By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Hundreds of thousands of University of Michigan fans are celebrating tonight, in anxious anticipation of Tuesday’s official announcement that Jim Harbaugh will be the new Wolverine football coach.
But nobody could more excited than Muskegon’s Mike Teeter, who played with Harbaugh as a freshman at Michigan in 1986.
Teeter was a defensive lineman and Harbaugh was the senior quarterback, so they were never on the field at the same time. But they were teammates on what he says was a very close team, so Teeter witnessed the intensity and dedication Harbaugh brought to the field.
And he expects him to bring that same fire and determination to the Big House next fall.
“This is really good for Michigan,” Teeter, a Fruitport standout who played at Michigan between 1986-89, told Local Sports Journal. “Jim is going to do really well. He certainly doesn’t have to prove he’s a good coach.
“He was one of the guys,” Teeter said about his time as Harbaugh’s teammate. “Everyone on that team was pretty close. And afterward, playing pro football, we bumped into each other a few times. But to say I know him well would be irresponsible.
“I coached with his brother John (Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens head coach) at IU (Indiana University). So I know the family pretty well. This is pretty exciting for Michigan. I look forward to him bringing the intensity we saw on television every Sunday.”
Teeter said he wasn’t surprised when Harbaugh accepted the Michigan job, despite widespread media predictions that he would stay in the pros.
“I’m not suprised, because of who he is,” Teeter said. “I know how close Jim was with Bo. And like all the other former players, I’m sure he wants to make a difference. I’m sure Jim going there has a lot to do with how he feels about Michigan.
“This whole thing about hiring a Michigan man has been blown out of context. But in this case it’s true – we have a Michigan man. Harbs very much bleeds Maize and Blue.”
Teeter admitted it’s been difficult for him to watch the U-M football program struggle in recent years, since the 2007 retirement of former Coach Lloyd Carr.
“It’s tough any time a program goes through this type of change,” said Teeter, who played several years in the National Football League with Minnesota and the old Houston Oilers. “Every program goes through a period of time like this. Michigan wasn’t immune to it.
“Brady (Hoke) was a great man. He got caught in something that was not totally in his control and he wasn’t able to win. He knew he had to win when he came there, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.”
Teeter has no doubt that Harbaugh is the right man to end the frustrating slump.
“Harbs is just a competitor, he loves to compete, and with that comes a lot of fire,” Teeter said. “This is the same guy who guaranteed a win against Ohio State. I’ve watched his career. If you can win at Stanford, that’s impressive. What he did with the 49ers, that was impressive.
“He comes from a football family. This is in their blood.”
Shelby resident and former local high school football coach Mike Taylor also has some strong U-M and Harbaugh connections.
Taylor was a graduate assistant coach at U-M under Schembechler. His first season in Ann Arbor was 1988, a year after Harbaugh graduated.
But Taylor had met a younger Harbaugh in the early 1980s, when he served as a graduate football assistant at Western Michigan University under Harbaugh’s father, Jack Harbaugh.
‘I think it’s a great choice for the school,” Taylor said. “He is certainly the logical choice. If money is not an issue, which it wasn’t, that’s the guy you go for.”
Taylor said Harbaugh shares one key quality with the late Coach Schembechler – a deep distaste for losing.
“They (Schembechler and Harbaugh) do not go out and recruit players who want to win – they want players who absolutely hate to lose.”
Taylor’s friend and neighbor in Shelby is none other than Billy Harris, the former wide receiver who played on the 1969 Michigan team – Schembechler’s first – that upset top-ranked Ohio State.
Harris returned to Ann Arbor in 1986 as an assistant coach in charge of receivers. That was also Harbaugh’s senior year, when the Wolverines got another big win over Ohio State and won the Big Ten title.
Harris remembers ‘86 as the first season that a Schembechler team gained more yards through the air than on the ground, thanks largely to Harbaugh.
He also recalls the next to last game of the regular season, when Michigan was upset by Minnesota a week before playing Ohio State. After the game Harbaugh promised reporters that the Wolverines would beat the Buckeyes, a statement that caught everyone by surprise.
“Bo didn’t like predictions, and everyone figured he would rip Jimmy a new one,” Harris said. “But then Bo comes into the team meeting on Sunday and says ‘You all know where your quarterback stands. Where do you stand?
“That was a big change of heart for Bo. And then luckily we went down to the Horseshoe (in Columbus) and beat them.”
After several years of watching the Wolverines struggle, Harris is convinced they have found the right coach.
“Seven years ago we wanted Les Miles to come from LSU (to replace Carr), but (former athletic director) Bill Martin wanted to go in a different direction and hire someone who was not a Bo disciple. So us Bo disciples couldn’t be more excited that somebody who understands how football is supposed to be played is coming back.”