Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 30, 2014

The hiring of Jim Harbaugh at Michigan will resonate throughout college football. Can you feel it?

This is big.

This is huge.

This is a game-changer that threatens the power structure of the Big Ten. A power structure and food chain that currently has Ohio State on top with Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska buzzing near the summit. Now, Michigan is in hot pursuit of access behind the velvet rope to the league penthouse.


It has been a while since Michigan mattered. You have to go back to the Lloyd Carr era. He was the last coach to guide the Wolverines to the Big Ten crown, doing so in 2004. Carr left after 2007.

Michigan did a fast fade under Rich Rodriguez. The Wolverines showed a pulse under Brady Hoke in 2011 before the sheet was mercifully pulled over in 2014.

Losses to Ohio State became annual affairs. It wasn?t a matter of if the Wolverines were going to lose to the Buckeyes; rather it was a matter of by how much.

Even worse, Michigan State-the school former Wolverine running back Mike Hart famously derided as Michigan?s ?little brother?-was doing laps around the Wolverines. This madness had to stop.

Enter Harbaugh and his khakis, ball cap and Sharpie around his neck.

How big is Harbaugh?s arrival to Michigan and the Big Ten? It?s the biggest thing to hit college football?s ivory towers since the Crimson Tide lured Nick ?I?m not going to be the Alabama coach? Saban from the Miami Dolphins in 2007.

And, we know how that has worked out in Tuscaloosa. Bama has been transformed from a laughable oaf drowning in mediocrity that cycled through coaches into a 10,000-pound knuckle-dragging bully. Three national titles and a litany of broken opponents have been left in Saban?s wake, as he has made the Crimson Tide college football?s ?it? program. And, he?s at it again, as Saban has the Tide poised to maybe win another crown this season as the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

The Big Ten now has an impressive roster of coaches that includes the likes of Ohio State?s Urban Meyer, Penn State?s James Franklin and Michigan State?s Mark Dantonio-all of who reside in a loaded Big Ten East with the freshly minted Michigan savior Harbaugh. This is the closest thing to the SEC West as you?ll find north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River.

The Big Ten West also has some coaching heft with Minnesota?s Jerry Kill, Iowa?s Kirk Ferentz, Nebraska?s Mike Riley and Northwestern?s Pat Fitzgerald.

Not bad. Now, it?s time to win a national championship, something the Big Ten hasn?t done since Ohio State turned the trick in the 2002 season. Michigan last won one in 1997.

Harbaugh?s arrival will amp up the competition level in the Big Ten. And, it needs some big-time voltage. Meyer?s arrival in 2012 juiced things up and pushed the recruiting envelope, forcing others to work harder in order to keep up. It?s about talent procurement-and few coaches in the nation do it better than Meyer, who learned from the best in the SEC while guiding Florida to two national championships.

Franklin?s hiring at Penn State last offseason also pushed up the Big Ten?s recruiting quotient. The guy is furious on the recruiting trail, a tireless worker with a relentless approach who already has landed some big-time players after cutting his teeth in the SEC recruiting jungles.

Now comes Harbaugh, the ultimate competitor in every aspect of life. He wants to kick your butt in everything: wiffleball, Monopoly, euchre, Jarts, hot dog grilling ? and especially football. Pity the poor souls who try to deny Harbaugh his quest for victory.

Combine that hard-wired, go-go, 120-mph nature with a passion for his alma mater-and, well, the possibilities seem limitless.

Remember: College football-more so than the NFL-is a game dictated by coaches. It?s a ?cult of personality? sport with annual roster churn. Myriad players come ? myriad players go. The one constant: The coach. That?s why programs flounder if they don?t have a good one. Michigan can glance over its shoulder for a quick reminder.

What has the Maize and Blue fans out-of-their-minds whacko about this is the promise and possibilities. Harbaugh has won wherever he has gone. And, he?s never coached in college at a place like Michigan, which has all of the bells, whistles and accoutrements a coach would desire. Just win, baby.

If Harbaugh could win at Stanford, where he inherited a one-win team and led the Cardinal to a 29-21 record and to its first BCS bowl game, he can win anywhere, right? This is the point at which Michigan fans squeal with delight at the future, letting their minds run wild as they play out championship scenarios.

It?s intoxicating. Often, the thought of winning is even better than the actual winning.

Welcome to Michigan, Jim. The Wolverines, Big Ten and college football thank you. The Big Ten just inched a bit closer to the SEC-and therefore national relevance that goes beyond a massive alumni base and huge TV deals. And, that?s what this is about: Catching the SEC. But there are still miles and miles to go. This pushes the pedal to the floor even more in the Big Ten?s pursuit of the SEC.

Things are about to get very interesting.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.