ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN — As a television camera panned around Michigan Stadium as the Wolverines were playing Rutgers, it stopped on a few fans with their chests painted: “Jim’s Back.”
In his 100th game coaching at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh was back on the sidelines for the Wolverines after serving a three-game suspension imposed by the school. The suspension stemmed from alleged recruiting violations and not cooperating with NCAA investigators. But Harbaugh’s term is done, and he helped guide Michigan to a 31-7 win over Rutgers.
Harbaugh said there’s no other place he would rather be than on the sidelines coaching and that he wanted the win, but the players wanted it more.
While Harbaugh had been involved in team activities throughout the week during the suspension, he wasn’t allowed to be present for the past three Saturdays. The players, including running back Blake Corum and defensive back Mike Sainristil, acknowledged after the game that having Harbaugh on the sideline makes a difference.
“Coach calls us difference-makers, but I feel like he’s a difference-maker,” Sainristil said. “Having him, having his energy back in the locker room, it just felt great. His presence means a lot to us, just, the pregame speech he gives us always gives us that extra motivation.”
Corum added that Harbaugh’s presence gives the team a little extra juice and said he could tell that his coach had missed being on the sideline and the locker room the past few weeks, based on what they saw after the team beat Rutgers.
“He was happy as heck, as he says, ‘Cool guy Jim,'” Corum said. “Just seeing him back, we all wanted this win really bad, and as he says, a win in the Big 10 is like two wins. One for us and since they lost, one for us again. It was just great seeing the energy in the locker room after the win; he’s going to have a good rest of the day and weekend.”
Harbaugh said the game was a meat grinder game, that his team was able to get 200 yards on the ground and through the air. He noted that he hadn’t really left, but that it was good to be back and good to get back to some normalcy as Michigan looks to head on the road against Nebraska next week.
“There’s just no better place to be than in the locker room after you win a game and everybody gets in there,” Harbaugh said. “You just think to yourself, who could have it better, who could have it better than I do, who could have it better than us? I get to coach these guys and these coaches, I was super happy.”
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