Michigan football legend Mike Hart cements legacy by becoming first Black head coach in program history

Hart holds Wolverines career rushing record with 5,040 yards

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 09: Acting Head Coach Mike Hart of the Michigan Wolverines is seen on the sideline during the second half of a college football game against the UNLV Rebels at Michigan Stadium on September 09, 2023 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. the Michigan Wolverines won the game 35-7 (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images). (Aaron J. Thornton, 2023 Aaron J. Thornton)

ANN ARBOR, Mich.Michigan Wolverines football legend and current Running Backs Coach Mike Hart cemented his legacy as he became the school’s first Black head coach in program history when the men in maize dismantled the UNLV Running Rebels 35-7 for their second win of the season.

The Wolverines began competing in intercollegiate football in 1879 and joined the Big Ten Conference in 1896; before Saturday, they had never had an African-American head coach.

Special Teams Coordinator/Safeties Coach Jay Harbaugh coached the first half of Saturday (Sept. 9) while Hart was assigned as the interim head coach for the second half of the Wolverines week two matchup as head coach Jim Harbaugh served the second of his three-game suspension.

Hart spoke to the media about his opportunity to be the leader of men for his alma mater.

“Being that this is my university, I played here, this place changed my life, and to have that opportunity to say I was the first African American head (football) coach here is huge,” said Hart.

Hart wore the maize and blue from 2004 to 2007 and holds the Wolverines career rushing record with 5,040 yards.

The Michigan man is also fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns with 41, but his protégé Blake Corum will soon pass him as he currently has 35 for his career.

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 10: Blake Corum #2 (L) and Assistant Coach Mike Hart (R) of the Michigan Wolverines are seen during the second half of a college football game against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Michigan Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Michigan Wolverines won the game 56-10 over the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images) (2022 Aaron J. Thornton)

The Indianapolis Colts drafted Hart in 2008, where he played for some phenomenal men for three seasons.

“I had the opportunity to play for Tony Dungy, I had the chance to play for Jim Caldwell, and my first coaching job was with Ron English at Eastern Michigan,” Hart said. “We have an athletic director in Warde Manuel who is African-American, and I’ve had a close relationship (with him) since he’s been here.”

Hart continued:

“So, I just had a lot of great coaches who are African American that I’ve had a chance to look up to and just really let me know that it can happen. Hopefully, we will see more African-American coaches in college football as we need more, and hopefully, I will be one of those one day.”

INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 06: Mike Hart #32 of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 6, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts won 27-17. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) (2009 Getty Images)

Hart has many school records, but after Saturday (Sept. 9), no one in program history will ever say they were the first Black head coach to grace those historic sidelines.

“It means a lot,” Hart said. “Everyone knows that. I knew that going into the game on just how far we’ve come, especially at Michigan as a Black coach, getting this opportunity, coach Harbaugh giving me this opportunity is an honor, a privilege, and I’m glad it was me as it is a dream come true.”


About the Author:

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.