The summer before our son went off to Texas Christian University, he received in the mail the application for a scholarship to be awarded to a freshman male called “The Balanced Man.”  The scholarship was offered by the Texas Christian University chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. “Sig Ep” caught my eye because my father-in-law, Dr. Roger Burau was a member of the University of Michigan chapter when he was an undergraduate student back in the late fifties.  I read the application and was impressed with the Balanced Man Program at the Sig Ep chapter at TCU and what it stood for.  The chapter had an actual program to instill life long qualities and characteristics for their members.  How refreshing after the very tragic, yet few, stories, of fraternity hazing we had seen in the news over the years on different college campuses.  We discussed the scholarship application at dinner, our son filled out the paperwork and off it was mailed.  He did not received the scholarship, however, the application did perk our interest and our soon to be college freshman at TCU and he decided that he would very much be interested in rushing and hoped to join  the Sig Ep fraternity, should he be selected, especially with him being a ‘legacy,’ due to Grandpa Rog’s membership. He did join and it was an experience that made a huge impact of his life.  The Balanced Man Program focused 5 areas of development of a young man that would serve him well for life,  1.  Knowledge and understanding of the fraternity, 2.  Intellectual/academic development, 3.  Physical Health/wellness, 4.  leadership and 5.  professional development.  These are qualities, in my mind, in addition to a strong Faith, are  qualities that would benefit anyone, male or female and               I applaud TCU and Sig Ep for making an effort to steer young men in a positive direction at a very pivotal time in their life.  

     College football season is inspiring to me and to so many.  It’s fun to see which teams progress each week and who remains undefeated.  If you are a University of Michigan Fan, or really maybe a fan of any school and team with a good college football tradition, you may feel like this, looking forward to game day, reading the buzz over last week’s game and the chatter over the coming game.  Over the last few years, Wolverines fans have had their share of chatter, drama and controversy to discuss.  Most fans and alumni couldn’t have imagined all of this when we anxiously awaiting for Coach Jim Harbaugh to accept the job.  It had been a long time coming a couple of coaches preceded him when it was HIM fans were hoping would be at the helm of one of the winningest college football program in history of the sport.  Most would probably say that Jim Harbaugh has proven himself and has most certainly delivered for his players, the program, the University and to alumni and fans.  He has the experience so in many ways his success is no surprise.  As a top college quarterback, a leader in the pros for 14 years, most notably for the Chicago Bears, a college coach at Western Kentucky, San Diego State and Stanford, before a tenure in the NFL in Oakland, SanFrancisco and making it to the Super Bowl, coaching against his brother, John, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens.  Jim Harbaugh’s experiences have helped shape him as a ‘balanced coach,’ with each opportunity and role broadening his background to be a coach who understands every aspect of the game of football and position in life.  He has surrounded himself with good /friends and players who have pushed him into a good direction, giving him more and more confidence to know what it takes to win.  Some may take it as a sense of arrogance, but I think it is those who lack in their own confidence, who take it that way.  It’s refreshing to see a leader, especially a leader who inspires young minds, to have the sense to see that they know they are on a good path, a winning path of excellence.  Not perfection, no one is perfect, but with that “get up and go desire” every day to give it their best on that day.  

     Looking forward to this Saturday and watching the University of Michigan football team take on the Ohio State University Buckeyes at home and how Jim Harbaugh has coached his team to prepare for the game, although he will not be on the field with them, due to the latest of controversies, the sign stealing, which appears to be “much ado about nothing.” What does it take to be a “Balanced Person” to succeed on the sports field and in life?  The athletic experience will last but a short time, but to learn qualities to yield success in life and FOR a lifetime, well, that’s where I’ll put ‘my money’ and THOSE are the mentors, teachers and experiences We sought out for our children, grandchildren and any other young  person I know. 

Jim Harbaugh through the years as a youngster on the sidelines when his Dad coached with Bo Schembechler up to his current coaching days as the Head Coach at the Univeristy of Michigan.

