The past ten years have brought college sports enthusiasts some of the greatest characters TV has ever seen. It’s hard to believe that these coaches’ outlandish reactions to plays, ways of recruiting players, and post-game speeches aren’t scripted. But I also can’t believe that anybody could be so good of an actor that they could take on these rolls with such unwavering consistency. John Calipari joining Kentucky, Tom Crean joining Indiana, and now Jim Harbaugh at Michigan have been able to cement themselves as some of the nation’s best coaches while looking like some of the nation’s strangest people. Why has this worked?
A quick and simple answer would be that most top level high school athletes want to have fun. They are 18 after all. They don’t want to play for someone who is going to yell at them and make them work hard because that’s what their coaches have done for the past 10 years of their lives. They see these guys who are funny and aren’t taken seriously and they sign the dotted line for one or two years of mandatory and televised shenanigans before they go pro. Coaches like Brian Kelly lose recruits because they come to players’ homes with clipboards and graphs. No high schooler wants to see that. What they want to see is Jim Harbaugh climbing a tree outside their bedroom window and playing shirts vs skins with the boys.
So while this strategy deserves heavy consideration, it’s going to be interesting to see which coaching strategy gets the job done more often. Coach Harbaugh took a loss when facing a more serious coach Urban Meyer. Then again, Tom Crean had a huge win versus the ever serious Mike Kryzoshhvibvweieiski. The next few years’ worth of commits will ultimately decide which way stays and which way goes. For the sake of the viewer, I’m hoping that they decide to pick schools with the weirdest people possible.
“I drank a lot of milk, Andrea. A lot of milk. Whole milk, though. Not the candy ass two percent or skim milk.” -Jim Harbaugh