harbaugh told the San Francisco Examiner in 2007. “They’re adulated when they’re playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won’t hire them.”
When asked about his remarks then by the Detroit Free Press, Harbaugh — the favorite to replace Rich Rodriguez as Wolverines coach next season — didn’t flinch.
“I would use myself as an example,” he said. “I came in there, wanted to be a history major, and I was told early on in my freshman year that I shouldn’t be. That it takes too much time. Too much reading. That I shouldn’t be a history major and play football.”
Michigan backup quarterback Tate Forcier also might have been discouraged from studying history because this week he essentially repeated Harbaugh’s statements.
“You really have to try to flunk out here,” he told the Free Press. “All you have to do is go to class; it’s not that hard.”
Forcier, a kinesiology major, must be trying to flunk out then, because on Thursday, two days after making his comments, he was declared academically ineligible for today’s game.
If Harbaugh replaces Rodriguez, he and Forcier should start a book club.
The Cardinal coach apparently has mastered history and considers Stanford’s recent resurgence a big part of it.
“I’m pretty much a historian of football, dating back 100 years,” Harbaugh, 47, said in advance of Monday’s Orange Bowl game between his No. 5 Cardinal and No. 12 Virginia Tech. “This is one of the best turnarounds I’ve witnessed in 50 years.”
■ CLASSIC “24/7” — HBO’s “24/7” series on “The Road to the NHL Winter Classic” has earned rave reviews heading into today’s outdoor game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals at Heinz Field.
Yahoo! Sports’ “Puck Daddy” blog described HBO’s coverage of their Dec. 23 game as the “most riveting, unflinching and hypnotic presentation of regular-season hockey to ever hit the airwaves.”
Forget the classic hockey flick “Slap Shot.” ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons wrote that “no fictional film could top the glorious time we’re spending with the Penguins and Caps.
“It never stops feeling like a group of overgrown kids who would do anything for one another.”
The series finale, which will focus on today’s event, will debut Wednesday.
■ ‘I MUST BREAK YOU’ — In a clever shooting-accuracy challenge, Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, a Russian, fires pucks at Russian nesting dolls filled with Russian dressing in a viral clip made by ESPN.
COMPILED BY TODD DEWEY
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL