Looking for answers in Harbaugh’s exodus

If Western really is the big-time athletic institution that athletic director Wood Selig would have us believe, then how does he explain last weekend’s unceremonious departure of football coach Jack Harbaugh?

Never mind what Selig and Harbaugh have said publicly about the national championship-winning coach’s unexpected exodus. The real reason for Harbaugh’s disappearing act — Friday you see him, Monday you don’t — is likely found in what has been left unsaid.

To be clear, this newspaper knows nothing more than what it has reported about Harbaugh’s resignation. But even casual analysis of the facts leaves Hilltopper fans with one thought: The situation reeks like a postgame locker room.

Selig is adamant that his clashes with Harbaugh were overblown by the media.

But even though he produced a legitimate alibi, Selig’s conspicuous absence from the Division I-AA championship game, easily the highlight event of his tenure, leads to a fair assumption that Selig and Harbaugh didn’t exchange many gridiron grins.

And considering how quickly former defensive coordinator David Elson was named Harbaugh’s successor, forgive us for clinging to suspicions about Selig’s involvement in Harbaugh’s departure.

Then again, perhaps the decision was Harbaugh’s alone. If so, why did Harbaugh speak paradoxically when explaining his uncharacteristic and, quite frankly, selfishly sudden farewell?

Harbaugh said he’s tired, though only weeks ago he expressed excitement about the coming season to a Herald columnist. He’s tired, but he stressed that he’s not retired.

And after gaining a reputation as a players’ coach, Harbaugh gave the returning Hilltoppers no indication that his time at Western was nearing its end.

The more the major characters say, the more the whole thing seems shady and petty.

Selig obsessively trumpets his desire for Western to boast a high-profile, high-class athletic program. But circumstances such as this — an inexcusably sad conclusion to one of Western’s proudest athletic achievements and an unnecessary, dissatisfying close to a great coach’s career — do little to boost Western’s status or respectability.

It didn’t have to happen this way.

The players deserve better.

Harbaugh deserved a hero’s goodbye.

And Western and its fans, particularly the ones who stuck with the program through Harbaugh’s rebuilding efforts, deserve an answer to a lingering question….

What the Hill happened?

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member board of student editors.