BRADENTON -- When Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh announced on National Signing Day that he was taking his Wolverines to Bradenton's IMG Academy for spring football practice, the murmurs turned into anger from coaches and commissioners of the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference.
But Harbaugh isn't concerned about irking those programs.
Following Monday's practice, which lasted six hours with two groups split up for two four-hour sessions that overlapped, Harbaugh simply stated, "No," when asked about his peers' reaction to the trip.
"I don't know why," he said about why coaches would be upset with his decision to hold spring practice in Florida. "Our tennis team will be hitting balls here this week."
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What isn't a concern, though, was the Wolverines' first spring practice on IMG Academy's two practice fields.
"It was great," Harbaugh said. "It was great to be back out here practicing. Always felt like the first day of spring practice and the first day of fall training camp practices, those are my two favorite days of the year. It's like the New Year. Cleats were clanking on the cement and guys were into it."
The trip, which coincides with the school's spring break,
is allowing practice a week later than it typically occurs.
In past years, Michigan would be having practice the same week that players would have mid-terms and other class papers.
UM's semester ends at the end of April, while April 1 concludes the spring season with a traditional spring game.
Team building, bonding
So the trip, which is billed as football, fun and education, is giving the Wolverines practice at IMG's state-of-the-art facilities, while mixing in optional team activities that focus on team building and team bonding.
Some of those activities include beach days, bowling, playing mini-golf, playing basketball, table tennis tournaments, attending the Pirates-Tigers spring training game on Wednesday at McKechnie Field and watching the football movie "Remember the Titans."
The group also is receiving guest speakers in the form of Tyran Steward, who spoke about race in sports already, and alumni like ESPN's Desmond Howard.
"I just felt like it would be good for our football team," Harbaugh said.
While there's a quarterback battle beginning this week for the Wolverines, there's always a fight over recruits across the country.
And that's a concern SEC and ACC coaches have over Michigan's arrival in Bradenton, with the sun, fun and football advertisement.
But Harbaugh said he doesn't think there's an impact on recruiting.
There are two more closed practices -- high school coaches can attend all of them -- before Friday's open practice, where coaches, recruits and the public can attend.
That practice starts at 5 p.m.
"Personally, I think it's neat that Jim Harbaugh is stirring the pot with regard to the old guard," said Bradenton Christian School football head coach Allan Gerber, who was in attendance Monday. "The fact that he's willing to take some chances, take some risks. As long as he's not breaking any rules, I don't see why he can't get quality work in a better environment. We all know it's about recruiting. It is, quite simply, about a recruiting presence."
Lakewood Ranch resident and ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale was present Monday, watching drills from the sidelines.
The buzz, though, is just a start to the weeklong festivities that come with spring practice in the Sunshine State for the Maize and Blue.
"We've always had the philosophy of a plane going down the runway," said Harbaugh about the first practice. "You build up speed, there's a glide to it and then you take off. Each day gets faster and faster and more and more ramped up so to speak. It's my glide theory, our glide theory."
Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jason__Dill and like his Facebook page at Jason Dill Bradenton Herald.