Jim Harbaugh on Michigan spring break trip to Florida: 'I would recommend this'
BRADENTON - When Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh tipped his cap to the roar from the packed grandstands at IMG Academy Field on Friday night, it became obvious that the Wolverines' controversial spring break trip to Florida paid off.
"Exceeded expectations," Harbaugh said after Friday's fourth and final practice. "I would recommend this to other football programs. I'd recommend it to us, to do it again."
Whether Harbuagh - or any other school - can do that remains unclear. Michigan drew plenty of criticism for its decision to travel 1,200 to a loaded prep football powerhouse, and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey asked the NCAA to look into the issue for the future.
But Friday night, Harbaugh was focused on a one-of-a-kind experience. More than 5,000 spectators came to watch Michigan practice for more than three hours. That crowd included IMG five-star linebacker Dylan Moses and at least a dozen of his teammates, as well as four-star Clearwater Central Catholic RB CJ Cotman.
"They have a lot of people that really support them," Cotman said while watching the open practice. "I like the atmosphere. I like what they're doing on the field."
Not everybody liked the fact that they were there at all, even though NCAA rules prohibited the Wolverines from interacting with prospects. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema tweeted about crashing the open practice; Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Tennessee's Butch Jones asked to meet him for lunch on their way.
Harbaugh has replied to the criticism with snarky comments or apathy. But after Friday's practice, he said that his favorite comment came when someone compared his spring break trip and signing of the stars ceremony to a circus.
"As a youngster, I remember the circus coming to town," Harbaugh said. "I remember looking forward to it, saving my pennies up and dollars up because the circus was coming to town and I couldn't wait. And every circus I ever went to, I always felt really great about it and it was a lot of fun.
"That's the way I feel about this. It was much anticipated, and it was a heck of a lot of fun."
I'll have more on Michigan's spring break trip in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times.