There’s no denying that Michigan fans aren’t fond of ESPN’s Paul Finebaum. The famous radio host has been extremely critical of Jim Harbaugh in recent years, and it hasn’t gone over terribly well in Ann Arbor. Even Harbaugh himself has taken shots at Finebaum.
On Wednesday, Finebaum joined The Detroit News’ Angelique Chengelis on the “View From the Press Box” podcast to discuss his thoughts on Harbaugh. Finebaum was asked about Michigan’s 2018 season, in which the Wolverines went 10-2 but lost to Ohio State to miss out on the Big Ten title game and the College Football Playoff. Finebaum said that the loss to the Buckeyes spoiled an otherwise good season.
“I don’t think this is a record that anyone would be disappointed in if you looked at it going back to his hiring,” Finebaum said. “It’s a good record, but I just think the way it ended was so difficult to digest. Unlike Michigan fans, I talked about it for two or three days then moved on to something else. I don’t know all the intricacies. I haven’t sat down with coaches and gone over game film trying to figure out what really went wrong. I saw enough that afternoon to scare me.”
What hurts Harbaugh the most, in Finebaum’s estimation, is that the Wolverines missed a chance to beat Ohio State and get to the playoff with a loaded roster. Michigan was clearly one of the country’s top teams all season but laid an egg in Columbus. Finebaum believes that may hurt Harbaugh going forward.
“I do think that Jim Harbaugh, perhaps, missed a window though,” Finebaum said. “This was a great opportunity to get in the playoffs with a really good team, and it didn’t happen. I’m not saying it won’t happen next year or the year after, but I think it was a major setback. I’ll say that.”
Then, there is the matter of Finebaum speculating that Harbaugh could make the jump to the NFL earlier in December on ESPN’s “Get Up.” Harbaugh adamantly denied those rumors and implied that they may have been started to hurt his recruiting class. Despite Harbaugh’s comments, Finebaum said he only worries about informing his audience of what he’s been hearing.
“I think this came up about a week ago,” Finebaum told Chengelis. “I was in New York with Mike Greenberg on his show, and we were talking beforehand. He had heard some stuff. I had heard some stuff. Again, you can hear something anywhere. People were talking about him. When he came out and said that, I don’t whether he was talking about what I said, or Cris Carter, or Mike, or anyone else. I’m not thinking, as I say something on a national broadcast, ‘Wow, I wonder if this will hurt Jim Harbaugh in recruiting.’
“That would be the last thing I would — number one — think about — and secondly — care about” Finebaum continued. “What I say or do is being done to inform an audience of a program that I’m on. What happens in recruiting at Michigan or anywhere else is none of my concern. I’m not going to try to purposely hurt someone’s recruiting. That was just a typical Jim Harbaugh response. It did nothing for him other than to put him in a more narrow box than he’s already in.”
Finebaum did mention in the podcast that Georgia head basketball coach and Harbaugh’s brother-in-law, Tom Crean, tried to set up a meeting between the two to hash some of this out. Finebaum said it never came to fruition, but at least it’s progress.