I have news for Paul Finebaum of ESPN, Urban Meyer and Brady Quinn of Fox Sports, every football talk show in America and every furiously typing social media hound in the Maize and Blue universe.

Nobody is going to fire Jim Harbaugh except Jim Harbaugh himself.

If I understand Warde Manuel, U-M’s athletic director, he’s not going to do it. If I understand the Michigan powers that be, they’re not going to do it. There’s too much history there, too much belief, too much bloodline from the Bo Schembechler days and too much residue from when Harbaugh wore the uniform to rub it all out and send him packing, even though he’ll have a losing season this year (if you can call this year a season) and he hasn’t beaten Ohio State since he arrived.

I know Harbaugh can sometimes speak in tongues, but that doesn’t sound like a guy who wants out. And if he really doesn’t want out, if he’s willing to work with Manuel on a new extension, I don’t see Michigan showing him the door with one year left on his contract. Partly because of the reasons stated above.

And partly because, who exactly are they going to hire that can guarantee any more success that Harbaugh has had?

Good … but not elite

“I have to believe that Ward and Jim know what they’re going to do,” Dan Dierdorf told me last week. “And I don’t think either one of them is looking for a surprise around the corner. I assume that Jim Harbaugh is going to stay at Michigan. I think he and Ward are probably … working out the final details on an extension. Anything other than that, I’d be very surprised.”

Now, Dierdorf is the Michigan radio analyst, not inside Schembechler Hall. But he is a former Wolverine, like Harbaugh and Manuel, and he did play for Bo, like Harbaugh and Manuel, and therefore, I believe, has a pretty good understanding of where those men are coming from.

And where they are coming from may be the undoing of Michigan football, the feeling that anything connected with Schembechler and the “Michigan Way” is bound to find ultimate glory. Maybe that makes no sense to the outside world. After all, Bo himself had his difficulties in bowl games and never won a national title.

But it’s not just blind dedication to Schembechler’s legacy. If Michigan suffers from anything, it’s an inflated view of its own success. The program sometimes thinks of itself as kingly regal, when in fact, it’s more a seat-at-the-table resume.

Michigan is a winning football program for sure. And Harbaugh’s tenure has been solid, if not special. But you have to go back to Lloyd Carr’s 1997 national championship to find an undefeated season.

Since then, the Wolverines have no seasons with zero or one loss, only three seasons with two losses, and all the rest three, four, five or more losses.

That’s hardly shameful. But it’s not Alabama or Ohio State. Ryan Day has only lost one game as the Buckeyes’ head coach, and Meyer, in seven years, never had worse than a two-loss season. Take away his first year at Alabama, and Nick Saban, in 14 years, has barely averaged one loss per season at Tuscaloosa. One loss? And he has five national titles with the Crimson Tide.

That’s elite. Michigan likes to start every season thinking it will compete at that level. But in reality, it does not.

‘Give the devil their due’

Nowhere does this sting more than in the annual showdown with Ohio State, avoided this year by the COVID-19 numbers that kept Michigan from playing. Normally, today’s newspaper would be filled with stories  from The Game. And for the last eight years, those stories have been downers. Conspiracy theorists suggested Michigan was more than happy to skip the game this year. But any suggestion that they reveled in the cancellation is nonsense.

“I never played a football game in my life where I’m going, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re big underdogs here, maybe there’s a way I could get out of this.’ That’s absurd,” Dierdorf said.

When I asked Harbaugh about it, he said, “It was, to a man, very disappointing. But from the beginning, we knew there could be obstacles, and a situation could arise like this.”

Did it help Harbaugh not to have to play the Buckeyes, who are undefeated (5-0) and were coming off a 52-12 drubbing of Michigan State? Absolutely, if you knew for sure that the Wolverines would get thumped. (Let’s face it, that was a pretty good bet.)

But even minus the game, the disparity is glaring. The Buckeyes are aligned for another College Football Playoff, which would be their fourth appearance in the seven years the CFP has existed.

Michigan has never sniffed it.

“You just have to give the devil their due,” Dierdorf added. “Ohio State is on an incredible run. It started with Urban Meyer and his ability to recruit and they are getting top-five, top-three, sometimes top-two recruiting classes every year. Ohio State’s on a historic run. And unfortunately, it’s impacting the University of Michigan.

When I asked Harbaugh about it, he said, “It was, to a man, very disappointing. But from the beginning, we knew there could be obstacles, and a situation could arise like this.”

Did it help Harbaugh not to have to play the Buckeyes, who are undefeated (5-0) and were coming off a 52-12 drubbing of Michigan State? Absolutely, if you knew for sure that the Wolverines would get thumped. (Let’s face it, that was a pretty good bet.)

But even minus the game, the disparity is glaring. The Buckeyes are aligned for another College Football Playoff, which would be their fourth appearance in the seven years the CFP has existed.

Michigan has never sniffed it.

“You just have to give the devil their due,” Dierdorf added. “Ohio State is on an incredible run. It started with Urban Meyer and his ability to recruit and they are getting top-five, top-three, sometimes top-two recruiting classes every year. Ohio State’s on a historic run. And unfortunately, it’s impacting the University of Michigan.

But hope springs eternal. And Maize and Blue hope especially. It’s worth noting that Harbaugh’s record in six years is pretty close to Dabo Swinney’s first six at Clemson, and no one would dare touch Swinney now.

But Swinney by that sixth year was trending way up. Harbaugh can’t say that. Of course, COVID-19 has made all records in 2020 unreliable, and it’s another reason U-M won’t act rashly on Harbaugh’s future.

Still, in the end, to me, this is Harbaugh’s call. He can be a strange, quixotic guy, rambling through sentences, getting glassy eyed, smiling when you least expect it. But as Dierdorf said, “I don’t think Jim Harbaugh forgot how to coach.”

And he didn’t forget how to make a decision. For all the screaming from the four corners of the mediaverse, it will be Harbaugh’s decision that will determine what colors he’s wearing — and where he’s wearing them — next year.

Contact Mitch Albom: malbom@freepress.com. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast each Monday and Thursday on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.

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