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Column: Harbaugh’s return is good for the Buckeyes

Harbaugh’s tendency to stoke rivalry flames could backfire.

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images
Jami Jurich Jami Jurich puts her Ohio State journalism degree to good use, working as professional copywriter by day, SB Nation contributor by night.

While rumors have been swirling around Jim Harbaugh’s plans for next season (and who would be his replacement if he chose to return to the NFL), he put them to rest Monday when he informed Michigan he would be staying next season — much to the chagrin of many Buckeye fans.

But I’m here to tell you why this move is actually a good thing for Ohio State (because ultimately, I don’t care about That Team Up North’s news unless it is news I can use for my own personal gain).

Let’s start with the obvious. If Harbaugh is staying, we can simply reject the rumor that Urban Meyer was being considered as a potential replacement, an idea floated by former Wolverine wide receiver Braylon Edwards.

Meyer — who was undefeated against Michigan during his seven years at Ohio State — is not particularly known for his loyalty, so this rumor did put the fear of God in my heart. We don’t accept it structurally, and we don’t accept it spiritually, and now, thanks to Harbaugh’s decision, we do not have to accept it at all!

But it runs deeper for me.

Because while I think there are a multitude of reasons that I loathe Jim Harbaugh so much I dream of eating cereal from a bowl of his tears, the fact of the matter is he’s done good things for the Michigan football program.

And the rivalry is, for better or worse, stronger when both teams are good, when there is legitimate competition.

In the years where OSU pretty much knew we were going to roll to victory in The Game with nary a passing glance, it became challenging to fulfill our legal obligation to hate Michigan with every fiber of our being. It’s hard to hate someone you don’t actually care about or have to lose sleep over. I know, I know. This is the part we never want to say out loud. But it’s true. The rivalry is better when both teams are better.

Harbaugh, for all the qualities that get under my skin, respects the rivalry. He talks smack year-round. In fact, he was talking smack all while doing the rebuilding stuff. From Day 1, he entered that Michigan locker room ready to piss off Ohio State, and for many years, he was just blowing smoke.

But now, the Wolverines are good. So good in fact that they’ve made the CFP in back-to-back years and have beat OSU two years in a row — something that hadn’t happened in this century.

Losing to Harbaugh’s Wolverines is painful. Like icepick lobotomy painful. They get cocky and obnoxious. They’re in your face about it. And it’s not helped by the fact that I live with a Wolverine. When he gloats, she gloats, they gloat. But I am a sore loser, so it would be awful regardless.

But the saying “No pain, no gain” exists for a reason. Because Harbaugh’s Wolverines are so obnoxious, I have to believe it lights a fire for the Buckeyes. I trust that next year, we’re going to roll into Ann Arbor out for blood, seeking not just victory but vengeance. And maybe, just maybe, if Harbaugh had chosen to return to the NFL, this same fire wouldn’t be stoked in the same way.

So while I do hope he stubs his toe every morning when he wakes up, I’m glad Jim Harbaugh is staying at Michigan. I look forward to sending him back to the NFL on a season-ending loss rather than back-to-back victories over my Buckeyes.