BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The following is a commentary blog from FOX6 Sports Director Rick Karle:
I can see it now: Alabama football coach Nick Saban standing beside hundreds of his summer high school campers on the UA practice fields while Gus Malzahn offers the kids offensive tips.
I can see it now: Gus Malzahn standing beside hundreds of his summer high school campers at Jordan-Hare Stadium while Nick Saban offers the kids defensive tips. Then again, maybe I can't see it. But just in case you think I've totally lost it, allow me to remind you that this is being done in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Jim Harbaugh has certainly ruffled some SEC feathers what with his travels to satellite camps around the country (see my earlier post about the Michigan coach going shirtless at a camp in Prattville).
After hearing of the criticism, Harbaugh decided to do something about it, and he did: He sent out an open invitation to any football coach in the country to visit his camps. At least one coach has taken up his offer, and he leads a rival Big Ten team .
Yes, Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald recently gave a rousing speech to up to 1400 campers. In Ann Arbor... in front of Jim Harbaugh... with his shirt on... and the Michigan coach loved it.
Said Harbaugh to USA Today, "It's very much a collegial gesture, coming to the University of Michigan. He's a competitor, a rival of the highest caliber." Said Fitzgerald, "I'm glad to do it. It fit into my schedule so I did it."
And there you have it. The head coach of a rival Big Ten team walking onto the Michigan campus and giving his pitch. Said Harbaugh, "In my America, you are allowed to cross state borders. That's the America I know."
Get this: Harbaugh's not done, as he continues to push the gas pedal to the floor. This weekend, the Wolverines coach is hosting "A4: Ann Arbor's Aerial Assault", a quarterback camp that will see high school QB's paired with former college quarterbacks and coaches.
Planning to attend according to USA Today? Eight former Michigan quarterbacks as well as others such as Greg McElroy of Alabama and Jameis Winston of FSU. Wondering what Nick Saban & SEC officials think of McElroy working a Michigan camp? Wonder what Jimbo Fisher thinks of his former quarterback travelling to Ann Arbor?
While perhaps they may not be all too pleased, this, my friend is a new day. McElroy, Winston and others are simply giving back, helping young kids reach their dream. It's a bit like when Tim Tebow, then an SEC Network analyst visited Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes last fall before OSU faced Alabama in the Final Four. Why would a former Gator help motivate the Crimson Tide's opponent? It's about relationships, it's about respect.
While coaches such as Saban and Malzahn have indeed welcomed opposing coaches to speak at their coaching clinics, Jim Harbaugh has taken the next step by encouraging coaches to attend his youth camps.
Would our state's finest ever consider speaking at Harbaugh's camps? Perhaps, but SEC big-wigs have nixed the idea. Would Nick Saban ever invite Gus Malzahn to Tuscaloosa? Would Gus Malzahn ever invite Nick Saban to Auburn? Uh, I doubt it, but if it ever happens, I'd give just about anything to have a TV camera present.