Brown: How Jim Harbaugh's flip dented Hawkeyes' class

Rick Brown

I first saw the news on Twitter shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday. It came in the form of a picture of Florida prep running back and Iowa football commit Karan Higdon. He was wearing a Michigan hat.

I checked Higdon's Twitter page, and it was unchanged. It still trumpeted his future career as an Iowa running back, complete with a Tiger Hawk and a picture of him wearing a No. 22 Hawkeye jersey.

Welcome to the world of college football recruiting, where verbal commitments are often nothing more than a lot of talk.

Higdon committed to Iowa in late October, two weeks after backing out on a pledge to South Florida. And Wednesday morning, when binding National Letters of Intent could first be signed, he flipped again. Black and Gold out, Maize and Blue in. By a young man who recently said he was "110 percent" committed to Iowa.

Everyone flips recruits, it seems. In this year's class, Iowa flipped Waukee's Anthony Nelson from his original commitment to Iowa State. Higdon represented the tail to the heads. Notre Dame also tried to flip him. New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was more persuasive.

PROSPECT BREAKDOWN:Iowa's 2015 football recruiting class

This one stings because Higdon looked to be the kind of running back Iowa's sorely missed, a guy who could use his 4.45 speed in the 40 to get through the hole in a hurry. National recruiting expert Tom Lemming raved about Higdon's vision, balance and burst.

"I think he'll be a star at Iowa immediately," Lemming said last week.

Higdon was offered a scholarship by Harbaugh on Friday, and visited the Michigan campus Sunday.

"Now he's a Wolverine," Harbaugh said at a news conference Wednesday.

Higdon's recruitment reminded me of another recent drive-thru romance.

Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery recruited point guard Tyler Ulis for more than a year, chasing him across the country on the AAU circuit. Things looked promising. But after missing out on recruit Emmanuel Mudiay, Kentucky coach John Calipari got involved with Ulis late in the process.

And again, the blueblood program won.

No one can say Ulis made the wrong choice. He's playing for the nation's top-ranked and lone undefeated team. Someday, we might say the same thing about Higdon.

But their stories reflect the frustration for programs that invest time and effort to recruit a player, only to get passed by in the midnight hour.

I'd like to see the money Iowa spent recruiting Higdon, compared with Michigan. Or what Iowa spent recruiting Ulis, compared with Kentucky. It reminds me of that scene in "Animal House" when a despondent John Belushi looks at the ceiling and says, "Seven years of college down the drain."

Michigan had only a handful of recruits committed when Harbaugh was hired in late December. There was no time to build relationships with recruits. Selling himself and the Michigan brand to players already committed was his best option.

Harbaugh said Wednesday that he doesn't have a philosophy on recruiting committed players, and added that he doesn't think that will be necessary in the future. Still, I imagine he'll get a cold shoulder or two the next time the Big Ten's football coaches get together. Higdon was one of seven prospects Harbaugh flipped, and the third originally headed to a Big Ten school.

Harbaugh also tried to change the mind of running back Mike Weber, who was committed to Ohio State.

He's fearless, I'll give him that.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.