They couldn’t be more different in their current recruiting personality. But if Urban Meyer ever senses that Jim Harbaugh’s status as, Minister of Cool, is costing him recruits OSU covets, you can bet he’ll scour his storage closet and find his sleeping bag.
Columbus – One strolled the halls of the College Football Hall of Fame, while the other coached a guy to enthusiastically absorb a pie in the face, hob-nobbed with SportsCenter anchors, told endearing stories about his childhood and cemented his image as college football’s raconteur.
Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh were both in their elements on Friday, Meyer in Atlanta where his daughter will be married this weekend, and Harbaugh at the Super Bowl, touring Radio Row and building his brand, which is to say, University of Michigan football.
Meyer, as big as he is with three national championship rings, clearly stands as the face of the Ohio State program.
Harbaugh isn’t just that in Ann Arbor, he is The Program at this point, and he seems to understand as much with the way he’s working to inject himself onto America’s front porch.
Michigan doesn’t yet have the on-field success to match the behemoth Meyer has built Ohio State into, so Harbaugh is doing whatever he can to make the Wolverines appear not just on the cusp of greatness, but the hippest kid on the block.
The two have coached against each other only once so far and the superiority of Meyer’s team couldn’t have been clearer in a 42-13 final at Michigan Stadium.
Both team’s won their bowl games handily — OSU to complete a ho-hum, 12-1 finish that largely disappointed its faithful based upon championship-or-best expectations; Michigan in a much less-prestigious bowl to complete a 10-3 season that thrilled its partisans.
The comparative buzz ever since has been as decidedly lopsided as the score between the schools when they met on the final Saturday of November.
Harbaugh has been hailed the savior who led Michigan to a 10-win season.
He even managed to turn what could have been ugly, damaging headlines of yanking scholarships from recruits who pledged their allegiance to Michigan before his arrival into overwhelmingly-positive press that focused on his serial goofiness in search of the nation’s best high school talent.
Harbaugh worked Twitter and other social media avenues, as he likes to say, “with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.” He climbed a tree at one recruit’s house, stayed overnight with several others, drove with a few to class in the morning and hung out at their schools as long as it took.
If a loophole in the voluminous NCAA rules manual allowed Harbaugh a sliver of wiggle room, he barged his way through and made himself right at home.
Meanwhile, Meyer just did what he does as well as anyone – worked it and worked it and worked it some more to land a recruiting class ranked slightly ahead of Michigan’s.
Winning the rankings and winning the day, however, are two different things, and it seems Harbaugh has triumphed in the latter category that is solely about perception.
He’s emerged as the guy who will do anything whacky, crazy or fun to attract a player to Michigan.
And then Harbaugh winked at the ridiculous dog-and-pony show of the entire exercise by punctuating it with a production that jumped the shark more than the Miami Heat’s celebration of multiple NBA titles before they won their first with LeBron James.
Michigan’s Signing of The Stars was part maize-and-blue infomercial and part fraternity party mixer. It was kooky, kitschy and joyously over the top, which is to say it perfectly encapsulated everything that makes its coach so charismatic.
While Harbaugh was welcoming Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Lou Holtz, Ric Flair and other eclectic contributors to his Wolverine love fest, down in Columbus, Meyer began his Signing Day assessment of the Buckeyes’ incoming freshmen class with a long discourse on how recruiting should require far more regulation.
Meyer doesn’t need to engage in such silliness to bank a robust class. Right now, Harbaugh does. And so, he does.
The bet is Meyer would shed his, “Get off my lawn,” approach if he came in facing the same talent and enthusiasm disparity that greeted Harbaugh.
Surely, Meyer won’t back off the well-produced hype videos legions of OSU fans enthusiastically lap up every week when they are released.
So it’s not like Meyer rejects technology or disputes its impact. He doesn’t miss a trick, and if he ever senses that Harbaugh’s status as, Minister of Cool, is costing him recruits OSU covets, you can bet he’ll scour his storage closet and find his sleeping bag.
Bruce Hooley is a former sports editor of the Troy Daily News and hosts #Hooley at 8 p.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday on Time Warner Cable Sports Channel (311/1311 HD).