Jim Harbaugh not concerned over reaction to Michigan football practice in Florida – Orlando Sentinel
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While the four-hour practice had the look and feel of a typical spring football workout, there was no denying the Maize and Blue uniforms were a little out of place under the bright glare of the Florida sun.
“We’re just out here to get better every day and play football,” Harbaugh told a small group of reporters after practice. “You can only get better at football by playing football.”
From the moment he announced his intention to bring his Michigan team down to Florida during spring break for a week of practice, Harbaugh has been at the center of a growing debate among coaches and conference commissioners. Many of them have voiced their displeasure about the Michigan coach taking his team to Florida for spring break.
Harbaugh doesn’t see what all the fuss is about.
“I don’t know why,” he replied when asked if he knew why coaches were upset with his decision. “Our tennis team is going to be hitting balls here this week.”
When asked if he cared about his peers’ reactions, he stated simply, “No.”
Harbaugh said he expects this trip to provide a great opportunity for the players and coaches to get “to know each other” while creating team chemistry. He said activities away from the football field will help the team bond. The Wolverines are scheduled to visit the beach, play mini-golf, play ping-pong tournaments, play tennis and take a trip to a spring training baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers Wednesday.
“The guys are going over to the beach today,” Harbaugh said Monday. “We want to be the team that has first spring break at a first class matter. That is a goal for us. We’re going to have a sober, healthy, productive spring break.”
The issue of players giving up their spring break time for football has been part of the crux of the debate against this trip. As concerns over the time demands on college athletes grows, the idea of spending spring break practicing is a concern.
But by pushing the first week of spring practice to this week, the football players avoided having to balance preparing for mid-terms and finals along with football, which is what would have occurred if the team kicked off spring practice as it normally would have done last week.
With only 15 spring football practices allowed by the NCAA, Michigan will wrap up its spring with its traditional spring football game on April 1, a month ahead of the end of the spring term. That provides players with two weeks of uninterrupted chances for studying rather than focusing on spring football.
Then there is the question of recruiting.
Harbaugh said he doesn’t believe hosting spring practice in a talent-rich state like Florida will have any impact on recruiting, but others disagree. This week’s practices are open to all high school coaches – no recruits – with Friday’s open practice being the only time everyone can attend.
With this being an NCAA quiet period in the recruiting calendar, Harbaugh and his coaches can’t have face-to-face interaction with high school recruits. But the opportunity to have them on the sidelines to watch a practice is quite the advertisement for a program.
Meanwhile, the school also scheduled some lectures with speakers, including University of Michigan history professor Tyran Steward, who will speak on the subject of race and sports. Michigan alumni also are slated to stop by to visit with the team.
ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale visited Michigan’s practice Monday. Vitale watched drills from the sideline while wearing a Michigan baseball cap. Afterward, he spoke with Harbaugh, who joked he needed Vitale’s help with his jump shot.
Michigan will practice two more times before hosting an open practice Friday night at IMG Academy.
Late Monday, Harbaugh said he was pleased with this first day of practice.
“I always felt like the first day of spring practice and the first day of fall camp – those were my two favorite days of the year,” he said. “It’s like the New Year.
“I thought it was good and cleats were clanking on the cement and guys were in to it.”