The Wolverine

February 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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FEBRUARY 2021 THE WOLVERINE 19 BY CHRIS BALAS J im Harbaugh probably won- dered what all the fuss had been about when he signed a four- year extension Jan. 8 to continue as Michigan's head coach in 2021 and (presumably) beyond. Media asked him repeatedly over the last year if and when it would happen — he was the only Power Five coach whose con- tract had less than two years remain- ing, they'd point out — and each time he responded that yes, he planned to continue leading U-M, and yes, he definitely wanted to. Had it not been for the COVID-19 outbreak, his deal might have been done last spring. This summer, when asked again about his status, he re- iterated there were more important things to tackle given the pandemic and the fallout, insisting it would be handled at the end of the season. "I think there are bigger fish to fry — for our athletic director, for our administration, for me as a coach," he said in July. "It hasn't been on the top of the priority list. I would expect something … there will be an announcement sometime." His message didn't change when he spoke to reporters Dec. 14 follow- ing the cancellation of the Ohio State game. "I am, have been and will remain [committed]," Harbaugh said. "[Di- rector of athletics] Warde [Manuel] and I … I will talk to him at the end of the season on the current contract. And that's the truth. That's where it stands." At that point, it was clear he was over talking about it. Reporters tried to dissect his every word in Novem- ber, when he said (again) he didn't listen to those suggesting he no lon- ger wanted to be at Michigan. He reiterated he'd been negotiating his extension before the pandemic put it on the back-burner in March, said he always let his actions speak for what he had to say and that he planned to continue with that strategy. "Let your actions speak so loudly that people can't even hear what you're saying," he said, noting he'd let his own speak as they have in the past. Asked for clarification — whether his actions suggested he intended to coach at Michigan for a long time — he left no doubt. "Yeah, those are the actions," he continued. "And no matter what I say to you — I've been here for five and a half, almost six years, and I've experi- enced this — no matter what I say, the next day, something else is said or the next year the same thing comes up. … I'm going to let my actions speak loudly and, hopefully, you know me, my actions have been consistent." That didn't stop many from specu- lating that he was holding out for a better offer. Whether it was the NFL's New York Jets or Los Angeles Char- gers, no matter the coast or location, some reporters insisted Harbaugh would listen. But most of the questions were an- swered when he signed his deal after weeks of speculation and hours of reported meetings with Manuel. Less lucrative than his initial seven-year contract signed Dec. 2014 in which he made $5.5 million per year, including a pair of 10 percent pay raises and a $2 million-per-year life insurance policy from which he was eligible to draw, Harbaugh will be guaranteed $4 million in 2021, $4.1 million in 2022, $4.2 million in 2023, $4.3 mil- lion in 2024 and $4.4 million in 2025. Potential incentives, however, could push those totals much higher. Though he's gone from the highest- paid head coach in the Big Ten to around ninth, based on 2020 sala- ries according to a USA Today sur- vey of what college football coaches collect, Harbaugh could still earn a maximum of $7.475 million in 2021, $7.576 million in 2022, $7.681 million in 2023, $7.789 million in 2024 and $7.9 million in 2025. Among those potential bonuses: $1 million each for winning the Big Ten championship game and College Football Playoff, a $500,000 bonus if his Wolverines win the Big Ten East division outright and a $500,000 bonus if his team reaches the CFP semifinals. Harbaugh can also cash in on a $200,000 bonus if Michigan reaches a New Year's Six bowl game, $150,000 if his team reaches an undisclosed APR score in the classroom, $75,000 if he's named a national coach of the year and $50,000 if he's named Big Ten coach of the year. For an athletics department strug- gling in the red, decimated by no ticket sales and the typical football revenue, the deal seemed appropri- ate. Harbaugh seemed to understand as much in a statement released by the school after his signing. "My thanks to athletic director Warde Manuel for the trust that he has shown in allowing me to con- tinue to coach the University of Michigan football team, and to Presi- dent Mark Schlissel and the Board of Regents for their on-going support," Harbaugh said. "My additional thanks to [associate director of ath- letics and U-M athletics chief of staff] Doug Gnodtke, our football staff and those departments on campus who continue to support our mission. "Over the past few weeks, Warde and I had discussions that have been honest, open, insightful and construc- tive in moving our football program forward … discussions that I look for- ward to continuing over the months and years ahead. We have a plan." One that involves betting on him- self … and yes, winning big, which is what the fan base expected when he was brought on board just over six years ago. A LOGICAL STEP Though a Harbaugh extension wasn't a foregone conclusion, it was the most likely one. The Michigan athletics department is expected to lose a reported $100 million this year, BACK FOR MORE Head Coach Jim Harbaugh Inks A Four-Year Extension In his first six seasons at Michigan, Harbaugh posted three 10-win campaigns and an over- all record of 49-22. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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