By: Will Burchfield
Michigan’s ballyhooed trip to Italy this spring could be the start of a tradition.
“I envision it being annual,” said Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday. “I got my places planned for year two, year three, year four.”
The Wolverines will travel to Rome from April 22 to April 30 for what the University is calling a “special educational and football experience.” While there, they’ll hold three practices and dive head first into the Italian culture.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity for all of us, the youngster and adults alike, to have an educational opportunity to connect with people from another country,” said Harbaugh.
So, coach. Where to next?
“Year two I want to go to South Africa, year three I want to go to Japan, year four I want to go Israel, and year five, not totally determined yet, but New Zealand or London, one of those two. The possibilities are limitless and the educational opportunity for our players is to the moon — so that’s where we want to go, if we could,” Harbaugh said.
The coach said he chose Italy this year because it was ” a good center spot” from where his players could embark on their study abroad journeys in May.
“From there, all our players are going to be able to branch out all over the world, (knowing) that the world is our classroom. They’re going to be going to Iceland, Belgium, Japan, Israel, South America, Puerto Rico, all over the world to do their classes in May. It’s so phenomenal for people to get that,” Harbaugh said.
“This is all centered around the study abroad,” he added.
Harbaugh said one donor provided the funds for this year’s trip, but declined to reveal his name.
“He hasn’t given me the clearance yet, but what an incredible guy, what an incredible supporter, what an incredible Michigan man,” said Harbaugh.
As to whether or not the same donor will fund Michigan’s trips in the years to come, Harbaugh replied, “That hasn’t been confirmed yet.” Then he smiled and added, “Hopefully.”
Harbaugh dismissed the idea that the NCAA might crack down on Michigan’s travel plans in the future.
“I don’t know who would have a problem with that or how they could, unless they’re not for student-athletes,” he said. “This is bringing athletics and academics together, this is what being a student-athlete is supposed to be. It’s one of the reasons we’re so excited about it.”