It is sounding more and more like Jim Harbaugh will return to the college ranks and become the coach at Michigan. This soap opera has felt like it's playing since the Cretaceous Period, and with the 49'ers season officially over this weekend there should be a resolution soon. If Harbaugh does head back to Michigan - which would make for a juicy college football plot line - UK football recruiting will likely be negatively impacted in the important recruiting state of Ohio.
Looking through Stanford's Rivals page, Harbaugh only signed two players from Ohio during his time at Stanford , so his ties to the state aren't readily apparent; however, Stanford did sign more than their fair share of recruits in California and neighboring states. Harbaugh did a solid job signing talent in his "near abroad" while rebuilding the Stanford program, and his last signing class was a Top 20 one.
It's reasonable to assume given Harbaugh's proven track record, and existing University of Michigan ties to high school programs in Ohio, that he would complicate UK's recruiting efforts in the state. Michigan already beat out UK for recruits like Tyree Kinnell, Michael McCray, DeVeon Smith, and Messiah DeWeaver in Ohio. They did that with a coach on a warming hot seat too.
UK was always going to be hard-pressed to sign blue-chip talent in Ohio. If Ohio State wants an Ohio kid, Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow have yet to win that recruiting battle (see: Alex Stumps, Nick Connor, Erick Smith, Marcus Lattimore, and Marcelys Jones.) It'll be even tougher signing blue chip talent in the Buckeye State with the introduction of a good recruiter and program builder at the helm in Ann Arbor. Even if Harbaugh manages to sign talent away from OSU, then OSU will likely offer the lower ranked players that are UK priorities.
This all matters mostly because of the importance of Ohio recruits to Kentucky's football program. UK cannot rely on an annual stream of quality in-state recruits, and must out-source the bulk of its recruiting out of state. Ohio subsidized that void the last two classes (and likely this signing class as well), but if the state gets tougher to recruit there are no apparent regions to naturally focus on. The South remains the South, pickings are scarce in Indiana and Illinois, and James Franklin is doing James Franklin things in Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic. Cincinnati has a good 2016 crop of recruits, but Notre Dame and Boston college have ties to the Catholic League, and other major programs will vie for their talents.
With a competent coach in Ann Arbor the pressure to start winning at UK becomes all the more important. Harbaugh is a proven program-builder. His alignment with one of the most prestigious football programs is akin to John Calipari coming to coach Kentucky basketball. If it happens a supernova may well be on the college football horizon. In short, Brady Hoke took Ohio recruits from Kentucky; Harbaugh will take even more.
Winning will be the only thing that makes UK more competitive on the recruiting trail in Ohio. Stoops can sell quite a bit to Ohio recruits given his credentials in player development on the defensive side of the ball, geographic proximity, and the SEC brand, but winning consistently will be by far the best panacea if Harbaugh heads to Michigan.