     Jim Harbaugh has had an interesting tenure at the University of Michigan, both as a player and now as a coach.  He was a celebrated quarterback of the team back in the mid-eighties when I was there.  Although he had many exciting and successful moments at that spot, he is probably most noted for his prediction that his team would beat the Buckeyes at a press conference at Weber’s Inn back in 1986, just days before the game, which made national news.  Rather than scolding his player when asked moments later about the comment, Bo Schembechler’s comment was “this man is 22 year  old and he wants to win…and I would have said it myself if I had guts.”  His “Michigan” experience goes all the way back to his childhood when his dad was on the coaching staff with Bo and he got to occasionally tag along back when Flint native and quarterback, Rick Leach led the team.  When he finally took the job after Brady Hoke left, after much speculation, the press, fans and alumni wanted every bit of news on the new coach, no matter how small, football related or not like, the style of the coach’s glasses to where he bought his kakis to which Lululemon he shopped at in the Detroit area and what style was his preference.  His coaching techniques were sometimes quirky and misunderstood and there were times when alumni even seemed to be getting frustrated with his rough start some possibly even calling for his replacement and rumors of Harbaugh looking elsewhere for employment.  It took him a while to get the right coaching staff, a good culture and karma for the program and a steady stream of top ranked recruits.  I cannot imagine the time it must have take to transition from a top NFL coach back to top ranked college coach.  Although he coached at other schools, Michigan or any school has it’s own unique DNA.  From my standpoint, as a fan and alumni from the same era,  it looks like Jim Harbaugh has grown into the coach he was meant to be, and possibly one of the greatest coaches ever in college history.  When you look at the qualities it takes to coach a top ranked college team, their position is much like an Army General.  Most college football coaches, or at least most of the coaches with winning résumés  are mature in age, like a General and they have subordinate coaches below them, much like a military ranking order and their are entrusted with the minds bodies and future of young men at the same age as young privates in the army.  As I looked at photos from the TEAM’s trip to Normandy a few years back, I made that analogy.  While on that trip, I’m sure he made the comparison to those young men who set float in those primitive rafts and floats to then scale the cliffs, facing the  biggest fears of their young lives, not knowing if they would make it back home to their families, to the great opportunities his players have, to have an education, compete on the field and opportunities for a bright future.  And speaking of that trip and all the other “field trips” funded by generous alumni donors to Paris/Normandy, Rome, South Africa and the roadtrip through Michigan for players to see the state they represent, he has broadened his players perspective and horizons. After all, isn’t that what the college experience is all about?  Gaining knowledge and experiences to help shape their adult life, beyond their college and football playing years?  In his own way, Jim Harbaugh is giving his players his own version of THE BALANCED MAN program. 

     Life is a journey.  I don’t know about you, but I’m still figuring it out myself and learning something each and everyday.  Everyday has it’s own lesson and some days you wake up thinking it will go one way and when you slip into bed at night you might think, “I didn’t see that coming” and it was an experience that totally rocked your boat or gave you the opportunity to learn a lesson you had not yet had the chance to learn.  I think as time goes on, if we are a good student of life, we get better, or at least I hope so.  We each have an opportunity every morning we are fortunate enough to to wake up to, to be more “Balanced” to be kinder, more understanding and more loving.  We might make mistakes, say things we shouldn’t, but hopefully we learn from them and take those chances to make ourselves smarter, wiser & more “Balanced”…Isn’t that what life’s about?  Admitting when we are wrong to ourselves and others, taking the fear out of the journey…What do we have to loose?  Pick yourself up from a tough day or season and putting it behind us, jump up and get going…No one said life would be easy.  In fact, in the GREAT BOOK, it’s told that it would be tough and that there would be trials and tribulations, so we all knew it would be tough, but we’re walking towards the light and a better day…In fact Great Days…Days to be more Balanced…I’ll take that ❤️  

Author and University of Michigan Alumni, Mary Yana Burau