The World’s Biggest Microsoft Excel Fan Isn’t Who You’d Think It Is

Accountants have strong feelings about Microsoft Excel.

It’s impossible to quantify how much the software has contributed to business on a global level since its release in 1987, but in its 30-plus years, it’s still the go-to tool for accounting teams around the world, and that won’t change soon.

But despite how the thousands of finance and accounting professionals rely on spreadsheets to ensure their businesses continue to thrive, Microsoft Excel’s biggest fan is actually … a football coach?

Path to Greatness

James Joseph Harbaugh — you might know him better as Jim Harbaugh, head football coach at the University of Michigan — is a simple man. Born to football royalty, Harbaugh’s likes include a glass of milk, khaki slacks, power football, and, of course, Excel.

Aside from having a hand in his family’s finances, Harbaugh has no background in finance and accounting whatsoever — he’s a football coach. He didn’t major in economics, accounting, or even his preferred major — history — at the University of Michigan, his alma mater, because the subjects required too much reading. Instead, he settled for a communications degree, saving the bulk of his studying for analyzing Big 10 defenses and doing whatever the starting quarterback of one of the most prestigious football schools in the world does with his free time.

After college, he spent the better part of 15 seasons in the NFL before jumping into the world of coaching, something his brother (John Harbaugh, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens) and father (Jack Harbaugh) as one of football’s most successful families.

“All Roads Lead Back to Excel”

It’s not exactly clear when Harbaugh was introduced to Excel, but he has no problem illustrating his fondness for it to any and everyone. In a recent interview with the “Pardon My Take” podcast, Harbaugh detailed his reliance on the software for almost literally everything — from organizing practice schedules to authoring epic poems inspired by a former fullback and Ernest Hemingway.

“It’s all in Excel; I do everything in Excel,” he said, as if using Excel in this manner was completely normal. “I even draw pictures in Excel. Excel’s the first thing I learned, and I’ve stayed with it. I’m a disciple of Excel.”

Harbaugh’s relationship with Excel isn’t exactly monogamous, but then again, even the best-defined lines have become blurred in the current socio-political landscape. While he often uses the Notes app on his iPhone to share longer thoughts with his Twitter followers, there’s a simple reason for doing so.

“Well, you can email the notes to yourself, and copy the email to Excel,” he stated, shunning the host’s comment that he might be more tech-savvy than he gives himself credit for. “All roads lead back to Excel.”    

While things at Michigan haven’t gone exactly the way he’d hoped, I think there’s a lesson we can learn here: Aspire to find your Excel, even if it’s Excel. Harbaugh’s Wolverines face a tough matchup with Wisconsin this weekend in Madison.

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John Siegel

John Siegel is a Corporate Communications Manager at FloQast. Prior to joining the company, he wrote about Los Angeles-based tech companies for Built In LA. You can follow him on Twitter @JVNSiegel.