Former Harbaugh player expects him to coach Michigan someday
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Former Harbaugh player expects him to coach Michigan someday

J.T. Rogan knows the contentious side of Jim Harbaugh and the competitive side. He knows the prickly coach as well as he will let anyone get to know him.

Rogan played running back for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego and coached under him at Stanford. More importantly for this story, Rogan has opinions -- and knows how to articulate them as a San Diego broadcaster for Fox San Diego and Time Warner in San Diego -- on where Harbaugh lands next year to blow his coaching whistle.

Harbaugh's future in San Francisco is one of the NFL's ongoing soap operas, but this one is without a criminal element to it.

Has he worn out his welcome with the 49ers? If so, he might be a perfect fit in Oakland, where the Raiders need a proven winner as a head coach and where he could exact some revenge on the 49ers if they dismiss him. Or will his alma mater call him home if Michigan fires Brady Hoke?

Rogan rules out Michigan -- where Harbaugh played quarterback for Bo Schembechler -- but only for now.

Harbaugh doesn't turn 51until Dec. 23, so for a guy who spent three years at the University of San Diego, four at Stanford and seems to be near the end in his fourth season with the 49ers, he has time left for at least a couple more moves.

"If you asked me today if he will ever coach at Michigan, I think he will," Rogan said. "I don't think it will be soon, but I think it will be eventually. I think Michigan holds a soft spot in his heart. He calls himself a Michigan Man."

Rogan doesn't accept the belief bridges were burned in 2007 when Harbaugh took the Stanford job and irritated Michigan fans. At the time, he spoke about the difference between Stanford athletes admitted with true majors and Michigan at-risk recruits with soft majors.

"He is a guy from Bo Schembechler's cloth," Rogan said. "His father (Jack, as a Schembechler assistant) coached there. There is a lot of allure to him to coach at Michigan."

But Rogan reasons Harbaugh won't be satisfied with his NFL coaching career until he wins a Super Bowl title.

"That's what he has articulated to me in the past," he said. "Now that was when I was at Stanford (2010), so things could have changed. That's his personality; he always wants to achieve at the highest level possible. He's also stubborn, and there could be an element of revenge if the Niners get rid of him."
"I don't think it is like him at all to take the easy way out, which is what I think Michigan would be. He's already had success as the collegiate level."

But Harbaugh is a complex individual, so Rogan recognizes it's not that simple to predict his plans.

"Now, at Michigan he could run his own show," Rogan said. "He wouldn't have a general manager getting in the way, so that fills his ego. But it wouldn't fill his insatiable appetite for victory at the highest level in the NFL. He has such immense respect for NFL football players. I don't think a return to college level is imminent. I think the NFL career has to run its course."

There would be some symbiosis for Harbaugh to end up with the Raiders. The late Al Davis still had his football wits about him when Harbaugh was the Raiders quarterbacks coach in 2002 and 2003.

Harbaugh once told me Davis was upset with him for leaving to take the USD job in 2004 -- telling him he wanted to groom him to become the Raiders' head coach.

Harbaugh said he explained to Davis he was following a similar path when Davis was an assistant coach at USC to gain head coaching experience for himself at USD.

"Yeah, but that was USC -- not USD," Davis barked at Harbaugh in reference to the non-scholarship Football Championship Subdivision program.

Nevertheless, Harbaugh took the USD job and converted his success into the Stanford position. He interviewed at Iowa State while pursuing other jobs. He also was rumored to be a Michigan State candidate, and what a mistake that would have been for the Spartans to hire the nomadic Harbaugh over the man they picked, Mark Dantonio.

Rogan says he still has a good relationship with Harbaugh, but he's not blind to stories of Harbaugh wearing out his welcome at USD, Stanford and now the 49ers.

Rogan says another element at play is his second wife, Sarah. She won't want to leave the Bay Area, which adds to Oakland as the most likely option to the 49ers.

"There are a lot of things at play here," Rogan said. "Not the least of which is how the season ends for the 49ers. If they run the table, which is difficult but possible, that throws another wrench into the whole situation. I'm looking forward to seeing how it transpires. Who knows?"

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Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan is an award-winning sportswriter and the author of "Raye of Light". Tom spent the bulk of his career in San DIego writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has covered NCAA Tournaments, Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series in a career that included writing for Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Hall of Champions and Chargers.com. He contributes to the Detroit Free Press, Raleigh News & Observer, MLB.com, Rivals.com and the National Football Foundation's Football Matters. He won multiple first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club and first place from the Copley News Service Ring of Truth Awards. The National Football Foundation/San Diego Chapter presented him its Distinguished American Award in 2003. USA Track and Field’s San Diego Chapter presented its President’s Award in 2000.

Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the integration of college football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans. It explains Duffy Daugherty's pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.

By Tom Shanahan; Foreword by Tony Dungy; August Publications


David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer: "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."